Archive | June, 2011

Clear-cutting has begun on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona

30 Jun

From: http://www.indigenousaction.org posted June 28, 2011

Click for photos and video

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — Owners of Arizona Snowbowl ski area have started clear-cutting rare alpine forest for new ski runs on the Holy San Francisco Peaks. According to an Environmental Impact Statement more than 74 acres are slated to be cut. Owners and operators of Arizona Snowbowl began partial development of a 14.8 mile pipeline last month.

Resistance in the trenches, blocking pipeline construction

If completed, the pipeline will transport up to 180 million gallons of treated sewage effluent from the City of Flagstaff to the ski area for snowmaking.

The treated sewage has been proven to contain contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and hormones. Currently this matter is subject of a lawsuit asserting that the Forest Service, who manages the Peaks as public lands, did not test or seriously consider impacts if humans ingest the fake snow. Snowbowl started development in May even though the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to make a decision on the current case.

Development of the pipeline was temporarily halted on June 16th when six individuals locked themselves inside the pipeline trench and to construction equipment. After holding off construction for nearly 5 hours, the direct action ended with the arrests of those involved.

The San Francisco Peaks are held holy by more than 13 Indigenous Nations. Former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. made the point clear when the Forest Service initially approved the development in 2004, “When you build on [The Peaks], when you talk about putting wastewater on it, you are desecrating our life. You are chipping away at our way of life and committing genocide”

Click here to read the statement from the six protesters who literally placed themselves in the trenches

For background information also see: Saving the Peaks zine 2010    &    Saving the Peaks zine 2011

Greek rebels smash up McDonalds

29 Jun

Austerity riots continue in Greece, smashing corporate shops and fighting the police. Check out some video footage from yesterday…

Former ELF member-gone-informant gets 5 years in heroin case

29 Jun

Federal probation revocation postponed until July 14.

By Karen McCowan, The Register-Guard

A convicted arsonist who avoided federal prison five years ago by helping officials lock up fellow Earth Liberation Front activists is headed to state prison for selling heroin.

Jacob Jere­miah “Jake” Ferguson, 38, was sentenced Monday to nearly five years in prison after pleading guilty to manufacturing, possessing and selling heroin; possessing cocaine; and neglecting and endangering his 4-year-old daughter in the process.

County prosecutor JoAnn Miller told Lane County Circuit Judge Charles Zennaché that the latter charges reflect Ferguson’s allowing the girl to stay in his south Eugene residence while drugs were being manufactured and dealt there.

Miller said police found within the child’s “easy access” a toolbox with pull-out drawers “loaded with syringes.”

Click here for full article

People’s Tribunal against the Criminalization of Protest in Ecuador

29 Jun

Written by Sofía Jarrín

During three days in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, hundreds of representatives from several Latin American countries gathered to share experiences and strategies during the Continental Conference in Defense of Water and Mother Earth. The event took place between June 17 and 23, and was organized as an act of resistance against development projects that threaten this vital resource, Yakumama, our mother water. A letter of intention by the organizers reads, “We hope this gathering will become a permanent process of fellowship to protect water and food sovereignty, to create a new social order in harmony with nature, with justice and equity.” 

 The conference began with a visit to sites where environmental conflicts have taken place, in Cochapata and San Bartolomé, more specifically, in the southern province of Azuay, both areas affected by mining companies. The delegation was composed of the Ombudsman, representatives of national indigenous organizations, the Inter-American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), Real World Radio, and a team of FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) International. There they witnessed cases of abuse of power by developers, often in complicity with state agencies, that are laying out mining projects despite clear opposition from the communities where they plan to implement them.

In Cochapata, for example, a community of about 7,800 people, there has been great resistance against the construction of a dam by the mining company Explorsur SA. Seven community leaders were accused of sabotage and terrorism for engaging in public protest, and were recently sentenced to eight years in prison. This occurred despite the fact that the Constituent Assembly had granted them amnesty in July 2008, recognizing their role as environmental defenders. Since then, all seven have been in hiding with serious financial and emotional consequences to their families. Unfortunately, like in many other cases, the courts favour private interests instead of communal decisions on how to manage land and water resources. Currently, there are more than 189 pending cases of terrorism and sabotage in Ecuador.

Back in 2007, at the beginning of his government, President Rafael Correa made a public statement setting the stage for what was to come. “Don’t believe in romantic environmentalists. Anyone who is opposed to development in this country is a terrorist,” he said about the community of Dayuma, Orellana province, who at the was time protesting the environmental devastation in their territory that resulted from oil drilling in the region. The protest was met with police repression and 25 people were detained.
For this reason, one of the main objectives of this conference was to expose these kind of cases, thus exemplifying the ongoing criminalization of protest in Ecuador. An integral part of the conference was a Court of Ethics that analyzed “the criminalization of defenders of human rights and nature.” This people’s court took place on Wednesday, June 22, with the presence a jury of four international authorities: Elsie Monge (Ecumenical Commission of Human Rights, CEDHU, Ecuador), Raul Zibechi (writer and journalist, Uruguay), Leah Isabel Alvear (poet and academic, Colombia), and Mary Hamlin (International Movement for People’s Health). They listened to more than four hours of testimonies and 17 cases of people accused of terrorism.
“Democracy can only be guaranteed when citizens are guaranteed their rights to protest and resistance,” testified Ramiro Avila, a lawyer and professor at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. “These laws are being used to suppress protest and should be immediately repealed.” Avila explained that the law under which the right to protest is criminalized in Ecuador dates back to the early republic, based on the Penal Code of 1920.

The current government of Ecuador, under President Correa, is driving an aggressive development program that is fueling social conflicts all around the country, mostly around mining and oil industries and the control of water sources. Unlike other countries such as Peru and Bolivia, large-scale mining is new to Ecuador and it’s expected to have severe consequences to its many ecosystems. According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, there are 1990 registered mining concessions in the country, causing serious concerns among civil society, particularly campesinos and indigenous people. “The social leaders are speaking out to defend their human rights, but instead of welcoming them the State is criminalizing their right to protest,” said Fernando Gutierrez, the National Ombudsman.
The most prominent case is that of four top indigenous leaders, all of them charged with terrorism and sabotage: Pepe Acacho, vice president of the National Confederation of Indigenous People (CONAIE), Marlon Santi, ex-president of CONAIE; Delfín Tenesaca, president of the Kichwa Conferedation of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI); and Marco Guatemal, president of Indigenous and Campesino Federation of Imbabura (FICI). They were tried for participating in marches against the Water and Mining Acts during the ALBA Summit in Otavalo in June 2010.
“Is it a crime to defend the water? Is it a crime to defend Mother Earth?” said Carlos Perez, an indigenous leader of Azuay. “Ecuador was pioneer in recognizing the rights of nature, thus the Constitution should be above a criminal code created in times of a dictatorship.” Ecuador was the first country to recognize the Rights of Nature in its Constitution of 2008.
The jury’s decision did not make itself wait. The verdict given was resolute, not only in acknowledging that people opposed to the government’s extractive activities are currently living in an atmosphere of fear and criminalization in Ecuador, but that the State is directly responsible for promoting and maintaining this situation. “These cases confirm that there is a systematic practice to discipline social protest and thus eliminate it,” reads the verdict. “While justice is employed to criminalize the defenders of nature, it remains passive before human rights violations committed against them and against nature.”
It furthermore recommends that the President refrains from making public statements that “delegitimizes and stigmatizes” defenders of nature and human rights. To the judicial powers it recommends to comply with the amnesty granted by the Constituent Assembly in 2008 to all people prosecuted of crimes against the State under a ambiguous Penal Code that is largely considered obsolete.
Although this Court of Ethics does not have jurisdictional powers, it does hope to fill up the space created by the State’s omissions of abuses committed against peaceful social protesters and its exoneration of private companies “that operate in the country with impunity.” Correa´s government has yet to pronounce itself before the court’s decision.
Cross-posted from here

Anti-Mining Protesters Shut Down Airport after Deadly Clash in Peru

28 Jun

cross-posted from Reuters

Peruvian riot police confront protesters during protest in the Andean city of Juliaca, southeast of Lima, June 24, 2011. Credit: Reuters/Los Andes/Handout

Thousands of protesters opposed to mining and energy projects in southern Peru took over a commercial airport on Saturday, officials said, as the government struggled to restore calm a day after five died in a clash with police.

Herbert Rosas, a police general, told Reuters some 3,000 protesters had occupied the runway at the Juliaca airport in the region of Puno and that several hundred police officers retreated to avoid another clash.

Departing President Alan Garcia, whose tenure has been marred by conflicts over natural resources that have killed nearly 100 people over the past three years, said the mostly indigenous protesters were making a show of force to get a slice of power in the government of President-elect Ollanta Humala, who takes office on July 28.

“There are dark political interests here that are demanding power,” Garcia told reporters. “What they are trying to do is pressure the next government of Ollanta Humala by issuing threats and forcefully demonstrating,” Garcia said without providing further details.

Humala, a leftist former army officer, campaigned on promises to end bitter conflicts that pit poor towns against mining and oil companies. Humala has promised to govern as a moderate, but his traditional support base is in Peru’s poor southern provinces.

Protesters often mobilize to protect scarce water supplies, what they see as ancestral lands, or complain about potential pollution from new mines.

Often times they also demand direct economic benefits from mining and oil projects, which have helped turn the Andean nation’s economy into one of the world’s fastest-growing but left behind a third of its people in poverty.

LICENSE REVOKED

On Friday, hours before the deadly clash at the airport, Garcia’s cabinet revoked the license of Canadian mining firm Bear Creek in a bid to persuade locals residents to end protests that have dragged on for more than a month.

Bear Creek Chief Executive Andrew Swarthout has told Reuters the company would sue the government to get its concession back and mining analysts have said the government’s move could lead foreign companies to think contracts aren’t respected in Peru.

But Garcia said stability and social peace was more important. In the days before the clash at the airport, the first time the protests turned deadly, protesters had set fire to government buildings in the area.

“I think there are more important objectives and the first one is to guarantee a peaceful transition and a trouble-free start to the government of Ollanta Humala,” Garcia told reporters.

Some 5,000 protesters, mostly Aymara Indians, have descended on Puno over the past few weeks to demand concessions be revoked for all mining companies, not just Bear Creek’s Santa Ana project, ostensibly over concerns about potential pollution.

Magazine Caretas reported this week, however, that wildcat miners are interested in Bear Creek’s concession and are working alongside protesters.

Locals think the land has valuable gold deposits in addition to silver.

Bear Creek, whose share price has sunk during the protests, had planned to produce silver starting in 2012 in Santa Ana, located some 1,385 km (860 miles) from Lima. The mine has reserves of 63.2 million ounces of silver.

(Reporting by Terry Wade and Enrique Mandujano in Lima and Julie Gordon in Toronto, Editing by Sandra Maler)

Endangered Species: The Environmental Issue for 2012

28 Jun

by Nicole Allan – Nicole Allan is an associate editor at The Atlantic. She covered the 2010 midterm elections for TheAtlantic.com’s Politics Channel and has also written for Slate and The New Republic.

In the midst of panic over an impending government shutdown in April, a budget rider stripping Western wolves of their status as an endangered species got more attention for its evocative name — the “wolf rider” — than for its contents. But that measure sent ripples through the environmentalist community, giving rise to new initiatives and highlighting political divides in the West that suggest endangered species may pose a major challenge for Democrats in 2012.

The urgency of climate change — and Congress’s failure to mobilize against it — has a tendency to overshadow ongoing environmental causes that have seen more success. For the past 40 years, the Endangered Species Act has done an incredibly effective job of preserving ecosystems. Though it’s seen plenty of time in court, it has mostly remained a niche issue, obsessed over by real estate developers and Western landowners but flying under the radar of most casual observers — and legislators. The wolf rider, however, has not only poked a significant hole in the environmental movement’s most reliable tool, it has drawn attention to the complicated politics of protecting species.

For years, wolves have been one of the most polarizing issues in the American West. When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, gray wolves were virtually extinct in the lower 48 states. After 37 years of protection under the law, however, about 1,650 wolves now roam the Northern Rockies — more than five times the initial recovery goal of 300. Ranchers and hunters, whose livestock and big-game prey wolves are prone to devouring, have long called for an end to the animals’ protected status. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to lessen protections and shift wolf policy to the states, however, conservation groups filed suit.

In April, Congress skirted the courts and granted ranchers and hunters their wish. By delisting the species in the Northern Rockies, the wolf rider allowed Montana and Idaho — Wyoming was not included in the rider — to pursue their own policies. The legislation, championed by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), marked the first time Congress has removed protections for an endangered species.

Read the rest of the article here.

Italian police and protesters clash over Alpine rail link

28 Jun

Some 60 people were injured when police and protesters clashed over the construction of a high speed rail link between France and Italy. Environmentalists say the railway would destroy a picturesque Alpine valley.

Scores of people were injured in northern Italy as police confronted protesters opposed to the construction of a high-speed rail link between France and Italy on Monday.

Some 60 individuals – about half of them police officers – had to go to hospital for injuries sustained in the violence, according to the country’s medical emergency services.

Police said officers were injured as protesters threw firecrackers and rocks while demonstrators said that some activists had been beaten.

Protesters, includíng environmental activists as well as local residents, oppose construction of the line between Turin and Lyon, claiming it will destroy the picturesque Alpine valley known as Val di Susa.

The confrontation began as 2,500 officers began to dismantle wooden barricades aimed at preventing construction workers from accessing a tunnel boring site.

‘Urgent need to start work’

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has said that work must start by June 30 to prevent Italy losing funding for the project from the European Union, worth hundreds of millions of euros. Construction costs for the link are estimated at 15 billion euros ($21 billion).

Environmental group Legambiente said there should be an “immediate end to all the violence” and claimed the government had made a “grave error” by sending police in to clear the barricades. “Batons are not the instrument of good politics,” said Legambiente leader Vittorio Cogliati Dezza.

France and Italy signed a deal in 2001 to build the new rail connection, which is to be a strategic link in the European network and allow travel time between Milan and Paris to be slashed from seven to four hours.

Further protests have been announced, with a demonstration in Rome planned for Tuesday.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

cross-posted from here

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