Archive | June, 2011

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

30 Jun

From: 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.


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’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

Greenpeace dumps coal at South African utility

27 Jun

Greenpeace protesters dumped five tons of coal at the headquarters of South Africa’s power utility company Monday to draw attention to their calls for the country to embrace clean energy.

Greenpeace’s Melita Steele said at Monday’s protest in Johannesburg that her environmental group wants South Africa to stop ongoing construction of a coal power station and “shift investment to renewal energy and energy efficiency.”

A spokeswoman for Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned electricity company, said company employees cleared the piles of coal from the main entrance of the headquarters within a few hours.

“It did cause some congestion for employees trying to get into work,” Hilary Joffe said, but said the protest “was polite and cordial and peaceful.”

“In principle we agree with Greenpeace about the need for South Africa to reduce its carbon footprint. The question is how and over what time scale,” Joffe said.

South Africa, which hosts UN climate change negotiations later this year, is the only African nation among the 20 countries that emit nearly 90% of the world’s greenhouse gases. Officials here have a long-term plan to reduce dependence on coal, but say that in the short-term the country needs to use technologies that pollute.

“South Africa needs an affordable and secure and reliable supply of electricity if it is to create economic growth and create jobs and alleviate poverty,” Joffe said.

Eskom recently got funding for planned wind and solar projects, and is looking at expanding reliance on nuclear energy. But coal, Joffe said, was the cheapest and most abundant option for now in a country of 50 million people that has 3 million households without access to electricity.

Thousands of U.S. Americans join hands across beaches to protest offshore drilling

27 Jun

Source: Xinhua

by George Bao

Thousands of people joined hands at the weekend across beaches from Florida to California to form a human chain to protest offshore oil drilling and promote clean energy.

This is the second annual “Hands Across the Sand” event held in the U.S., but organizers claimed that it is now the global event with participants in 42 countries.

Dave Rauschkolb, founder of the event, told Xinhua that the event started in Florida on Feb. 13, 2010, when over 10,000 people gathered over 90 beaches to protest the efforts by the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in the near and off shores of Florida.

He said the event took place two months before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster took place in the Gulf of Mexico.

He said since then “Hands Across the Sand” went national and global. It became the largest gathering of people in the history of the world united against expanding offshore oil drilling and championing clean energy and renewables.

He said since then over 1,000 events have been held worldwide.

According to Rauschkolb, “Hands Across the Sand” is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations and the borders of the world.

“This movement is not about politics — it is about the protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife and fisheries. The accidents that continue to happen in offshore oil drilling are a threat to all of the above. Expanding offshore oil drilling is not the answer; embracing Clean Energy is,” said Rauschkolb.

Asked what he is trying to accomplish, Rauschkolb said that on a local, national and global level, “Hands Across the Sand” sends a powerful visual message of human solidarity to the leaders of the country that “we are unified in the defense of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we consume from dangerous, dirty energy sources. Every time we join hands that message is reinforced. It’s simple and logical: embrace clean energy. A line in the sand is a powerful thing,” he stressed.

In southern California, hundreds of people gathered at Locations include Bluff Park and Granada Launch in Long Beach, Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey, Topanga State Beach in Malibu, Redondo Beach, the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Pier.

Participants joined hands along the shoreline for 15 minutes to signal solidarity. There were speakers, a beach clean-up and entertainment. Some carried signs that read: “Drillers are Killers, keep our beach out of reach” and “Boycott BP, make big oil pay.”

“Hands Across the Sand” was founded by Rauschkolb in October 2009 and is endorsed by national environmental organizations including Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Surfrider Foundation, Friends of the Earth, and many others. These groups continue to fight those in the U.S. Congress and legislatures at state level who wish to lift the ban on oil drilling in the waters offshore.

Ericka Canales, regional manager of the Surfrider Foundation, told Xinhua that protesters across the country gathered on Saturday to oppose any new offshore drilling, but they do not oppose those offshore drillings that have already been operational.

She said it is time to steer away from the dirty energy and the dependence on the dirty energy. It is important to support clean energy such as solar and wind power.

In Florida, about 5,000 people joined the protest. State Representative Jeff Clemens, who also sits on the House Energy and Utility Committee, joined the event on Saturday.

“It’s not just a green issue, it’s an economic issue,” Clemens said.

“We’re talking about bringing jobs to Florida. Clean energy is really our next great economy in the world and the United States. We’re being beat by China. We’re being beat by Germany. We need to pick up the ball and run with it and we do that by not relying on oil resources for our energy needs,” Clements said.

According to Rauschkolb, “Hands Across the Sand” is aimed at organizing a Global movement to promote a clean energy future for the earth and end dependence on dirty fuel sources.

He said these gatherings will bring thousands of American and global citizens to the beaches and cities and will draw metaphorical and actual lines in the sand; human lines in the sand against the threats Fossil Fuels and offshore oil drilling pose to the present and future planet.

Also, they will convince state legislators, governors, the U.S. Congress, U.S. President Barack Obama and world leaders to adopt policies encouraging the growth of clean and renewable energy sources in place of oil and coal.  

3,000 protest fracking in Quebec

27 Jun

From News24

Montreal – About 3,000 people marched on Saturday to call for an end in Quebec to shale gas exploitation and a technique known as “fracking” that has triggered strong opposition from environmental groups.

The demonstrators marched through downtown Montreal, chanting slogans against drilling.

“Quebec should take a turn for renewable energy, especially new energy sources which are green,” said Amir Khadir, a member of the provincial assembly who came on bicycle to join the protest and has organised a petition against shale gas exploitation that has gathered 100 000 signatures.

Most of the protesters said a decision by Quebec authorities to study the issue was insufficient, and called for a moratorium on exploration of the shale gas reserves found four years ago in the Saint Lawrence valley and for environmentalists to be included on a panel to be set up to study the issue.

“Eight of the 11 members of a study panel have ties to the promoters of exploration, industry or the government,” maintained Lucie Sauve, a member of a gas shale scientific collective.

Backers say the vast reserves in North America could ease dependence on imported energy. However, some argue that the method risks contaminating underground water sources.

Hydraulic fracturing involves forcing chemicals deep into a well to dislodge natural gas from shale thousands of feet below the surface.

In Quebec, large sources of shale gas are believed to be located in the St Lawrence valley, and Quebec authorities are studying the potential environmental impact of drilling in the area.

The Quebec Association to Combat Air Pollution was one of the organisers of the protest.

In March in face of protests, the Quebec authorities were forced to suspend exploration and to launch the study into the environmental impact.