Making Local Woods Work

By Mark Walton - Stir to Action, October 2017

The Forestry Commission estimates that 47% of England’s woodlands are unmanaged. If you like to think of woods as wild places and flinch at the idea of a tree being felled, then you might consider this a good thing. But woodlands, at least in this country, need management.

Whilst truly wild woodlands are ‘climax vegetation’ that has achieved a balance between death and renewal, these generally need to be at a scale much bigger than any of our remaining woodlands to thrive independently of humans.

Here in Britain, “the wildwood” has a central place in our culture and imaginations, but the reality is that active management has shaped our woodlands since the ice age, providing supplies of food, fuel and timber, and creating diverse habitats amongst the trees. Unmanaged woodland lacks diversity and can result in poor tree health and increase the spread of tree diseases.

Whilst most of that unmanaged woodland is in private ownership, the future management of our public forest estate also remains uncertain. Attempts in 2010 to sell off the national forest estate were abandoned in the face of a public outcry, but austerity has resulted in many local authority woodland teams being disbanded and the future for the management of the national public forest estate – at least in England – remains unclear.

It is in that gap between the market and the state that we find the commons and, increasingly, a diverse range of community businesses, co-operatives and other forms of social enterprise creating value and livelihoods from its management. So does social and community business have a role in reinvigorating our woods and forests and rebuilding our woodland culture?

In 2012, in the aftermath of the failed forestry sell off and in the wake of the Independent Panel on Forestry’s report, a number of organisations came together to discuss alternative approaches to the management of our woods and forests.

There was already a well established sector of community woodlands and voluntary groups involved in woodland management across the UK. There were also some examples of social enterprises managing significant-sized woodlands, particularly in Scotland where community buyouts meant communities in the Highlands and Islands already had ownership and control over their local woodlands and a focus on sustainable local economic regeneration.

Could these approaches provide new models for managing our woodlands in ways that created livelihoods, improved their quality, and produced useful resources such as woodfuel?

That 2012 meeting led to the establishment of the Woodland Social Enterprise Network and, over time, the development of a proposal for a project to support the development of social enterprise in woodlands. In 2015, funding was secured from Big Lottery to deliver Making Local Woods Work, a pilot programme to provide technical assistance, training and peer networking opportunities for woodland-based social enterprises across the UK.

The programme, which runs until Autumn 2018, is providing support to 50 woodland social enterprises right across the UK, each of which embed woodlands or woodland products into their core activity whether that is the production of woodfuel and timber, or delivering educational or health and well-being activities in a woodland setting. It provides technical advice on woodland management and finance, support in developing business plans, choosing legal structures and strengthening governance, and advice on leases, tenure, and a wide range of other issues. It also provides training, webinars and peer networking opportunities, many of which are available to the wider network of woodlands social enterprises as well as those who are part of the formal support programme.

We can’t rely on corporations to save us from climate change

By Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg - London School of Economics, January 30, 2018

Climate change is now the ever-present reality of human experience. Late last year we witnessed a procession of huge hurricanes batter the US and Caribbean, the largest wildfires on record burn through California, and in Australia, despite the death of up to half of the Great Barrier Reef in back-to-back coral bleaching events, political support for new mega-coal mines and coal-fired power stations. While there is now a clear scientific consensus that the world is on track for global temperature increases of 4 degrees Celsius by century’s end (threatening the very viability of human civilization), our political and economic masters continue to double down on the fossil fuel bet, transforming perhaps the greatest threat to life on this planet into ‘business as usual’.

One response to the failure of government has been a belief that markets and corporate innovation will provide the solution to the climate crisis. As business tycoon Richard Branson has proclaimed ‘our only option to stop climate change is for industry to make money from it.’ Thus while business corporations are major contributors to escalating GHG emissions, they are also often presented as offering innovative ways to decarbonise our economies. But how much faith can we place in corporations to save us from climate change?

In a recently published paper, we explore how major business corporations translate the grand challenge of climate change into strategies, policies and practices over an extended period of time. Our research involved a detailed cross-case analysis of five major corporations operating in Australia over ten years, from 2005 to 2015. During this period, climate change became a central issue in political and economic debate, leading to a range of regulatory, market, and physical risks and opportunities, and each of these five companies were leaders in publicly promoting their engagement with this issue.

Morocco: women agricultural workers are organising to resist slavery

By - La Via Campesina, January 31, 2018

Hidden behind the showcases of Moroccan food and cosmetic exports is the abject poverty of a million women and men agricultural workers. These workers have been reduced to a contemporary form of slavery; they are organising in a daily struggle to obtain their rights and to safeguard their dignity.

The case of the women and men working at “Les Arômes du Maroc” stands out. These women, who come from peasant families and who have worked for decades picking aromatic plants, fruit, and blossoms, live in extreme poverty. They are subjected to practices reminiscent of the Middle Ages that one would have expected to belong to the past: forced labour, wages below the Minimum Guaranteed Agricultural Salary SMAG (5.63 euros) and even below the poverty line, over-loaded work days, the loan of workers to other businesses, etc.

The company uses a pay system, prohibited by law, which is a combination of salaried work and piece work. Wages are based not on the number of hours worked but rather on the weight of the produce that has been picked. By setting goals that are impossible for pickers to reach, the company keeps workers’ pay below the minimum wage.

In addition to their “contractual” work (there are in reality no work contracts), the women are obliged to perform other cleaning and picking tasks, for all of which they receive the paltry daily wage, as we have been able to verify by their pay stubs, of 1-5 dirhams (1 dirham = 0.08 euros).

In the words of one of the women: “So as to keep our jobs we are obliged to perform other tasks and chores such as cleaning. We work all day picking blossoms, which are very light and must be handled one by one. In the best of cases, the weight picked is no more than one kilogram per person per day, although, in order to be paid the salary for a day’s work, we are expected by the company to pick 50 kilograms. This means that what we receive is a fiftieth of the minimum daily wage.” Between contract work, over-time work, and the time that is spent waiting for wages to be paid, work days are as long as 14 hours for a salary that does not cover the cost of living. Added to this are other scandalous practices: the women workers are lent to the neighbouring farm of an Emirate prince – without being provided with any means of transportation to get there; safety equipment (to be used, for example, when climbing trees or handling plants with thorns) is non-existent.

A simple message to Clean Energy Jobs Bill supporters: This is not a comprehensive climate solution

By - Center for Sustainable Economy, January 30, 2018

Climate change is one of the most daunting challenges humanity has ever faced and requires a commensurate policy response. A robust climate agenda would consist of a number of key interventions to holistically address the issue, including:

  • Ramping down all major sources of greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible;
  • Making climate smart production the law not the exception;
  • Catalyzing wholesale changes in consumer behavior and public purchasing to scale up demand for goods and services with minimal carbon footprints;
  • Halting construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure;
  • Making a just transition to a 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency platform;
  • Divesting from the fossil fuel industry and redirecting those funds into sustainable alternatives;
  • Ensuring that communities most impacted by the consequences of climate change and risks associated with fossil fuel infrastructure and pollution are prioritized in adaptation plans and projects;
  • Halting the expansion of suburban sprawl and freeways and ensuring that we move as quickly as possible to public transit for all, and;
  • Rebuilding the resiliency of natural landscapes made vulnerable to climate change by bringing an end to industrial-scale forestry and agriculture practices and ensuring our land use practices enhance the drawdown—not the continued release – of carbon from the atmosphere.

Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs (CEJ) bill barely scratches the surface of these problems. As such, it should not be hyped up as a comprehensive climate solution for the entire state economy, but explained for what it is – a limited experiment in creating some green jobs and generating public revenues through a market-based greenhouse gas reduction mechanism that will be applied to about 100 facilities and affect just a fraction of the carbon emissions attributable to production, consumption and trade activities in the state.

Chile: Lies, dam lies and a Mapuche activist murdered

By - Freedom, January 30, 2018

It has taken nearly a year-and-a-half of fighting the authorities, and a second autopsy, to confirm what the family of Macarena Valdés Muñoz already knew – she was hanged after her death. There was no suicide. 

On the afternoon of Monday August 22nd, 2016 Macarena, a Mapuche environmental activist fighting against the construction of a mini-hydroelectric dam near and over her property in Newen-Tranguil, near Liquine, Los Rios, was found hanged in her home aged 32. A noose was round her neck and for the coroner the situation was obvious: “Death by suffocation and hanging” – a suicide with a technical explanation that baffled her family.

What had actually happened however was murder. A doctor was first to explain to loved ones that key factors for a suicide had not happened. Her cervical vertebra hadn’t been broken, and it was clear, explained her father-in-law, Mapuche political leader Marcelino Collío, she had been killed. Most likely, it had happened in front of her one-year-old child who was with her at the time.

But it wouldn’t be until January 19th 2018, with the trail long cold, that they would have their suspicions confirmed by a government department in a statement that acknowledged Macarena could not have killed herself. She had instead been killed and then hanged to simulate suicide,

Last week, following the second report, the family and supporters from the Health For All Movement made a number of demands of the authorities, who they suspect of effective collusion in what amounts to a racist strong-arming of the Mapuche community in Tranguil to force them to accept damaging mini-hydroelectric dams across the regional river network. They called for:

  • A new statement of intent on the part of authorities and agencies involved in the investigation of Macarena’s death
  • The the results of both autopsies be clarified to show why the first was inaccurate
  • That resources be provided to investigate the murder fully and bring the killers to justice

They added:

We denounce the violence and permanent intimidation suffered by the community of Tranguil, exercised by the State and the hydroelectric companies interested in extracting the riches of the territory, at the expense of the destruction of the natural and cultural heritage of the town.

Through our history in Latin America we know that this crime corresponds to the way in which, both state policies and business groups, repress through terror and silencing the dissidence and diversity of peoples.

There were strong reasons for the suspicions of Macarena’s family and community, which have repeatedly clashed with both the government and hydroelectric companies over the future of development in and around Tranguil, in the mountains of Los Rios.

Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto: Indian farmers send their objections to Competition Commission

By - La Via Campesina, January 30, 2018

On 25 January, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), placed on record their objection with the proposed acquisition of Monsanto by the German firm Bayer.

Here is the full text of the letter.

All Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements

Road No. 2, A – 87, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, IndiaTel:+91-9899435968 ; Email:

The Secretary, 25.01.2018

Competition Commission of India,

New Delhi – 110001

Dear Madam/Sir,

Subject: Our objection to the Proposed Combination between Bayer AG and Monsanto and request for extension of 15 days notice for public participation.

We the farmers in India as Individual Farmers, Farmers Groups, Women Farmers, Small farmers, Young Farmers, Farm Workers, Landless Labourers have come together to place on record our objections pertaining to the Notification issued by the Competition Commission of India under Section 29(2) of the Competition Commission Act, 2002, inviting objections/ comments/ suggest with regard to the combination of Two Corporate Giants across the Globe viz, between Bayer AG, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Allee, 51368, Leverkusen, Germany (hereinafter ‘Bayer’ or ‘Acquirer’) and Monsanto Company, 2711 Centerville Road, Suite 400, Wilmington, Delaware 19808, County of New Castle (hereinafter ‘Monsanto’ or ‘Target’, and collectively with Bayer as ‘Parties’).

The signatories hereunder are members of All India Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM) and South Indian Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM) and we represent 12 farmers’ organizations across India representing millions of peasants, small and medium size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers. We defend peasant agriculture for food sovereignty as a way to promote social justice and dignity and strongly oppose corporate driven agriculture that destroys social relations and nature.

We consider that the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer not only causes but also likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India. We request the Commission to call for the records from these two companies regarding their market concentration and study the overall reach of these two companies put together in the market and assess the percentage of their shares objectively and independent of the projections given by the Parties in Form IV, before arriving at any conclusions. The Commission should carry out this investigation to determine the questions whether the acquisition or the combination of these two giant Corporates would cause adverse effect on competition within India.

It is important to place on record the study conducted by the Friends of Earth, Europe led by Ioannis Lianos, Professor of Global Competition Law and Public Policy and Director of the Centre for Law, Economics and Society (CLES) at University College London (UCL),1 concludes that even on a narrow reading of EU competition law, the merger between US-based agro-chemical and biotech company Monsanto and German ‘life science’ company Bayer should not be permitted. The legal study sets out five main reasons why EU competition law requires that the merger be blocked. The copy of the said document is enclosed herewith.

In addition to the issues raised in the said study mentioned supra and the objections submitted by many other individual farmers, farmers organization and farmers collective, we also like to highlight the certain discrepancies in the combination of Bayer and Monsanto as published in the Notification dated 5th January 2018.

In India, Bayer and Monsanto, as per the assertions given by the Parties in Form IV, prior to the closing of the Proposed Combination operate in the 5 Segments in terms of Products, viz, 1. Crop Production, 2. Agricultural Seeds, 3. Vegetable Seeds, 4. Environmental Science and 5. Traits and Technology. The Crop Productions again has 6 Sub Segments, Agricultural Seeds has 5 Sub Segments, Vegetable Seeds has 22 Sub Segments , Environment Science has 5 Sub Segments and Traits and Technology has 1 Sub Segment.

In the Crop Production Segment, both the parties have one Sub Segment overlapping i.e., Non –selective herbicides.

In Agricultural Seeds Segment, both the parties have one Sub Segment overlapping i.e. Cotton Seeds.

In Vegetable Seeds Segments, both the parties have 13 Sub segments overlapping, i.e., Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Eggplant, Bitter Gourd, Bottle Gourd, Melon, Okra, Onion, Hot Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Watermelon.

“Food is political!” 33,000 demand quicker change of our agricultural and food systems

By - La Via Campesina, January 30, 2018

Excerpts from the joint press release of German civil society organizations participating last weekend in Berlin’s “We’re fed up with it” demonstration. For the complete text (German only) please click here

With a deafening cooking-pot concert, 33,000 people at the “We’re fed up!” demonstration at the start of the Green Week in Berlin called on the next German government to come up with a new agricultural policy. ‘Industrial agriculture and food industry is causing local and global problems for farmers, climate, animals and the environment,’ says Jochen Fritz – spokesperson of “We´re fed up!” – on behalf of the more than 100 organisations that called for this demonstration. He adds: ‘The transition to an environmentally friendly, animal-friendly and climate-friendly agriculture in which farmers can live justly from their work must not be postponed by politicians.’

Demonstrators beat their pans in front of the Agriculture Ministers’ Summit gathered in the German Finance Ministry. They demanded respect for human rights, fair trade conditions and more support for the rural population worldwide. Already in the morning the 160 farmers who led the demonstration with their tractors handed over a protest note to the 70 ministers from all over the world present in the Summit. ‘We want to get out of the fatality of export agendas and land concentration, which have tied a noose on the neck of farmers here and around the world,’ says Fritz about the consequences of agricultural policies. ‘In the last 12 years, one third of all farms in Germany had to close their doors.’

Alliance spokesman Fritz continues: ‘Food is political, more and more people are recognizing this. But our policies are feeding the agricultural industry and produce at the expense of the environment, climate and animals. So that we don’t have all to pay for it in the long term, the big coalition (GroKo – CDU/CSU-SPD) must now turn the tables*. Those who produce and eat sustainably must be rewarded.’

Concrete projects in the next legislative period must be – in addition to glyphosate phase-out and proper transformation of livestock stables and pens – the obligation to label animal foodstuffs, prohibiting last-resort antibiotics in animal husbandry and fair market rules for the protection of farms. Furthermore, the payment of EU agricultural subsidies to non-agricultural investors, who are grabbing more and more farmland, must be stopped immediately.

‘We need a fundamental reform of European agricultural policy. Those who cultivate crops in an environmental and climate friendly way and raise animals in an appropriate manner must be supported by direct payments, not those who own the most land. Farmers are ready, but politicians must create the framework. Rural areas are in particular need of small and medium-size farms’, says Georg Janßen, Head of Office of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL).

* at the moment, the three biggest political parties in Germany (CDU/CSU-SPD) are negotiating the formation of the next government

Indonesian Uber Drivers Fight Back with Anarcho-Syndicalism

By staff - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, January 30, 2018

As the “uberization” of the US economy continues, along with it is an ever precarious workforce struggling to make ends meet in the dog-eat-dog world of the so-called “sharing economy.” This trend is the same around the world, with Uber claiming to have more than two million drivers in over 80 counties across the globe now.

In Indonesia these conditions are little different. But radical unionists are hoping to change this and are organizing to take back their dignity, better pay and conditions and for great control over their work and lives. Kommunitas Uber Mainstream, abbreviated KUMAN which means ‘bacteria,’was formed by three Uber motorcycle drivers in the Spring of 2017. They have since crafted a list of 14 demands, led four one-day strikes and have grown to a membership of 6,000 drivers. All but two are male in the male dominated field of drivers. KUMAN is structured horizontally with regional sections meeting regularly in parks or other available spaces to discuss strategy and in turn chose delegates to larger general meetings. The union has no dues and supports itself largely by sale of stickers and t-shirts. Drivers can become members by proving they are an active driver and answering three basic questions: 1. What’s your perspective on this group?, 2. Are you a freedom fighter or a loser? and 3. What do you know about what working with Uber is like? KUMAN works together with Persaudaraan Pekerja Anarko-Sindikalis (PPAS), the two-year old anarcho-syndicalist initiative in Indonesia and an affiliate of the International Workers Association (IWA). The majority of the union has decided to adopt the ideas and strategies of anarcho-syndicalism for their struggle, although other political tendencies exist within the union.

KUMAN is continuing to escalate the fight for justice at Uber, with more strikes and actions planned. We hope that this interview will help inspire solidarity with their cause, so that workers around the world will answer KUMAN’s next call for action and join in putting pressure on Uber. We particularly hope that other rideshare and sharing economy workers will learn from the experiences we share here and connect with KUMAN drivers to build international networks of struggle and organization.

We were excited to be able to talk with Enrique, an Uber driver from Jakarta, Indonesia who was one of the initial three founders of KUMAN. We were also joined by Ricardo, originally from Surabaya, Indonesia but now living in Melbourne, Australia. He works in retail grocery and is active with the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation – IWA. The interview was conducted by Jesus, a Los Angeles based healthcare worker with Black Rose/Rosa Negra. The three sat down together in a cramped Hong Kong hostel room to talk about the situation of Uber drivers in Indonesia now and how anarchist ideas are being applied to build workers power among drivers in Indonesia.

Please note that for purposes of translation, clarity, and length this interview has been heavy edited.

Leaked Trump Infrastructure Plan is a Blueprint for Corporate Subsidies

By  - CounterPunch, January 29, 2018

The Trump administration’s plans to rebuild infrastructure in the United States have been leaked, and it appears to be as bad as feared. At least three-quarters of intended funding will go toward corporate subsidies, not actual projects. It is possible that no funding will go directly toward projects.

There’s no real surprise here, given that President Donald Trump’s election promise to inject $1 trillion into infrastructure spending was a macabre joke. What is actually happening is that the Trump administration intends to push for more “public-private partnerships.” What these so-called partnerships actually are vehicles to shovel public money into private pockets. These have proven disastrous wherever they have been implemented, almost invariably making public services more expensive. Often, far more expensive. They are nothing more than a variation on straightforward schemes to sell off public assets below cost, with working people having to pay more for reduced quality of service.

That is no surprise, as corporations are only going to provide services or operate facilities if they can make a profit. And since public-private partnerships promise guaranteed big profits, at the expense of taxpayers, these are quite popular in corporate boardrooms. And when those promises don’t come true, it taxpayers who are on the hook for the failed privatization.

The collapse earlier this month of Carillion PLC in Britain put 50,000 jobs at risk, both those directly employed and others working for subcontractors. The holder of a vast array of government contracts for construction, services and managing the operations of railways, hospitals, schools and much else, Carillion received contracts worth £5.7 billion just since 2011. Overall, an astonishing £120 billion was spent on outsourcing in Britain in 2015.

What did British taxpayers get for this corporate largesse? It certainly not was the promised savings. Parliament’s spending watchdog agency, the National Audit Office, found that privately financing public projects costs as much as 40 percent more than projects relying solely on government money. The office estimates that existing outsourcing contracts will cost taxpayers almost £200 billion for the next 25 years. (This report was issued before Carillion’s collapse.) In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “These corporations need to be shown the door. We need our public services provided by public employees with a public service ethos and a strong public oversight,” The Guardian reported.

Naturally, there was one group that did quite well from this privatization: Carillion’s shareholders, who reaped £500 billion in dividends in the past seven years. But it is the government that will have to pick up the tab if the company’s employees are to continue to be paid. On top of that, the company’s pension shortfall reached £900 billion, according to Reuters.

By no means is Carillion’s collapse the only privatization disaster in Britain. A bailout of the corporate-run East Coast rail system is expected to cost hundreds of millions of pounds. There are numerous other examples that have proven windfalls for corporate executives but expensive mistakes for the public.

Big Oil praises Gov. Brown's state of the state address, activists challenge his policies

By Dan Bacher - IndyBay, January 26, 2018

Amidst predictably fawning media coverage, California Governor Jerry Brown delivered his sixteenth and final State of the State address at the State Capitol in Sacramento on January 25.

Brown proclaimed that the "bolder path is still our way forward" on climate change, cap-and-trade and infrastructure investment, including the implementation of the water bond of 2014 and the construction of his Delta Tunnels, and an array of other issues.

He said the renewal of his cap-and-trade program on a bipartisan basis was “a major achievement and will ensure that we will have substantial sums to invest in communities all across the state -- both urban and agricultural.”

“The goal is to make our neighborhoods and farms healthier, our vehicles cleaner -- zero emission the sooner the better -- and all our technologies increasingly lowering their carbon output. To meet our ambitious goals, we will need five million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. Think of all the jobs that will create and how much cleaner our air will be,” said Brown.

A statement from Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) President Catherine Reheis-Boyd praising the Governor's State of the State address pretty much summarizes the oil industry's deep partnership with Jerry Brown since he began his fourth term as Governor In January 2011 and their strong support of his controversial carbon trading program.

In fact, documents leaked to the media in 2017 revealed that Brown’s highly touted cap-and-trade bill, AB 398, was based on a WSPA and Chevron wish list.

Reheis-Boyd, who also served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California, proclaimed:

“Throughout Governor Brown’s historic years leading our state, he has worked to ensure California sets ambitious standards in climate change policy. As our state’s leading energy producers, we we continue to work with him, future Governors and our state’s leaders to me California’s climate change goals.

Despite hundreds of millions in state rebates and investments, even the Governor noted today that zero emission vehicles, like electric cars, represent a very small percentage of the vehicles on the road today. Of the nearly 26 million passenger cars in California, only 300,000 are zero emission vehicles.

Our members will continue to provide the reliable and affordable fuel that powers our state and the vehicles that Californians choose every day for their families and small businesses.”