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Agroecology, a way of life, struggle, and resistance against capitalism!

By staff - La Via Campesina, October 17, 2011

Synthesis

Agroecology: a way of life, struggle and resistance against capitalism. Agroecology is the basis for peasant agriculture and food sovereignty. Agroecology continues to be open to debate and dispute; from the perspective of our movements, it is the guarantee, care and protection of our Mother Earth. For that reason, it is transversal in all the spaces of the land, subsoil, territory, water and space.

The cosmovision and epistemology of our peoples tell us that agroecological practices are the center of our ancestors’ production, since they are the coexistence of all living beings. The land does not belong to us; we belong to the land. We are balance and equity, solidarity, integrity, diversity, territorial defense, the ‘buen vivir’, the dialogue between ways of knowing, expressed through the peasant-to-peasant method.

We do not want sustainable development, we want sustainable life. Agroecology gives our identity back to us. Women played a historic role in the evolution of peasant and indigenous agriculture.

Our processes of agroecological training make use of the Latin American Agroecological Institutes (IALA) training centers, through the learning routes that CLOC-LVC has built in the continent. Agroecology is a multidimensional space of social processes, sharing, culture, and art that we can only find in our territories.
All support processes for agroecology should be led by organizations of peasant families, indigenous peoples, farm workers and family farmers, including men and women, with the greatest possible participation of young people.

Agroecology and peasant seeds are mutually dependent, because agroecology is incompatible with genetic engineering, there can be no agroecology with agrochemicals or with the transnational agribusiness corporations.

The theories of Marx and Engels (including the division between the countryside and the city) and indigenous cosmovisions are similar and complementary in agroecological thought and in the unity between culture and the dialogue of ways of knowing. Our agroecological proposal regenerates agroecosystems, including plant, animal and soil biodiversity, as well as indigenous cultures with their diverse ways of producing in harmony with Mother Earth.

Tea Plantation workers in Sri Lanka march for Food Sovereignty!

By staff - La Via Campesina, October 17, 2011

As part of the mobilisations to mark the International Day of Action for Peoples’ Food Sovereignty and against Transnational corporations, plantation communities in Sri Lanka has requested and demanded successive administrations to ensure that they have land rights, which is essential for dignified living. In this regard, Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) and the people of the estates organised a People’s Caravan for Food Sovereignty from 8th to 13th October 2017. The caravan drew attention to a number of issues.

  • Ensuring the rights to own land

It’s been 150 years since tea plantations were established in the country. A few months ago the country celebrated this landmark with great pageantry, however the estate sector workers who have shed blood, sweat and tears to ensure that the tea production goes on, still live like slaves, stuck in squalid rooms of 400 square feet. This practice has to end. These workers must be granted at least a plot of 20 perches, by a deed, so that they can build a house, to farm and to raise a cow.

  • Stop the sale of properties that belong to estates

The government has commenced an initiative to sell the assets of Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation (SLSPC), Elkaduwa Plantations and Janatha Estates Development Board (JEDB) cheaply and to close down the operations. Those who depended on work provided by these estates will soon lose their livelihoods.

By 1972 -75 the tea yields have dwindled and plantation companies started making losses due to mismanagement. Thus these estates were nationalized; however the export and sale of tea were left at the hands of private entities, which had earlier destroyed the plantations by mismanagement. This, coupled with state mismanagement and the world economic crisis, the estates continued to make losses and they were privatized again between 1992 -94.

Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation (SLSPC) and Janatha Estates Development Board (JEDB) were left with 39 midland tea estates which yielded little harvest. Instead of taking steps to develop these estates, the administrators had continuously attempted to sell off the assets of these and that process has sped up under this administration. While the tea plantations are making losses, the workers are not responsible for the results of mismanagement by administrators.

Given the current economic trends and the nature of the ‘investors’ we have, it is obvious that they are not interested in developing these estates. They are more interested in converting the estate bungalows to tourist hotels, cutting down trees in the estates, selling the machinery for scrap metal, extracting granite and other mineral resources and the sale of land. After these resources are exhausted they will sell the land.

On ‘Food Sovereignty Day’ La Via Campesina launches publication that calls for a massive change in the current agro-food systems

By staff - La Via Campesina, October 16, 2017

Harare, 16th October 2017: Today, on the International Day of Action for Peoples’ Food Sovereignty and against Transnational corporations, La Via Campesina officially launches its new publication “Struggles of La Vía Campesina for Agrarian Reform and the Defense of life, Land and Territories” that argues for a massive change in the current agro-food system, if we have to overcome the food, climate, poverty, financial, economic and democratic crises facing the planet and its people.

With the aim of strengthening the convergence of struggles, we will demonstrate in this publication that this change must be based on an integral and popular agrarian reform within the framework of Food Sovereignty.

The concepts, strategies and struggles have undergone many changes within La Via Campesina, partly as a result of the current context, but also as a result of collective processes at the grassroots level in territories that are rich in historical, cultural, political and economic diversity. In this respect, it is evident that integral and popular agrarian reform is understood to be a process for the building of Food Sovereignty and dignity for the people.

Working on the basis of this conceptual framework, in which agrarian reform is presented as a defense and a recovery of land for Food Sovereignty, and as a people’s process, this publication will be structured as follows:

Firstly, chapters 2 and 3 present La Via Campesina’s analysis of the global context we are currently facing and the form in which capital is appropriating territories. What developments have led to this unprecedented level of land grabbing, land concentration and eviction of people from their territories? To which actors do we refer when we speak of “capital”? What is the political framework that favours these processes on a global level? What are the consequences for the food and agricultural system? And how is that reflected in our territories?

La Via Campesina’s concept of integral and popular agrarian reform, developed in this context, will be presented in Chapter 4. How has the concept been modified from a vision of land distribution to a territorial vision? What were the most important milestones? Beginning with the question “How, in today’s world, can we achieve a change in the paradigm towards Food Sovereignty and agrarian reform?” we will present, in chapter 5, the strategies of La Via Campesina, which include direct actions and bottom up praxis, alternative communications and research, and political intervention on a national and international level.

While the analysis focuses more on global processes, the interviews held with leaders of La Via Campesina’s member organisations from different continents and regions show the multidimensional mechanisms which specifically affect territories. They also reflect the way in which the diversity of cosmovisions in territories which are so historically, culturally, politically and economically diverse (which can also be seen in their terminology) has enriched and extended La Via Campesina’s construction of visions.

Because the aim of the publication is to summarise these aspects as a whole from the perspective of La Via Campesina’s organisations, it is not possible to enter into each issue in depth. Therefore, at the end of each chapter we provide suggestions for further reading, which will be a useful starting point for acquiring more in depth knowledge of the issues discussed here.

The alarming ties between Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels and his faux Marine Protected Areas

By Dan Bacher - Red, Green, and Blue, October 12, 2017

The deep relationship between the MLPA Initiative and Delta Tunnels is undeniable. In many ways, the neoliberal MLPA Initiative process, completed in December 2012, has served a template for the Governor’s campaign to build the tunnels.

In spite of some superficial differences, the two processes have been united by their (1) leadership, (2) funding, (3) conflicts of interest, (4) greenwashing goals, (5) racism and denial of tribal rights and (6) junk science. When people educate themselves on the undeniable links between the two processes, I believe they can more effectively wage a successful campaign against the Delta Tunnels and to restore our imperiled salmon and San Francisco Bay-Delta fisheries.

In spite of massive opposition to the MLPA Initiative by Tribal leaders, fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, the fake “marine protected areas” overseen by a Big Oil lobbyist and other political hacks went into effect anyway. I fear the same thing will happen in the Delta Tunnels struggle.

In  recent months, have seen a number of decisions, including the Delta Stewardship Council’s approval of the Delta Plan amendments,the NOAA Fisheries no jeopardy biological opinion, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s approval of a permit to kill endangered salmon and other species in the Delta Tunnels, that advance the California WaterFix proposal.

It’s like back in 2011 when after a couple of favorable court rulings, successful direct action protests and growing opposition to the MLPA Initiative, things went bad. The fishing groups lost a major lawsuit, the Fish and Game Commission backed down on their commitment to protect tribal gathering rights, and in spite of the Co-Chair of the North Coast MLPA Science Advisory going to prison for embezzlement of federal money from the Yurok Tribe, the faux “marine protected areas” went into effect anyway.

Mesoamerican Movement Against the Extractive Mining Model (M4) Reportback

From Mesoamerican Movement Against Mining translated by Earth First! Journal - October 3, 2017

Just like the past five years in the Syrian Valley in Honduras, the communities, peoples and organizations that make up M4 have met from September 22 to 25 in the City of San José in Costa Rica to recognize and reaffirm ourselves in the struggle against the extractive mining model.

Since then, we confirm that the extractive mining model has been imposed as the megaproject with the greatest territorial impact and enslavement of human rights, land grabbing and destruction of Mother Earth in Latin America.

During the days of the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4) meetiing, representatives of 13 countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Sierra Leone, United States), agreed hat mining activity in our territories has advanced under the protection of politicians and technocrats who are poorly informed or ineffective, if not corrupted, by the imposition of corporate interests on the collective interest, by personal appetites and complicit silences. In this sense, we consider that mining in our territories is the result of a deficit democratic model that, operating under the logic that having power is to be right, inevitably places the people in a situation of vulnerability. We have the clarity to affirm and denounce that mining would not be possible without an institutional framework that brings the cause of a development model that – through the irrational extraction of natural common goods – favors the logic of reproduction, accumulation and centralization of capital.

To achieve their productivity goals, mining companies outsource their costs by taking advantage of the permissiveness of legislation and government corruption. The mining companies take advantage of the poverty of the people and the absence of alternatives, which usually facilitates the exploitation of labor and nature. Mining corporations get cheap or free kickbacks and channel their energies into the political lobby. This process is reinforced by international financial institutions and governments from the Global North, who, through “structural adjustment measures”, force countries such as ours to stimulate exports of what they often call “natural resources” through tax exemptions and other financial incentives.

It is this logic of accumulation by dispossession that has led us to face one of the most severe crises of violations of human rights in Latin America. The M4, its members and its organizations have been victims of extractive violence. On March 3, 2016, in Honduras, as part of the exchanges and alliances facilitated by our movement, our comrade Berta Caceres, leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was murdered; in the same episode, Mexican comrade Gustavo Castro, a Latin American referent of the social movement for the defense of land and territory and the principal promoter and promoter of the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4), was wounded and, as a victim , criminalized by the government of Honduras. However, we are standing, we exist because we resist.

Delta Tunnels: Bureau of Reclamation is “Beyond reclamation.”

By Dan Bacher - Red, Green, and Blue, September 11, 2017

“Three recent federal audits have found the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation misspending more than $100 million in funds but the agency has not committed to any meaningful reforms nor to punishing any responsible officials,” according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“The latest audit, last week, identified $84.8 million in improper Bureau of Reclamation payments to the State of California for its controversial Delta Tunnel Project. Despite this finding, the Bureau has no stated plans to recover even a penny.”

“Three recent critical audits arose from reports by Reclamation’s own employees represented by PEER. In the latest report on Friday, the Inspector General (IG) for the U.S. Department of Interior concluded that Reclamation illegally siphoned off funds to benefit fish and wildlife for the Delta Tunnel, a project to trans-ship vast quantities of freshwater from the Sacramento River and Delta to the south.  This project does not benefit fish and wildlife – just the opposite – but will principally benefit south-state irrigators,” PEER said.

This is the third recent “scathing report” on Reclamation misappropriations, according to the whistleblower group:

  • In late August, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded that Reclamation illegally gave $32 million to Klamath Basin irrigators, again misusing funds earmarked for protecting fish and wildlife.  This ruling validated an earlier IG report confirming whistleblower disclosures; and
  • In October, the IG found that Reclamation never collected “repayment of millions of dollars of costs incurred to design, construct, and operate and maintain new head gates and fish screens” within the Klamath Project. These gates and screens are supposed to keep federally protected fish “in the river and out of the Klamath project irrigation canals

The misuse of funds in the Klamath Basin couldn’t have come at a worse time. The number of fall Chinook salmon predicted to return to the Klamath and Trinity rivers in 2017 — approximately 11,000 fish — is the lowest on record, a result of two consecutive juvenile fish disease outbreaks and other factors, including water diversions, dams, drought and ocean conditions.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council closed recreational and commercial salmon fishing in the Klamath Management Zone this season. Recreational fishing for fall run Chinook is banned on the Trinity and Klamath rivers this year.

Greed Has Poisoned Their Souls

By Demand Climate Justice - The World at 1°C, September 9, 2017

Unless you are an environmental geographer or a regular reader of The World at 1°C, chances are you apply the term “natural disaster” to events such as Hurricane Harvey, the landslides in Sierra Leone which claimed 1000 lives, or any of the other countless climatic shocks felt over the last month.

The fact is that nothing could be more unnatural:

In every phase and aspect of a disaster […] the contours of disaster and the difference between who lives and who dies is to a greater or lesser extent a social calculus.”

This is true enough of events which occur irrespective of human activity, such as volcanic eruptions, but when it comes to the droughts, storms, floods, and famines (and, actually, even some earthquakes) caused by climate change or extractive industries, the term natural disaster hides not only a truth about differentiated impacts — it also masks a truth about where responsibility lies.

ExxonMobil, for example, has known that its continued existence causes climate change for decades. And ExxonMobil lied about having this knowledge with such abandon that now even their ex-employees are suing them (in addition to Californian communities affected by climate change). A journal article published this month was the first to analyse all of Exxon’s communications about climate change. It concluded that the corporation knew the facts thanks to its own scientists, yet continued to peddle doubt and foster confusion (including through paid editorials in liberal papers like the New York Times).

The very same ExxonMobil, which now has a major ‘in’ at the White House via Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has been repeatedly let off the hook by authorities. One emblematic story recently published in The Intercept explains how the company has been poisoning a black community in Beaumont, Texas, for decades, by pumping millions of tonnes of toxic chemicals into the air while refining “sour crude.” The community, where people suffer from high rates of hair loss, birth defects, asthma, and cancer, tried to get the EPA to do something (the Exxon refinery regularly broke the law), but were ignored for 17 years. Those who could afford to moved away. Those who could not still live in the shadow of Exxon’s stacks, which stand as monuments to greed and indifference to human suffering.

The market-based “logic” of greenwashed capitalism is that if corporations must pay for doing things like ruining people’s lives or even ruining the planet, then they won’t do it, or at least not as much. But that is demonstrably untrue. Last year, Exxon’s Beaumont refinery illegally released 2,125 pounds of carbon monoxide, sulfur oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide. They were fined $7001. Even when companies are fined much more — as Exxon was when one of its decrepit pipelines burst in 2013, flooding an Arkansas community with 200,000 gallons of Tar Sands oil — they are often able to appeal, as Exxon did.

If a conviction somehow sticks, corporations are sometimes able to ignore the ruling altogether, as these 3 companies appear to be doing in Indonesia. Following successful convictions with penalties in billions of dollars, the Indonesian government has been unable to collect. While the corporations make billions exploiting Indonesia’s vast mineral reserves and precious forests, the communities in the way are left destitute and savaged by both corporate mercenaries and state military forces.

Cognizant of (negative) publicity, corporations are careful to cover themselves with the fig leaf of “corporate social responsibility” and other such meaningless phrases which sound good but don’t mean much in practice. In a case that has echoes of ExxonMobil’s climate change cover-up, Monsanto was recently exposed in The Poison Papers as having made and sold a toxic industrial chemical known as PCB almost a decade after being told by their scientists that:

The evidence proving the persistence of these compounds and their universal presence in the environment is beyond questioning.”

In addition to covering up the horrendous health impacts of its PCB products, newly revealed documents show that Monsanto also conspired with a consultancy firm to “ghost write” a supposedly independent review of the health impacts of its flagship herbicide Roundup. Monsanto has since attempted to force the documents offline, out of sight.

What these examples make clear is that the ways in which people are made to suffer under the dominant social, political, and economic systems are not natural or innate. People suffer by design. And the designers have names like Exxon and Monsanto.

Jerry Brown, climate leader or climate charlatan?

By Dan Bacher - Red, Green, and Blue, July 8, 2017

Brown made the announcement at a time when increasing numbers of Californians are challenging his  environmental credentials as he teams up with the Donald Trump administration to build the controversial Delta Tunnels and to exempt three major California oilfields from protection under the federal Safe Water Drinking Act.

“It’s up to you and it’s up to me and tens of millions of other people to get it together to roll back the forces of carbonization and join together to combat the existential threat of climate change,” said Governor Brown in his remarks on the eve of the G20 Summit. “That is why we’re having the Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, September 2018.”

“President Trump is trying to get out of the Paris Agreement, but he doesn’t speak for the rest of America. We in California and in states all across America believe it’s time to act, it’s time to join together and that’s why at this Climate Action Summit we’re going to get it done,” he claimed.

Leaks and Militarized Policing: Water Protectors are Proven Right

By Michael J. Sainato - CounterPunch, May 30, 2017

The water protectors’ efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline were a historic mobilization of Native American tribes from all across the country coming together in solidarity for the Standing Rock Sioux. The original route of the pipeline was moved from Bismarck, North Dakota, onto Standing Rock Sioux reservation land and sacred tribal grounds.

Despite the overt violation of treaties between the federal government and the Standing Rock Sioux, the pipeline’s construction persisted while mainstream media outlets and Democratic Party leaders all virtually remained silent on the issue.

The void in media coverage was filled by alternative media outlets and citizen journalists. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) were two of the small handful of elected officials willing to speak out on behalf of the NoDAPL fight.Throughout months of living at the Standing Rock camps, water protectors endured constant abuse, violence, and a propaganda campaign from the Morton County Sheriff’s Office and hired security contractors.

On May 27, the Intercept reported, “a SHADOWY INTERNATIONAL mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept.”

Which way for the climate movement?

By Michael Schreiber - Socialist Action, May 11, 2017

On April 29, more than 200,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., in a powerful show of determination to rescue the earth from the ravages of climate change. Over 370 sister marches took place simultaneously across the United States and in countries around the world from Britain to Brazil, and from Mexico to Kenya and the Philippines.

The size of the crowd in Washington far surpassed earlier expectations by the organizers and the National Park Service. At precisely 2 p.m., virtually the entire march, which at that point extended more than 20 blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, grew quiet as people sat down as an ensemble. Drums kept the rhythm as the marchers thumped their chests to show that while coming from many backgrounds, their hearts beat as one.

In addition to the colorful puppets and banners carried by organized contingents, most of the marchers brought hand-lettered signs, with slogans reflecting a variety of related social concerns (such as “Black Lives Matter”) in addition to that of the environment.

Although the organized trade-union contingents were meager, spirited groups of Native Americans, LGBTQ people, and communities of color—including a number of Washington, D.C., youth—made their presence felt.

“In the face of a federal administration that would rather reap profits than protect people, our communities are rising up,” Jeremiah Lowery, climate justice organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said in a press statement on the eve of the march. “In Washington, D.C. and around the world, it’s low-income communities, communities of color, and workers who are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis they did the least to contribute to.”

There is no doubt that the threats by the Trump administration to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords and to rescind environmental measures put in place by Obama—which themselves were far from adequate—were responsible for swelling the numbers of people who joined the demonstration.

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