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Ecuador

Working-class environmentalism and just transition struggles in the Americas

Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act: A path to a clean and inclusive economy

By Dr Sibo Chen - LSE Review of Books, March 31, 2021

In recent years, there has been a steady growth of studies on the ‘Pink Tide’ experience in Latin America — the notable turn towards left-wing governments in Latin America around the start of the twenty-first century — and its implications for regional political economy and social-environmental conflicts. Following this trend, author Thea Riofrancos examines how conflicting visions of resource extraction have divided the Ecuadorian Left in Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador. Drawing upon a wide range of sources gained from fifteen months of fieldwork, the book presents an in-depth analysis of internecine struggles between the Ecuadorian government, which focuses on economic development via resource nationalism, and grassroots anti-extractivism activists, who strongly oppose the government’s lean toward extractive industries due to social and environmental concerns.

The book’s narrative begins in 2007, when Rafael Correa was elected as the 45th President of Ecuador with support from a disparate group of leftist organisations. Correa’s victory marked a fundamental break from Ecuador’s past economic policies. During his tenure (2007–17), Ecuador rejected neoliberalism and attempted to replace it with a series of progressive reforms that sought to improve the country’s economic equality and living standards. Resource extraction still served as the primary funding source for these reforms. Through strong state presence and information campaigns promoting the public benefits of resource development, the Correa government sought to de-politicise resource extraction and frame it as a technical affair, which offers a viable path toward a redistributive post-neoliberal state.

Unsurprisingly, Correa’s reforms were opposed by foreign corporations and domestic elites. What complicated the political struggle, however, was fierce resistance to these reforms among many social activists who had resisted neoliberalism for decades and supported Correa’s leftist election platform. Accordingly, the central question that Resource Radicals seeks to address is how the radical politicisation of resource extraction led to the Ecuadorian dispute between a self-described socialist government and many grassroots activists who helped bring it to power.

Vivir Bien: Old Cosmovisions and New Paradigms

By Pablo Solón - Great Transition Initiative, February 2018

The concept of Vivir Bien (or Buen Vivir) gained international attention in the late twentieth century as people searched for alternatives to the rampage of neoliberalism. Imperfect translations of the Andean concepts of suma qamaña and sumaq kawsay, Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir reflect an indigenous cosmovision that emphasizes living in harmony with nature and one another. As these ideas’ popularity has grown, however, their meaning has been compromised. Governments in Bolivia and Ecuador incorporated Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir, respectively, into their constitutions and governing agendas on paper, but not in spirit. Rather than radical alternatives to the dominant paradigm of development and progress, these concepts have become new branding for (un)sustainable development. The lessons are clear: to avoid state cooptation, truly revolutionary change must be based on emancipation and self-determination from below. And to succeed in our interdependent world, proponents of Vivir Bien must link up with advocates of complementary global movements on the path of a better future for all.

Digging Free of Poverty

By Thea Riofrancos - Jacobin, August 15, 2017

On March 8, 2012, a few hundred marchers set out from Pangui, Ecuador, a town in the southeastern Amazon, near the construction site of the massive, open-pit Mirador Mine. Just days earlier, a consortium of Chinese state-owned companies had signed a contract to exploit the mine’s copper reserves, the first agreement of its kind in the country’s history.

The demonstrators zigzagged through the southern Andes, where more mines are planned throughout the highland wetlands, which supply water to rural farmers and urban consumers. Reinforcements from the northern Amazon joined the march along the way, intentionally traversing the route of crude oil that has for decades flowed through notoriously faulty pipelines. After a seven-hundred-kilometer trek, on foot and in unwieldy caravans, the two-week long March for Water, Life, and the Dignity of Peoples reached its end in Quito, where the state coffers, voters, and armed forces form the complex of economic incentives, democratic legitimacy, and military repression that activists contend keeps the country’s extractive model in motion.

In their words and imagery, marchers proposed an alternative model: a post-extractive vision in which the polity was not a machine that ran on fossil fuels but a plural collectivity of cultures and ecosystems.

By the time they arrived in the capital city, their numbers had swelled to twenty-five thousand.

A Deadly Shade of Green: Threats to Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Latin America

By staff - Center for International Environmental Law, et. al., Summer 2016

On 3 March 2016, a wave of indignation and repudiation swept the world, condemning the brutal and cowardly assassination of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and community leader who inspired thousands of people through her work promoting the rights of the Lenca people.

Her death came amid a growing number of attacks against human rights defenders, particularly campaigners peacefully defending the environment, the right to land and the rights of indigenous peoples. This situation is not limited to Honduras, but can be seen throughout the continent, in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador. This long list is being added to by an increasing number of countries that seem willing to put economic interests before those of people and territories. Reports from numerous organizations confirm a steady deterioration of the situation, highlighting the fact that Latin America has become the most dangerous region in the world for environmental activists.

Various types of attack have been committed against campaigners and their organizations. They range from surveillance campaigns, harassment, and being discredited in the media and social networks, to physical assaults, acts of torture, enforced disappearances and assassinations. In addition, there is widespread corruption and impunity in many countries where relations between state and non-state actors are often ambiguous. We should note, in particular, the attacks against female human rights defenders, who face threats of sexual violence and smear campaigns based on their gender. All of this is exacerbated by the context of increasing criminalization of social protest, and use of the law to suppress dissent in Latin American and Caribbean societies.

Despite the grim outlook, there are reasons to remain optimistic. Civil society has never looked so strong, organized and determined. International solidarity strengthened by the globalization of exchanges between people and organizations makes it possible to bring these struggles out of isolation, and demand accountability to ensure the effective implementation of human rights commitments.

Read the report (EN PDF) | (ES PDF).

Press Conference: The True Cost of Chevron Is Too High

Canada: Land of the Toxic Lakes

By Richard Mellior, AFSCME Local 444, retired - Facts for Working People, November 27, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the aftermath of the crash, polls have indicated that as much as 36% of the US population looks more favorably to socialism, and a recent Pew survey of America's youth between 18 and 29 found that more have a positive view toward Socialism than they do toward Capitalism, Socialism: 49% Capitalism 46%.  While there is no doubt what people mean by socialism varies I think it is fairly accurate to say it means a more egalitarian society, or more accurately, a more just social system.

The problem is that capitalism cannot deliver these goods.  Capitalism is an exploitive system of production in which production or the production of social needs is set in to motion on the basis of profit, on how it can enrich that small minority that own the means of producing human needs and the production process itself. Human needs are secondary as are the needs of the natural world.

Hunger, disease, war, these are the by-products of capitalism.  But so is environmental degradation as land, water, and the natural world is simply there to be exploited regardless of the long-term damage. I read now that Chevron is fighting back against an $18 billion judgment against the company by Judge Nicolas Zambrano in Ecuador. The ruling supported villagers, claims that Texaco had contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. Texaco was bought by Chevron. Ecuador's Supreme Court has since reduced the amount to $9.5 billion.  Chevron attorneys have accused the US lawyer for the villagers, Steven Donziger, of orchestrating an international criminal conspiracy by using bribery and fraud in Ecuador to secure a multibillion-dollar pollution judgment against the oil company.”

Meanwhile, BP which is responsible for the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has been accused of lying about the amount of the spill and is resisting paying reparations saying claimants who were not harmed are demanding payment.

No amount of court theatrics will stop the catastrophic environmental destruction that will at some point reach a tipping point with vast swathes of the planet becoming uninhabitable. Life on this planet cannot survive the ravages of capitalism forever, or more accurately, a system of production which places profit above all else and in which the means of producing humanity’s needs like energy, are owned by private individuals. We have absolutely no say in how decisions about these issues are made, decisions that have life and death consequences for all of us.

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