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Green is the New Red

Defending Tomorrow: The climate crisis and threats against land and environmental defenders

By staff - Global Witness, July 2020

For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against climate breakdown. Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work. 

The climate crisis is arguably the greatest global and existential threat we face. As it escalates, it serves to exacerbate many of the other serious problems in our world today – from economic inequality to racial injustice and the spread of zoonotic diseases.

For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against the causes and impacts of climate breakdown. Time after time, they have challenged those companies operating recklessly, rampaging unhampered through forests, skies, wetlands, oceans and biodiversity hotspots.

Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play and the dangers they increasingly face, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work. 

Our annual report into the killings of land and environmental defenders in 2019 shows the highest number yet have been murdered in a single year. 212 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2019 – an average of more than four people a week.

Read the text (PDF).

Brazil: MST asks for more Land Reform and for a stop in the criminalization of the Movement

By Staff - La Via Campesina, November 7, 2016

On Friday, November 4th, MST was on the criminalization spotlight. A violent action by the police, codename “Castra”, spanned three States, Paraná, São Paulo and Mato Grosso do Sul. The main target of the operation was to arrest and criminalize leaders from two camps held by militants in Central Paraná State. The camps are named “Dom Tomás Balduíno” and “Herdeiros da Luta pela Terra” (Land Struggle Heirs).

On a note, MST denounces a “surge in the repression of the struggle for land, dominated by the interests of agribussines allied to the violence of a State of Exception”.

“We remind the public that we have always acted in an organized and peaceful manner for the advancement of Land Reform. We reclaim the land for it’s social function and that it be destined to settling the 10.000 families that are currently camped in Paraná State.”

In São Paulo, 10 vehicles from the Civil Police broke into the National School Florestan Fernandes (ENFF), in the town of Guararema. Two militants were arrested.

According to the reports, police officers arrived at around 9:25 am, closed the school gate and jumped over the reception window,  taking shots aiming at sky. The shards of collected bullets prove that none of them were rubber, but lethal.

In Mato Grosso do Sul, three police vehicles with Paraná plates broke into CEPEGE, “Geral Garcia” Research Center and Professional School, in Sidrolândia. The police operation was searching for MST militants from Paraná that allegedly were there. The police remained there until approximately 9AM, when they left with no arrests. During the operation, police prohibited the use of mobile phones.

Militants that were in CEPEGE at the moment were performing cleaning and maintenance tasks.

Here is the full note:

More Land Reform and a stop to MST criminalization

Once more the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement is a victim of criminalization constructed by the repressive apparatus of the State of Paraná. The violent operation, codename “Castra”, took place this Friday, November 4th 2016, in Paraná - municipalities of Quedas do Iguaçu, Francisco Beltrão and Laranjeiras do Sul; and also in the States of São Paulo and Mato Grosso do Sul.

The aim of the operation is to capture and criminalize leaders from 'Dom Tomás Balduíno' and 'Herdeiros da Luta pela Terra' encampments, located in the central region of Paraná state. Until now 6 leaders were arrested and they are still looking for other workers, under several accusations, including criminal organization.

Since May 2014, approximately 3,000 encamped families are occupying areas that were before occuppied by Araupel Company. Those areas were illegally occupied by the company and because of that the Federal Court of Public Land declared that they belong to the Union, so they must be devoted for Agrarian Reform.

Araupel Company became a powerful economical and political empire by illegally occupying public land and constantly using violence against rural workers and peasants that occupy land, many times acting in collusion with the civilian and military police apparatus, they have even fund political campaigns of public authorities, like the one of the Chief of Staff of the Beto Richa's government, Valdir Rossoni.

We highlight that this action is part of a continuous process of persecution and violence that MST has been facing in several states and in Parana. On April 7th, 2016, in the land illegally occupied by Araupel Company the families organized in the Dom Tomas Balduíno encampment were victims of an ambush made by the Military Police and security personnel hired by the company. In the attack, were there more than 120 gunshots, Vilmar Bordim and Leomar Orback were executed, there were also countless people bullet wounded. In the same large state in 1997, gunmen hired by Araupel killed in another ambush two Landless Movement workers. Both cases remain unpunished.

We denounce the escalation on violence and repression against the struggle for land, where agribusiness interests associated with the violence of the State of Exception predominate.

We remember that we always act in an organized and pacific way so the Agrarian Reform advances. We demand that the land fulfills its social function and that it is destined for the settlement of the 10,000 families encamped in Paraná.

We keep fighting for our rights and we join those who fight for education, health, housing, more rights and more democracy.

Struggle and build Popular Agrarian Reform.

Curitiba, November 4th, 2016.

La Via Campesina International condemns Marcinho’s murder and demands that the culprits be brought to justice!

By staff - La Via Campesina, February 5, 2018

La Via Campesina strongly condemns the murder of comrade Márcio Matos (Marcinho) leader of the MST in the state of Bahia in Brazil, on January 24, outside his home, in the Boa Sorte camp, in Iramaia falling in the Chapada Diamantina region.

Marcinho, 33, who was a prominent MST leader in the peasant struggle in Bahia, was murdered in front of his son with three gun shots to his head. The death of Marcinho is adding to a long list of peasant leaders and social activists, many of them members of the MST, who have been killed for their tireless struggle to reclaim and take land for the dispossessed families and the landless.

Criminalisation of the peasant movements and social struggles, followed by attacks, arrests and imprisonment including the murder of the peasant leaders and human rights defenders are now widespread. These are part of a violent and repressive policy, which aims to contain the movement for an agrarian and popular reform that can put agriculture at the service of the people instead of turning it into a tool to generate profits for a handful of corporations.

In this backdrop, La Via Campesina strongly condemns the murder of Marcinho and demands that the perpetrators be brought to trial. We urge all members of La Via Campesina to be aware of this call for justice for Marcinho and his family, since the crimes against peasant leaders and social activists are taking place in an environment of impunity and violence promoted by the criminal State.

Finally, we extend to MST – our sister organization, an unconditional solidarity and we place ourselves at your disposal to support your of struggle for justice for Marcinho and his family. That the murder of Marcinho serve to inspire us and to strength our commitment to continue fighting for the rights of the peasants and against this system of death and violence.

For Marcinho, not just a minute of silence but a whole life of struggle!

I am Not a Criminal; The Air Polluters are the Criminals

By Allan Todd - London Green Left, January 28, 2019

In Milton Keynes, on Friday 25 January, I was one of 24 Greenpeace activists found guilty of ‘aggravated trespass’. All those (myself included) without any previous criminal convictions, were given 12-month conditional discharges, with damages and court costs of £105 each. Those who had got previous convictions were, in addition, fined £200 each.

Our case arose from a Greenpeace ‘air pollution’ action back in August 2018, which peacefully locked-down VoltsWagon's (VW) UK HQ in Milton Keynes for most of one day - according to VW, this prevented 960 employees from getting into work, costing the company £166,000.

After the verdicts, I was minded of what the Ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, wrote: 

‘Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.’

The background

Many companies - such as Volvo - have already committed to phasing out the production of diesel vehicles. However, the VW ‘stable’ - which is responsible for 1 in 5 of all new diesel vehicles being put on UK roads today - had refused, for over a year, all Greenpeace requests to discuss this issue.

But, on the very day of that Greenpeace action, VW finally agreed to discuss the issue; and, 3 months later, have announced they will phase out all diesel production by 2040.

Trade union leaders stand with imprisoned fracking campaigners

By various - Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group, October 10, 2018

Update: the sentences of all three men have been quashed on appeal as 'manifestly excessive'

As trade unionists, we the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the four non-violent anti-fracking activists who have been convicted of 'causing a public nuisance', three of whom are now serving custodial sentences.  We strongly condemn this judgement and the dangerous precedent it sets for the right to protest and take non-violent direct action against threats to the climate and the environment.

These are by far the longest prison sentences imposed on activists defending the environment since those jailed for the Mass Trespass in 1932. It can only be seen as politically motivated in support of a government that has shown it is prepared to ride roughshod over the democratic rights of citizens to achieve an end for which it has no popular support.

This is a clear example of the state acting in the interests of big business in the face of opposition to fracking by the community at Preston New Road, and across the UK more widely.  It is important to recall the concerns raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly in his report in 2016 regarding the "collusion between law enforcement authorities and private companies" in relation to fracking protests.

At the TUC Congress in 2018, the trade union movement called for a moratorium on fracking in England which has already been stopped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Many of us believe it should be banned in full.  There is no safe fracking. It is not safe for the environment, water supplies, citizens or workers, or in addressing climate change concerns.

Trade unionists have long seen their legitimate rights oppressed with the use of force, and are proud to support of our sisters and brothers taking a stand against injustice.  The treatment of striking miners at the so called 'Battle of Orgreave' remains a potent symbol of the underhand tactics of the state against the working class for which justice is still being sought over thirty years later.

We need investment in a publicly owned and democratically controlled energy system, which can oversee the transition to renewable energy.  A transition that is just by providing social protections for workers, and creates unionised sustainable jobs across all sectors as we develop a new zero carbon economy.

The Cost of Caring for the Land: Attacks on Communities in Resistance in Mexico

By Analy S. Nuño - It's Going Down, January 12, 2018

In the last decade, indigenous and mestizo communities in Michoacán, Jalisco, and Colima have confronted developers, mining and other extractive industries, governmental authorities, and criminal gangs to protect their territories from dispossession and destruction. Along the way, they have come up against threats, disappearances, criminalization, and death.

The body of the P’urhépecha indigenous woman Guadalupe Campanur Tapia was found on January 16th, around the 15th kilometer of the Carapan-Playa Azul highway, in a place known as Irapio. She had disappeared several days earlier.

Guadalupe, 32, was a woman who had broken the mold of her community by joining the group of forest defenders and participating actively in the search for security, justice, and territorial reclamation. The journalist Alejandra Guillén, author of the book Guardians of the Territory: Security and Community Justice in Cherán, Nurío, and Ostula, defined her as “one of the critical voices who pointed out internal contradictions — because she knew that the struggle is built day by day, starting with the small and the everyday things.”

Guadalupe was the founder of the Community Patrol, the movement against illegal logging, and a member of the “Cherán K’eri: Knowing and Recognizing our Territory” project.

On many occasions, she carried out searches for community members who had been reported as disappeared. Her murder is the latest in a series of killings of activists and land defenders in the region, including Jalisco, Colima, and Michoacán, whose natural resources are targeted by both capitalist interests and criminal groups.

“This can be interpreted as a message to intimidate and silence those who genuinely aim to re-value life through community actions that go beyond resistance. It is also a means of terrorizing women, and, on top of everything, it fits within a broader ethnocidal technique intended to diminish the struggle for life carried on by the P’urhépecha community of Cherán,” wrote her friend, Carolina Lunuen.

Still, the attacks occurring in this region are only a sampling of the systematic attacks that have been carried out against social leaders, activists, and land defenders nationwide in the last decade.

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.

Climate Crisis and the State of Disarray

By William C. Anderson - ROARMag, December 2017

We are indebted to the Earth. Our gracious host has provided us with more than enough resources to live, grow and prosper over time. But throughout history, and especially in the modern capitalist era, some have let their desire for more become a perilous dedication to conquest. The urge to make other humans, wildlife and all parts of nature submit to the will of markets, nations and empires is the rule of the day. Today, anything associated with nature or a true respect for it is regarded as soft. That which is not vulturous like the destructive economics of the reigning system is steamrolled to pave the road to unhinged expansion.

This logic of expansion and conquest undoubtedly changes the relationship between humans and their environment. In this context, the “debate” over climate change actually becomes a matter of human survival. Those who entertain climate change as a question at all have already, maybe unknowingly, chosen a side. The fact is that climate change will create more refugees and forced human migrations; it will lead to the murder of environmental activists around the world and start new resource wars; it will spread disease and destabilize everything in its path — and more. Unless capitalism’s unquenchable thirst for natural resources and the fossil fuel combustion that powers it is abandoned, the Earth will be forced to do away with humans cancerously plundering the carbon energy it has stored over millions of years of natural history.

What is most unfortunate is that capitalism, which has multi-layered discriminations encoded within it — racism, sexism, classism, and so on — affects how thoroughly people are capable of bracing for the damages wrought by climate change. Though nature is indiscriminate in its wrath, the sustained ability to protect oneself from rising temperatures and natural disasters is a privilege not all can afford. Those who are already harmed under the pitiless whims of capital are doubly hurt by the lack of protection afforded to them for life in an increasingly turbulent environment. The Global South is much more likely to feel the brunt of climate change, despite contributing much less to causing it. But even in the world’s wealthiest nations, the poor and working classes are much more vulnerable to ecological devastation.

If the people who understand the gravity of the situation want this state of affairs to cease, then the system of capitalism and the egregious consumption of the so-called First World itself must cease. That which puts all of us at risk cannot be tolerated. The vast satisfactions in wealth hoarded by a few does not outweigh the needs of the many suffering the consequences every day, as the Earth deals with malignant human behavior. The systemic drive towards excess that is pushing the planet’s carrying capacity to the brink must be brought to a halt throughout the world, but especially in the empire that exemplifies excess best: the United States of America.

As Opposition Grows Against Pipelines in Virgina, Far-Right Press Plays Up ‘Green Antifa’

By the collective - It's Going Down, December 18, 2017

According to the End of the Line podcast, which chronicles anti-pipeline fights across the US, there is growing opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipelines (MVP) among rural residents in Virginia, where both watersheds and over 300 homes are threatened with pollution and the threat of eviction in the face of proposed construction of the two pipelines.

Last Tuesday, this anger boiled over at a Virginia State Water Control Board meeting, where hundreds of rowdy residents, landholders, and anti-pipeline opponents spoke into the night about the threats to water and land and why the pipelines should be rejected, demanding that the water board cancel potential permits for pipeline construction.

According to RVA MAG:

After a contentious Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hearing, the Virginia State Water Control Board voted Tuesday afternoon for a conditional approval of the 401 Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) permit, tentatively stalling the ACP from moving forward with their pipeline construction planning process.

The vote was considered a positive decision for many landowners and environmental groups who oppose the pipeline, as the vote means ACP does not have an effective certification today.

This approval is contingent on many conditions which must be met within an undetermined 12-month period, set by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The vote is considered a more positive outcome for opposition compared to that of the DEQ hearing last week, which resulted in a full permit approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). A lawsuit has already been filed against the MVP decision in federal court by groups like Wild Virginia, Sierra Club, and Southern Environmental Law Center.

“We have never seen this kind of uprising on an environmental issue in this state,” Sligh said. “I’ve been working on these issues for over 35 years and I have never seen this kind of effort. I’ve never seen this kind of unity.”

Local organizers that talked to RVA MAG, stated that local leaders have met repeatedly with representatives from Dominion Energy who is pushing the pipelines, but have ducked local landholders whose homes and water is threatened:

“Ultimately, DEQ works for Terry McAuliffe,” said Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network founder and director. “Terry McAuliffe has never to this day sat down and met with landowners opposed to this pipeline. He’s met for hours and hours and hours with Dominion. […] It would be great if the governor himself would say, ‘I hear you, Virginians. I hear you, landowners. I hear you, farmers. I hear you, students.’”

“Everyone in rural Virginia wants to protect Virginia and wants to protect their water,” said Cathy Chandler, Roanoke County landowner. “I felt the Board tried to ask good questions, and they got a very circuitous, jumbled response [from DEQ] without time and attention to giving an answer with clarity.”

Growing Connections Between the Far-Right and J20 Prosecution

By the collective - It's Going Down, December 13, 2017

Almost 200 people face upwards of 60 years in prison for taking part in a demonstration against Trump’s inauguration and collectively are all being charged with breaking the same 5 windows of banks and corporate stores. The mass of people arrested on January 20th were swept up in a police kettle which lasted for hours, and ended in the police sexually assaulting and raping arrestees as a sadistic form of group punishment.

Central to the State’s narrative, is that everyone that took part in the anti-capitalist and anti-fascist march that led to the breaking of only a handful of windows was in fact part of a criminal conspiracy. In lieu of evidence, the State argues that the wearing of masks, black clothing, and even chanting similar chants or smiling while witnessing property destruction all constitute evidence in this regard. If the State succeeds, most of the defendants face literally a life sentence, and the State will be given a dangerous new precedent for future repression.

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