Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Talk Flop: Where there is no (Good) Will, there is Politics

It seems as though my inbox has been flooded with updates and messages about the climate talks for months now. There has been a lot of talk and debate and the feelings of the people have been made clear, not only in Copenhagen but around the world. Climate change is affecting all of us, and we have already come to feel it, all around the world. It seems that the change is not a smooth, gradual increase in temperature that we may in time be able to adjust too, but rather more extreme and unpredictable weather events: floodings, draughts, cold waves, massive amounts of snow, above average heat in the summer with potentially life threatening effects in random places.

I am not inclined to hysteria or alarmism, but at the same time it is foolish to be looking a looming problem in the eye without acting upon it, in as much as it is within our power to act. Perhaps the earth would be warming anyway, due to sun spot activity, as some scientists maintain. But perhaps it might be a good idea to try and reduce our own additional impact anyway. Afterall, we cannot do anything about the sunspots, but we can do something about our own greenhouse gas emissions. No matter what, reducing the output of these harmful gases will keep the air and consequently the water and the soil cleaner, which can't be a bad thing. Likewise, planting more trees can't be a bad thing - unless they are planted as part of a scheme which runs along the lines of: buy carbon credits so we can cut down the rainforest in order to create oil palm plantations which we will then sell you as biofuel - just one of the many scams that are out there getting away with environmental destruction under the pretense of tackling climate change with the aid of the latest bubble-lie calld 'cap and trade'. Watch this short video to find out why this is 'BS' in capital letters.

The Story of Cap & Trade from Story of Stuff Project on Vimeo.

Anyhow - what Copenhagen has shown is that politicians can not be trusted to carry out the will of the people. If there was a will to take steps to change the current state of affairs and avert possible future disasters, surely the way ahead would have been forged, even through difficult territory. But where there is no real will politicians will poker for the deal that best serves their own interests - and the interests of those who fund them, of course. It is a sad shame that whenever humanity is faced with a challenge and an opportunity to really rise to the lofty heights of a common vision for our destiny as a species, national/corporate egos show up and start demanding this and that so that we end up with a deal that keeps us bondage to the lowest common denominators. Congratualtions to the politicians for having missed another great chance to further any progress on our evolutionary road towards actually becoming humane.

But, just because the politicians have failed does not mean WE, the people have to fail. We can continue to demand greener solutions and make our own consumer choices as sustainable and earth-friendly as possible. Many of us are already doing 'our bit', but we can all do more, not just in our own lives, but also by demanding that the businesses and institutions we deal with follow suit and by helping and supporting each other in making our dreams for a more harmonious life on earth come true.

Find out what has been happening at Copenhagen:

Inter Press Service Climate Specials

United Nations Climate Change Conference Website

Yes Magazine Resource Guide for climate action

Figure out the odds for yourself:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Trouble in Paradise

Have you ever been to Manu National Park, that amazing biodiversity hot spot and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the eastern slopes of the Andes? If you haven't, maybe you have heard about it. It is well known as one of the best places to see wildlife in the Amazon. This is due to its difficult access and sparse population. There are no towns, just a few indigenous communities living their more or less traditional lifestyles, and some eco-lodges, including one that is owned and run by one of the tribes. It has long been a dream destination among wildlife and wilderness enthusiasts, and every kind of naturalist. The National Park is the largest of three connecting protected areas which reach all the way to Bolivia and Brazil and thus form a biodiversity corridor which is crucial to ensure species survival.

But all this is due to change. The Peruvian government, which likes to portray its public face as ecologically sensitive, (especially as regards the tourism sector, where eco-travelers contribute the vast majority to the annual income) has quietly been selling off the Amazon in the form of concessions to oil companies. 75% of the Peruvian Rain forest has been parceled into such concessions and sold to international corporations, which are already well known for their disastrous operations in other ecologically sensitive areas, like the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador.

The area that is currently subject to seismic test drilling lies just outside the protected zone of Manu, in the so called 'cultural zone' and almost the entire area of the Communal Reserve Amarakaeri, an area that was designated by the government to protect the flora, fauna and indigenous people of the area. Apparently such protection does not include the right to live in a healthy environment.

In 2007 INRENA started to draw up a 'master plan' in conjunction with the indigenous guardians of the reserve that was supposed to outline clearly what type of development was and wasn't feasible in this zone. At this time the concession for Bloc 76 as it called, was already signed and sold - though nobody in the affected region knew anything about it. The master plan clearly stated that oil drilling in the southern part of the reserve , which is the origin of headwaters for important river systems would not be tolerable since this would adversely affect all life in the region. There were other stipulations which were meant to protect the interests of the indigenous people and wildlife of the area.

However, INRENA deceptively altered the document, which they called 'minor changes', but which effectively voided the intended meaning of the document. It was again presented to the indigenous leaders to be signed, but at a time between Christmas and New Year when hardly anybody was present and everybody had their minds on other things. At this point still there was no mention of immanent drilling to begin in March.

When trucks started to roll in native communities, tour operators and naturalist felt completely overrun and betrayed by the covert actions of the government, INRENA and the oil companies. There has been no valid impact study or consultation with interest groups or indigenous people. Test drilling started in April, with the base camp being set up on the shore of Cocha Machuhuasi, a lake that hitherto teemed with bird and wildlife and was a popular eco-tourist destination. There have been no sightings of wildlife since the summer when helicopters started to constantly fly over the area. The constant noise pollution has driven wildlife to seek refuge deeper in the forest. The work force consists mainly of underpaid mercenaries and violent crime and abuse that is targeting the indigenous communities has increased.

It is crucial that this madness should be stopped. No drilling in sector 76!