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Archive for April, 2012

MayDay began as an ancient celebration of renewal of springtime, and continues today as a celebration of Immigrant and International Workers’ Day. Among myriad others, Rosa Luxembourg wrote about the origins of May Day as a workers holiday. This MayDay, as we take the day off to celebrate and mobilize and to breathe life into the streets of our cities and towns, we bring you an extended photo essay and update from the inspiring upsurge of Occupy action in Northern California. – The GJEP team, for Climate Connections

Occupy the Farm Brings the Struggle for Food Sovereignty and Urban Agriculture to California

When hundreds of community activists under the banner “Occupy the Farm” entered and occupied a five acre tract of land owned by the University of California on the border of Berkeley and Albany in Sunday, April 22, it heralded a new phase of the Occupy movement, and a new stage in a long debate between the University and the public over that particular piece of land.

A week later, the Farm, as it is being called by Occupiers, has taken on a vibrant life. The debate about its occupation continues, with a battle for hearts and minds of the community playing out in a series of open letters between the University and the farmers, and a steady police presence. Eye-witness reports of police harassment reveal the high-stakes and the looming potential for conflict; within the farm grounds, however, the scene is tranquil following a weekend of planned activities including music, childrens’ activities, hands-on farming classes, and a ceremony to welcome home seeds saved from the site  by Berkeley community residents twelve years ago.

Organic fava bean cover crop planted by UC researchers, protected from possible damage by the occupiers. Photo: Conant

Underlying the current occupation is a long-running feud over the best uses of the last 14 acres of the Gill Tract, a piece of land that originally comprised 140 acres and was deeded to the University for agricultural use over a century ago.

Students of agro-ecology, working with Professor Miguel Altieri, use the land to study biological pest control, organic soil improvement, and other crop management techniques that do not rely on chemical inputs, and that are designed to aid farmers in freeing themselves from ‘the pesticide treadmill’ and support food sovereignty.

The land has also been, and continues to be, used by researchers isolating genetic traits of maize, whose funding comes from the US Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and in past, from agribusiness interests such as Novartis. Within the College of Natural Resources at Berkeley, there has been over a decade of difficult relations between these two programs. The University’s acceptance of $25 million grant from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis generated enough controversy to have been detailed  in books such as Universities in the Age of Corporate Science: The UCBerkeley-Novartis Controversy.

Three-quarters of an acre were tilled and planted in the first four hours of the Occupation. Photo: Conant

At the heart of Occupy the Farm is a radical vision of land use reform and a critique of private land ownership. Photo: Conant

Donated tools. Photo: Conant

After months of planning in secret, the initial occupation of the land occurred rapidly, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with hundreds of people rushing in to till and plant 3/4 of an acre in the course of a few hours. By the next day, neighbors were arriving with donations of farm implements, water, compost, and other farm supplies. Not all of the neighbors are on board with the occupation, but many are. Many neighbors say they have walked by the property for years and been unable to enter; now they are elated to have the chance to take part in farming it.

15,000 seedlings were grown by farmers from the greater Bay Area, to supply the Farm with new life. Photo: Conant

Beans in new farm beds. Photo: Conant

The Farm is intended to be a refuge for families. Photo: Conant

From the outset, organizers have placed strong emphasis on making the site open, participatory, and family-friendly. This presents challenges to the ad-hoc and sometimes unruly Occupy movement, but is an important element of growth for the movement. Leaders at the site often repeat the mantra, “The best use of farmland is farming. If you’re not here to work, go elsewhere.”

Photo: Conant

Photo: Conant

Why do chickens swallow pebbles? Photo: Conant

Many of the areas established at the Farm are set up to provide educational opportunities for children and adults alike.

Triple-scary scarecrow. Photo: Conant

The Mustard House of Enchantment. Photo: Conant

Everyone lends a hand. Photo: Conant

Springtime for Occupy. Photo: Conant

One of the Farm organizers, Gopal Dayaneni of Movement Generation Justice Ecology Project, says that “The first generation of Occupy, last year, was about beginning to imagine the world we want. This season is about manifesting it.”

 The University of California Police have a long history of engaging in provocation to quell students protest. This Sunday around 3 p.m. one such act appears to have occurred: an unidentified man appeared at the front gate of the Farm wielding a baseball bat. Witnesses say he “threatened to come back later with his buddies and shut the place down.”  Occupiers chased him off, and followed him with video cameras asking for his name. After a chase through the nearby University Village, two UC police cruisers pulled up beside the man. He immediately fell to the ground, dropped the bat and assumed a compliant posture. The police lifted him into the cruiser and began to drive off. When occupiers insisted that they be asked for statements, the police said they were making the suspect nervous, and drove off. One visitor to the Farm, a Berkeley resident unaffiliated with the protect, followed the police in her car, saw them park a few blocks away, and watched. After ten minutes, the police approached and asked her to leave. When Farmers visited the Albany police station demanding to give a statement, they were told that this was UC’s jurisdiction, and no statement would be taken. To date, no arrest has been made, and the incident has raised concern among participants that the police will not hesitate to use COINTELPRO-style tactics, and outright physical violence, to dismantle the Occupation

Photo: Conant

Like any parcel of land, the Gill Tract has a long and storied history. In 1999, shortly after Swiss Pharmaceutical giant invested $25 million in UCBerkeley’s College of Natural Resources, the College’s research priorities shifted from agro-ecology to genetic research, and students of agro-ecology were kicked off the plot. Together with community sustainability advocates, they collected the organic heirloom seeds that had been grown in the program, and brought them to the Berkeley Ecology Center where they became the first flush of seeds in the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL). This seed library in turn inspired many others (previous post).

This Sunday, as part of the educational program at the Farm, seeds from that collection were brought home to the Gill Tract. About fifty people held a ceremony and celebration of return of the seeds, and established a seed-growing keyhole garden at the site where the seeds had been removed.

An invocation was spoken, and repeated by participants that included these words: “Because we know and we believe that true humans are neither the masters nor the owners of the seeds, but servants to the seeds, brothers and sisters to the seeds, children of the seeds, today we tell your story. Today, we bring you home.”

Christopher Shein, who worked the Gill Tract as a student twelve years ago, is now a professor of Permaculture at Merritt College. Here, he is showing scarlet runner beans, from the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library he co-founded. These plants are being grown from seedstock descended from seeds saved from the Gill Tract by Shein and others in 1999. Photo: Conant

Some of this weekend’s Farm activities. Photo: Conant

A sign facing San Pablo Avenue at the Occupy Farm. Photo: Conant

The battle over the Gill Tract taken up by the Occupy movement is a continuation of a long-running struggle over the privatization of public resources. As a public university, funded largely by tax-payer dollars, many feel that the UC should serve the public interest. The largest land-owner in the East Bay, the UC pays no taxes. Massive injections of money from the private sector, including the Novartis grant and a 2007 investment of $500 million from BP, have shifted the University’s research priorities, and further alienated it from the public.

New visions for the land: a sign at the Farm entrance invites all comers to imagine how the land could be used to serve the community. Photo: Conant

In the days and weeks ahead, the University will use all means at its disposal to get the Occupiers — and the community – off the land. For their part, the Occupiers plan to stay until a suitable agreement is reached that will satisfy the researchers and their needs, while also maintaining the land in community control.

Michael Beer, a Richmond resident who taught in the Oceanview Elementary school, across the street from the Gill Tract, for many years, told me of his efforts to lobby the University to make this land available for childrens’ education. The plan, called Village Creek Farm and Garden, was scrapped by the UC administration in 2006.

“My mistake,” Beer told me, “is that I talked to the University. These people just took the land, and now the University has to deal with them. I think it’s fantastic.”

The following open letter is a response to a letter posted by the University of California, here.

29 April 2012

Open Letter from Occupy the Farm to Albany Residents and the East Bay Community

As you read this letter, East Bay families and farmers continue to seed, weed, and water at Occupy The Farm.  Public events over this weekend have included workshops by members of the community and the opening of the “Ladybug Patch” children’s area. For most Albany residents this is the first time they have ever been invited onto, or set foot upon this land.

We are writing you to correct the misinformation circulated by the University Administration in their recent open letter.

The University administration’s position does NOT represent the position of the entire university community.  For example, there are 8 faculty members within the College of Natural Resources that are actively supporting the idea of turning the Gill Tract into an urban farm. These faculty’s interest in the Gill Tract stems from their affiliation with Berkeley’s new Diversified Farming Systems Center, whose mission is closely aligned with Occupy the Farm’s mission to promote “sustainable agriculture to meet local needs.” Building on the long history of the parcel as a home for Miguel Altieri’s agroecological research, the Gill Tract could potentially become a center for community outreach, agroecology, and urban farming – thereby meeting the growing interests of the university in socially and ecologically sustainable farming, and the needs of the local East Bay community.
We are well aware of the history of this land and the debates about its future.  We encourage everyone to examine the University’s 2004 Master Plan, which clearly indicates that the historic agricultural field we have planted is intended to be developed.  This field used to belong to the College of Natural resources, but has long since been transferred to Capital Projects, the development arm of the University of California.  The UC allows researchers use of the field, but as long as this master plan remains in effect the clock is ticking, and the planned redevelopment will displace all researchers from this land as well.

We are acutely aware that our presence on this land presents challenges for the researchers who have been using this land as well as for the neighbors living around it.  Our inability to provide advance notice for this action has certainly compounded this inconvenience.  We recognize that it will take time and hard work to solidify good relationships with our neighbors, and we are humbled by the grace we have been shown by nearby residents, the UC Village, and the Ocean View Elementary School, and grateful to those who have allowed us to open lines of communication.   We are hopeful that dialogue with the researchers can lead to a mutually acceptable resolution that reconciles the needs of those using the land for research with the long term goal of preserving this land as farmland for future generations.

The UC’s letter clearly exposes how out of touch it is with the Albany community. The UC claims to have been “actively participating in a collaborative, five-year-long community engagement process.”  After five years of this supposed “collaboration” and “community engagement”, the same letter acknowledges that most Albany residents “are studying the details of the project for the first time as the result of media interest in the protest.”  Albany community members have not been aware of this proposal because the UC has not engaged in a sufficiently open and participatory process.  As Ulan McKnight, an Albany resident, says, “The process included no real collaboration.  The University may have ‘listened’ to the community, but ignored their proposals and suggestions.”

Despite more than a decade of requests by many members of the community that the land be used for agriculture in service of the public interest, the UC continues to offer the land up for non-agricultural uses.  In 1997, the UC walked away from the table during the final stages of deliberating a proposal for the Gill Tract drafted by a coalition of UC professors, residents, and more than 30 local non-profits known as the Bay Area Coalition for Urban Agriculture (BACUA).  These negotiations were abandoned with no explanation. Mara Duncan, an Albany resident for 16 years, says, “Long before the Whole Foods proposal, 1200 people in the community signed a petition asking to make the Gill Tract a community farm. When the Whole Foods proposal came, many of the voices supporting an urban farm felt shut out by the UC and the deliberative process.”

Dan Siegel, our legal counsel, points out that the UC is not only violating the public trust, it may also be violating the law.  According to Siegel, “Since the Gill Tract represents one of the few remaining agricultural spaces in northern Alameda County, preserving it as a productive farm is consistent with public policy and the public interest.” Siegel cites several statuets, including California Civic Code 815, which “declares that the preservation of land in its natural, scenic, agricultural, historical, forested, or open space condition is among the most important environmental assets of California.”

Our goal is to prevent development of agricultural land, and to allow the community to be engaged with the land.   Support for The Farm is building because it represents an important hope for urban agriculture and community in the East Bay.  Please join us in protecting our most valuable community resource. Farmland is for Farming.

This letter has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 29, 2012

An earlier version of this letter incorrectly quoted part of an Albany resident’s statement regarding the extent to which community voices were or were not considered in UC-sponsored listening sessions.

END

In closing, we leave you with some words of MayDay inspiration:

…Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
That gathers your cause in its scope….

…Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World’s Workers, sisters and brothers,
Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

Walter Crane, The Workers’ Maypole, 1894


 

 

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

Cross-posted from The Center for New Community.

By Rebecca Poswolsky

April 27th, 2012 – While many Earth Day events this past week focused on climate justice, sustainability and protecting the environment, some continue to take this week as an opportunity to bash immigrants. Earth Day for the anti-immigrant movement and groups like NumbersUSA, Californians For Population Stabilization (CAPS), and the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR) to mention a few, is just another opportunity to scapegoat immigrants.Anti-immigrant groups use this time to hone in on who they perceive as the culprits of environmental degradation: immigrants. Below is a week’s review of the activities of nativist organizations.

On Saturday, April 21, 2012, Roy Beck wrote a blog called, “Population Growth — the surprising topic at Earth Day.” The blog is about how NumbersUSA participated in one of the nation’s three largest Earth Day Festivals at the Texas State Fairgrounds. According to NumbersUSA, the anti-immigrant group displayed a “giant red and green U.S. population chart, as usual.”  Beck commented in the blog about the Earth Day Festival:

We are experimenting this year to see what happens if we don’t put the word “immigration” in public and start only with U.S. population issues.  We introduce immigration only when people read it in the survey they are taking or in the handouts — or, as often happens, they say, “so how do you exactly propose that we keep that (meaning the red on the chart) from happening.

Californians For Population Stabilization (CAPS) put out a blog titled 10 Ideas for Earth Day and blogs with titles like, “On Earth Day: Family Planning Is the Key to a Green Society.”  CAPS had a table at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival and also ran an advertisement blaming immigrants for global warming.Fred Elbel, who is listed as a spokesperson for the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR), an anti-immigrant group listed on the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) website, sent out the following message for Earth Day:

Sadly, so-called “environmental” organizations have abandoned domestic population as an issue. For example, the Sierra Club received a $100 million donation on the condition that it not discuss the immigration – population connection – see www.SUSPS.org . Thus exponential immigration-driven population growth remains the elephant in the living room.

The sad reality is that these are just a few of many activities the anti-immigrant movement has used to co-opt Earth Day for its racist agenda.Environmentalists committed to real sustainability must stand strong on Earth Day, not only to fight for what we believe is a viable path toward a healthier planet, but to fight against the racist ideologies that try to gain legitimacy.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

Cross-posted from The Center for New Community.

By Rebecca Poswolsky

April 27th, 2012 – While many Earth Day events this past week focused on climate justice, sustainability and protecting the environment, some continue to take this week as an opportunity to bash immigrants. Earth Day for the anti-immigrant movement and groups like NumbersUSA, Californians For Population Stabilization (CAPS), and the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR) to mention a few, is just another opportunity to scapegoat immigrants.Anti-immigrant groups use this time to hone in on who they perceive as the culprits of environmental degradation: immigrants. Below is a week’s review of the activities of nativist organizations.

On Saturday, April 21, 2012, Roy Beck wrote a blog called, “Population Growth — the surprising topic at Earth Day.” The blog is about how NumbersUSA participated in one of the nation’s three largest Earth Day Festivals at the Texas State Fairgrounds. According to NumbersUSA, the anti-immigrant group displayed a “giant red and green U.S. population chart, as usual.”  Beck commented in the blog about the Earth Day Festival:

We are experimenting this year to see what happens if we don’t put the word “immigration” in public and start only with U.S. population issues.  We introduce immigration only when people read it in the survey they are taking or in the handouts — or, as often happens, they say, “so how do you exactly propose that we keep that (meaning the red on the chart) from happening.

Californians For Population Stabilization (CAPS) put out a blog titled 10 Ideas for Earth Day and blogs with titles like, “On Earth Day: Family Planning Is the Key to a Green Society.”  CAPS had a table at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival and also ran an advertisement blaming immigrants for global warming.Fred Elbel, who is listed as a spokesperson for the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR), an anti-immigrant group listed on the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) website, sent out the following message for Earth Day:

Sadly, so-called “environmental” organizations have abandoned domestic population as an issue. For example, the Sierra Club received a $100 million donation on the condition that it not discuss the immigration – population connection – see www.SUSPS.org . Thus exponential immigration-driven population growth remains the elephant in the living room.

The sad reality is that these are just a few of many activities the anti-immigrant movement has used to co-opt Earth Day for its racist agenda.Environmentalists committed to real sustainability must stand strong on Earth Day, not only to fight for what we believe is a viable path toward a healthier planet, but to fight against the racist ideologies that try to gain legitimacy.

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Filed under Actions, Climate Change, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Photo of the Month, Political Repression, politics, Vietnam War

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Filed under Actions, Climate Change, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Photo of the Month, Political Repression, politics, Vietnam War

By Jim Lobe* cross-posted from Other News

WASHINGTON, Apr 29, 2012 (IPS) - Although economic growth has resumed in much of the world since the 2008 financial crisis, the global unemployment situation remains alarming and could worsen, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

European governments, in particular, should adopt more worker- friendly approaches in dealing with fiscal austerity, according to the agency’s “World of Work Report 2012” that was released here and at its headquarters in Geneva Sunday.

Such a change in policy could result in adding around two million jobs in the advanced economies over the next year, as opposed to only about 800,000 if current approaches persist, according to the report.

Persistently high rates of unemployment in the Arab world and Africa also put those regions at high risk of social unrest, according to the 128-page report, which noted that most of Latin America and some Asian countries have emerged in relatively better shape in that respect.

The report comes at a critical moment, particularly for key advanced economies where pending elections appear to offer stark choices between candidates and parties that favour very different approaches yawning fiscal deficits and high unemployment.

In France, for example, the current front-runner, the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande, favour more worker-friendly policies than the more austere approach taken by the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

And in the United States, the all-but-certain Republican challenger to President Barack Obama, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has endorsed his party’s proposals for sharp cuts to social and government jobs programmes, combined with reductions in already-low tax rates for corporations and wealthy individuals.

The report charged that the combination of fiscal austerity and tougher labour market reforms – or de-regulation – adopted by many advanced economies, especially in the Eurozone, have proved devastating to job creation, in particular, and largely ineffective in reducing fiscal deficits.

“The narrow focus of many Eurozone countries on fiscal austerity is deepening the jobs crisis and could even lead to another recession in Europe,” according to Raymond Torres, the director of the International Institute for Labour Studies, the ILO’s research arm.

“Countries that have chosen job-centred macroeconomic policies have achieved better economic and social outcomes,” added Torres, the report’s lead author. “Many of them have also become more competitive and weathered the crisis better than those that followed the austerity path.”

The unemployment rate has increased in nearly two-thirds of European Union (EU) countries since 2010, according to the report, which also noted that labour market recovery has also stalled in other industrialised nations, including Japan and the United States.

At the same time, joblessness, especially for younger workers, remains acute in the Middle East and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Four years into the global crisis, labour market imbalances are becoming more structural, and therefore more difficult to eradicate,” according to the report.

“Certain groups, such as the long-term unemployed, are at risk of exclusion from the labour market. This means that they would be unable to obtain new employment even if there were a strong recovery,” Torres noted, adding that employment has also become “more unstable or precarious” for many workers who have a job.

Where employment growth has resumed, for example, many of the jobs have been short term.

Combined with increases in growing income and wealth inequality in many countries, the unemployment situation is also increasing the risk of social unrest in the most-affected economies, according to the 128-report.

Out of 106 countries with available statistics, 54 percent reported an increase in the score for the risk of unrest in 2011 compared to 2010, Torres said.

The regions with the highest risk of unrest are sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, according to the study’s barometer, which also found important increases in risk in industrialised economies, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.

Altogether, the report estimates that some 50 million jobs are missing compared to the situation before the 2008 financial crisis.

Employment rates have increased in only five of 36 advanced economies – Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Malta, and Poland – since 2007, according to the report.

Youth unemployment rates have increased in half of the developed economies and in one-third of developing economies in about 80 percent of advanced economies and in two-thirds of the developing economies since the onset of the crisis, according to the report.

In that period, poverty rates increased in half of the advanced economies and in a third of developing countries, while the gaps between rich and poor widened in half of advanced countries and in one quarter of developing nations.

In reacting to the crisis, 28 percent of the governments of developing and emerging countries reduced social benefits for workers and the poor. By contrast, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of developed-country governments reduced social benefits.

The report calls for a “dramatic shift in the current policy approach” to one that would “plac(e) jobs at the top of the policy agenda…”

First, core labour standards, including the right to form unions, should be strengthened, and the report calls for all G20 countries to ratify the ILO’s core Conventions to send a positive signal in that regard.

Second, more should be done to provide adequate credit and a more favourable environment for small businesses, particularly in the Eurozone countries where the major banks have failed to boost credit where it is most needed.

Finally, in emerging and developing countries, efforts should be centred on public investment and social protection to reduce poverty and income inequality and stimulate demand, while in advanced economies, policies should focus on ensuring that the unemployed, especially among the youth population, receive adequate support to find new jobs.

Policy-makers should “be embracing the perception that job-friendly policies have a positive effect on the economy and that the voice of finance should not drive policy-making,” according to Torres.(END)

*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.


Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

By Jim Lobe* cross-posted from Other News

WASHINGTON, Apr 29, 2012 (IPS) - Although economic growth has resumed in much of the world since the 2008 financial crisis, the global unemployment situation remains alarming and could worsen, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

European governments, in particular, should adopt more worker- friendly approaches in dealing with fiscal austerity, according to the agency’s “World of Work Report 2012” that was released here and at its headquarters in Geneva Sunday.

Such a change in policy could result in adding around two million jobs in the advanced economies over the next year, as opposed to only about 800,000 if current approaches persist, according to the report.

Persistently high rates of unemployment in the Arab world and Africa also put those regions at high risk of social unrest, according to the 128-page report, which noted that most of Latin America and some Asian countries have emerged in relatively better shape in that respect.

The report comes at a critical moment, particularly for key advanced economies where pending elections appear to offer stark choices between candidates and parties that favour very different approaches yawning fiscal deficits and high unemployment.

In France, for example, the current front-runner, the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande, favour more worker-friendly policies than the more austere approach taken by the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

And in the United States, the all-but-certain Republican challenger to President Barack Obama, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has endorsed his party’s proposals for sharp cuts to social and government jobs programmes, combined with reductions in already-low tax rates for corporations and wealthy individuals.

The report charged that the combination of fiscal austerity and tougher labour market reforms – or de-regulation – adopted by many advanced economies, especially in the Eurozone, have proved devastating to job creation, in particular, and largely ineffective in reducing fiscal deficits.

“The narrow focus of many Eurozone countries on fiscal austerity is deepening the jobs crisis and could even lead to another recession in Europe,” according to Raymond Torres, the director of the International Institute for Labour Studies, the ILO’s research arm.

“Countries that have chosen job-centred macroeconomic policies have achieved better economic and social outcomes,” added Torres, the report’s lead author. “Many of them have also become more competitive and weathered the crisis better than those that followed the austerity path.”

The unemployment rate has increased in nearly two-thirds of European Union (EU) countries since 2010, according to the report, which also noted that labour market recovery has also stalled in other industrialised nations, including Japan and the United States.

At the same time, joblessness, especially for younger workers, remains acute in the Middle East and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Four years into the global crisis, labour market imbalances are becoming more structural, and therefore more difficult to eradicate,” according to the report.

“Certain groups, such as the long-term unemployed, are at risk of exclusion from the labour market. This means that they would be unable to obtain new employment even if there were a strong recovery,” Torres noted, adding that employment has also become “more unstable or precarious” for many workers who have a job.

Where employment growth has resumed, for example, many of the jobs have been short term.

Combined with increases in growing income and wealth inequality in many countries, the unemployment situation is also increasing the risk of social unrest in the most-affected economies, according to the 128-report.

Out of 106 countries with available statistics, 54 percent reported an increase in the score for the risk of unrest in 2011 compared to 2010, Torres said.

The regions with the highest risk of unrest are sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, according to the study’s barometer, which also found important increases in risk in industrialised economies, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.

Altogether, the report estimates that some 50 million jobs are missing compared to the situation before the 2008 financial crisis.

Employment rates have increased in only five of 36 advanced economies – Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Malta, and Poland – since 2007, according to the report.

Youth unemployment rates have increased in half of the developed economies and in one-third of developing economies in about 80 percent of advanced economies and in two-thirds of the developing economies since the onset of the crisis, according to the report.

In that period, poverty rates increased in half of the advanced economies and in a third of developing countries, while the gaps between rich and poor widened in half of advanced countries and in one quarter of developing nations.

In reacting to the crisis, 28 percent of the governments of developing and emerging countries reduced social benefits for workers and the poor. By contrast, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of developed-country governments reduced social benefits.

The report calls for a “dramatic shift in the current policy approach” to one that would “plac(e) jobs at the top of the policy agenda…”

First, core labour standards, including the right to form unions, should be strengthened, and the report calls for all G20 countries to ratify the ILO’s core Conventions to send a positive signal in that regard.

Second, more should be done to provide adequate credit and a more favourable environment for small businesses, particularly in the Eurozone countries where the major banks have failed to boost credit where it is most needed.

Finally, in emerging and developing countries, efforts should be centred on public investment and social protection to reduce poverty and income inequality and stimulate demand, while in advanced economies, policies should focus on ensuring that the unemployed, especially among the youth population, receive adequate support to find new jobs.

Policy-makers should “be embracing the perception that job-friendly policies have a positive effect on the economy and that the voice of finance should not drive policy-making,” according to Torres.(END)

*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.


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Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Political Repression, REDD

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Political Repression, REDD

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Political Repression, REDD

by David Korten, cross-posted from Yes! Magazine, posted Apr 24, 2012,

“Time is life.”

Rio by Digo Souza

With these three words, Karma Tshiteem, Secretary of the Bhutan Gross National Happiness Commission, ended his brief description of Bhutan’s distinctive approach to economic development. It caught my attention because of the striking contrast to our common Western phrase, “Time is money.”

The event I was attending was a small international gathering primarily of indigenous environmental leaders. I was privileged to be among the few nonindigenous writer-activists invited to join them.

Tshiteem was seated to my left. Winona LaDuke, program director of Honor the Earth and a celebrated Native American environmental author and activist, was on my right. Tom Goldtooth, global environmental leader and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, sat directly across from me. Next to him was Pablo Solón, former Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations. Pablo was a principal driver behind the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

We were there to share perspectives on the work of building green economies based on the principles of indigenous wisdom. Several of the participants are involved in bringing an indigenous voice to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June—the 20-year follow-up to the 1992 UN Earth Summit.

Our venue was Pocantico, the former New York estate of John D Rockefeller, the legendary icon of ruthless capitalist expansion and extraction. We enjoyed the irony of meeting in the setting of this grand estate in our search for a different path.

A Prophetic Choice

On the plane I had read LaDuke’s report Launching a Green Economy for Brown People. Its opening paragraph set the frame for our discussions:

“Ojibwe prophecies speak of a time during the seventh fire when our people will have a choice between two paths. The first path is well-worn and scorched. The second path is new and green. It is our choice as communities and as individuals how we will proceed.”

Recognizing the need for a new path, indigenous peoples around the world are revisiting the wisdom teachings of their respective traditions as a guide to their survival in a world dominated by institutional forces that have long sought to wipe those teachings from our collective memory.

We, the peoples of modern Western societies, face the same choice referred to in the prophecy. Some among us are realizing that we, too, have much to learn from the traditional indigenous understanding of what Goldtooth referred to as “The Original Instructions.”

Our deliberations at Pocantico brought into sharp relief the contrast between money-centered Western and life-centered indigenous views of the proper purpose and structure of a high-performing economy.

The Original Instructions call us to recognize Earth as our living mother and to honor and care for her as she cares for us. In the West we have forsaken the Original Instructions in favor of an economic theory that calls us to treat Earth’s resources as saleable commodities.

Rio +20

A number of the Pocantico participants were involved in negotiations leading up to Rio+20, a UN global environmental conference commemorating the 20th anniversary of 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They informed us that the document being prepared for approval by the world’s governments in Riowill fall far short of identifying and addressing the source of global environmental failure. Rather it will recommend that to save our Earth mother, we must put an estimated price on her waters, soils, air, forests, fisheries, and gene pool and offer them all for sale on the thoroughly disproven theory that whomever is able to pay the highest price for her will have a natural incentive to care for her.

In the 1990s I was deeply involved in the global resistance against multilateral trade agreements through which global corporations sought free reign to colonize the world’s natural resources, markets, and technology. The 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protest focused global attention on this assault against the human future. The massive demonstrations that followed all around the world largely stymied the use of multilateral agreements to circumvent democracy and popular sovereignty in a global drive to divide up control of the world’s markets and resources among the ruling corporate oligopolies.

During our Pocantico conference it became evident that corporate interests have concluded that the best current hope for advancing their agenda is to play on the world’s concern for the environment, using multilateral environmental agreements as their new vehicle to get local communities and national governments to relinquish control of the natural wealth within their borders.

As alert citizen groups are pointing out, the proposals being advanced would result in the ultimate commodification and financialization of nature for the short-term benefit of the same global profiteers who created the mortgage bubble that brought down much of the global economy in 2008.

Herman Daly, the father of ecological economics, has aptly observed, “There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation.” If Rio+20 goes according to the apparent Wall Street plan, it will lay the groundwork for Earth’s ultimate going out of business sale.

At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the leadership for a new green path came not from global corporations and the official delegates who aligned with corporate interests, but rather from the representatives of global civil society who draftedalternative NGO treaties presenting a people’s vision of a just, sustainable, and democratic human future. Rio+20 appears destined to repeat that pattern, with citizen groups already working on People’s Sustainability Treaties that align with the Original Instructions and give voice to the vision and values of the rest of us. Hopefully, the resulting contrast between the corporate and people’s visions of the human future—one grounded in the contemporary Western worldview and the other in the traditional indigenous worldview—may help us all see more clearly the choice between the two paths of the Ojibwe prophecy.

Competing Worldviews

Those indigenous people who maintain their cultural identity view the world through a very different lens than do those of us who view the world through a Western cultural lens. The implications of the difference are profound.

The summaries below represent my understanding of the contrasting Western and indigenous worldviews regarding our perception of time, relationships, and place. The Western lens leads further down the scorched Earth path we are currently on. The indigenous lens leads to the path to a viable and prosperous human future. For clarity, I’ve intentionally emphasized the differences.

Contemporary Western Worldview

  • Time: Time is money and plays out in an exponential unidirectional growth in financial assets, consumption, and the market value of economic activity. Decision-making properly gives priority to maximizing financial gain to grow the economic pie and thereby improve the lives of all. Indices like Gross Domestic Product that assess economic performance based on the rate of flow of money through the economy and stock price indices like the Dow Jones average that track the value of financial assets are natural and logical metrics for assessing economic performance.
  • Relationships: Individual liberty and economic efficiency are paramount and are maximized by basing human relationships on financial exchanges in which each individual seeks to maximize his or her individual financial gain. This in turn maximizes the general well-being and improves the lives of all. Nature exists for the benefit of humans, who rightfully control and dominate it.
  • Place: Earth is a resource to be owned, valued by the price it will fetch in the marketplace, and exploited for maximum financial return. Our individual identity is defined by the brands we consume. Our individual worth is determined by the price we command in the marketplace and our accumulated financial assets. We maximize our personal economic efficiency by minimizing our individual connection and commitment to any place, person, or community and maximizing our readiness to move on when presented with greater financial opportunity elsewhere. Property rights are properly treated as individual, total, and freely tradable if the price is right.

The affirmation and celebration of extreme individualism, instant self-gratification, and alienation from one another and nature characteristic of the contemporary Western worldview resonates with the primitive core of the human brain, commonly known as the reptilian brain. This is the site of our most basic, individualistic, and predatory hide, fight, or flight survival instincts unmediated by the more highly evolved mammalian brain that is the source of our human capacity for compassion and bonding and the neocortical brain where our distinctive human capacity for self-awareness and reason resides.

Suppressing our capacity for reason, we raise the pursuit of money to the status of a sacred mission, failing to notice that money is nothing but a number of no intrinsic value and that we are destroying the real wealth of people, community, and nature to grow the numbers on financial asset statements.

The traditional indigenous worldview presents a very different, what we might call a whole brain, perspective on ourselves and our relationship to nature.

Traditional Indigenous Worldview

  • Time: Time is life and is experienced through the rhythms of life’s daily, seasonal, and generational circular flow. As humans we must be ever mindful of our responsibility to meet our own needs in ways that assure life’s continued healthful flow and balance now and for generations to come. The Gross National Happiness Index developed by the nation of Bhutan appropriately assesses economic performance based on indicators of the health and well-being of people living in harmonious balance with one another and nature.
  • Relationships: All beings are related and interconnected. It is our individual human duty to recognize and honor the rights of all beings, including the river, the rock, and the glacier. Mother Earth provides our means of living. Her bounty is a gift that we received in common and must share, respect and care for in common. None among us created that bounty and no one has a right to claim it for their exclusive personal benefit. We are entitled only to take what we need and bear a sacred responsibility to give back or share the rest—all the while respecting the natural balance of creation and the Original Instructions that constitute a higher law to which all human laws are inherently subordinate.
  • Place:  Earth is our sacred mother. Each being has intrinsic value and its rightful place within an interconnected whole. Our personal and collective connection to our place on Earth is sacred and inalienable. Individual human identity is linked to and defined by a deep and enduring relationship to our place and to the vocation through which we sustain ourselves and fulfill our responsibility to and for the community that in turn sustains us.

There is good reason why the wisdom at the heart of the traditional indigenous worldview strikes a deep and appealing chord in the human psyche. Modern science is now telling us what indigenous wisdom keepers have known and taught across countless generations. We humans evolved over millions of years to live and prosper in community with one another and nature. Our happiness and sense of well-being depend in substantial measure on our connection to nature and a caring community. Science now acknowledges that the Original Instructions are, in effect, genetically encoded into the more highly evolved mammalian and human centers of our brain. 

What we of the Western worldview embrace as progress is best understood from an evolutionary perspective as a regression to a more primitive state of awareness. Our Western separation from nature—from life—has allowed us to greatly deepen human understanding of the inner mechanics of life. It has, however, alienated us from our understanding of life’s purpose; life’s capacity for non-mechanical self-direction, adaptation, and resilience; and what is truly sacred. We are just beginning to wake up to the self-deflating truth that to find our way to the path of the new green future, we must turn for guidance to the indigenous keepers of the original instructions who have survived the brutally invasive cultural and institutional forces of Westernization.

The New Green Path

Consistent with the Ojibwe prophecy, a reawakening to our true human nature is sweeping through both indigenous and nonindigenous societies. For millennia, the wisdom keepers of indigenous societies kept alive the deep wisdom of their traditional indigenous worldview and passed down their understanding of the Original Instructions from generation to generation to be available to us all at this time of prophetic choice.

This does not suggest a return to the traditional predominantly hunter-gatherer indigenous ways of living and organizing. That is not an option. Quite apart from personal life-style preferences, traditional indigenous institutions and technologies that served well in simpler times, will not meet the needs of a globally interconnected population of 7 billion people in a resource constrained world.

To find our way on the new green path of the Ojibwe prophecy, we need a worldview that builds on a foundation of indigenous wisdom, while selectively updating and adapting it to the realities of a densely populated world and the need for selective and responsible application of appropriately-adapted modern technologies and institutional forms. The result might be something like this:

  • Time: We will recognize that time is life and is experienced both through the spiral of life’s circular flow and the trajectory of its evolutionary unfolding across generations toward ever greater capacity and possibility. We will honor life, not money, as the proper standard of value, understand that individual worth is inherent in the gift of life, and accept as a sacred duty our responsibility to assure life’s continued healthful flow and balance now and for generations to come. We will evaluate the performance of our economies by indicators of life’s health and vitality.
  • Relationships: We will recognize that individual rights and responsibilities are inseparably linked and will rediscover and renew our deep sense of connection to one another and Earth based on mutual caring and sharing.
  • Place: We will recognize that the biosphere is our natural mutual heritage, the foundation of life, and beyond price. We will discover that identity based on place and community has greater meaning and is more satisfying than identity based on personal financial assets and the brands we consume. We will acknowledge that we receive the gifts of nature in common and that nature’s bounty is best managed by the peoples of place-based communities  who have a natural interest in assuring the continuous flow of this bounty from generation to generation with no loss in the vitality, productivity, and resilience of Earth’s natural systems.

Our deliberations at Pocantico focused on the efforts of indigenous peoples to forge new economies within their territories based on the wisdom of the Original Instructions. Their efforts can be an essential source of inspiration and instruction for those of us long separated from our indigenous roots and the wisdom of the indigenous worldview. For indigenous people to serve this role to the greater benefit of us all, it is essential that we of the world’s nonindigenous societies honor their right to hold and manage their lands and resources consistent with their traditional teachings and practices. Therefore, we must stand beside our indigenous brothers and sisters in their struggle to prevent outside interests from gaining control of what remains of their lands and resources.

More broadly, we must reject any proposal that supports the further commodification and financialization of nature and call on the United Nations to initiate the drafting of a new framework that begins with a recognition that life is the foundation and proper measure of value, nature is sacred and not for sale, and  stable place-based communities are the natural and proper stewards of Earth’s natural bounty.

Together we can choose the prophesied new green path to a secure and prosperous living future for ourselves and for all the world’s children for all the many generations to come.

___________________________________________________
David Korten is the co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, the author of Agenda for a New Economythe Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is co-chair of the New Economy Working Group,a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, president of the Living Economies Forum, and a member of The Club of Rome.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

Synthetic biology researcher

27 April 2012 | EN – Debate about the governance of the emerging field of synthetic biology is likely to see disagreements among developing countries at ameeting of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in Montreal, Canada, next week (30 April–5 May).

While some want tighter regulation and are concerned that commercial products could threaten the livelihoods of farmers cultivating natural versions of these products, others are happy to press ahead with what could become a major new industry.

The meeting will draft a decision on whether to include synthetic biology under ‘new and emerging issues’, which the CBD Conference of the Parties (COP) will negotiate in Hyderabad, India in October, and which may include a moratorium on research.

“We expect that the negotiations that were at deadlock in Nagoya in 2010 will further advance, with inputs on the latest developments in synthetic biology,” says Elenita Dano, Philippines programme officer for the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group).

Synthetic biology is the design and construction of new biological functions and systems not found in nature, and its proponents are starting to develop commercial products. It holds the promise of a wide range of applications in areas such as new and improved diagnostics; new drugs and vaccines; biosensors; and bioremediation tools to process contaminants.

But international regulations have been lagging far behind scientific advances, which include the announcement of the first artificial organism in 2010.

Many of the potential benefits, such as the cheaper production of medicines, could be particularly useful in developing countries. For example, OneWorld Health, which runs a non-profit drug development programme in the United States, is scaling up production of a cheap synthetic version of the frontlineanti-malarial drug, artemisinin.

“We will be ready to start producing a synthetic artemisinin by the second half of this year,” says Tue Nguyen, vice-president of research and pre-clinical development at OneWorld Health, adding that roughly ten tonnes of the drug could be produced in 2012, rising to 60 tonnes by 2013.

“We are aiming to make about 30–50 per cent of [the] world supply with this method,” says Nguyen. That would mean around 150 tonnes a year.

A mountain in the Philippines

Vigilance is called for

But there are two big concerns about synthetic biology products; their potential to disrupt environments and biodiversity, and the threat they pose to existing industries in the developing world, such as the farming of Artemisia annua,from which artemisinin is currently produced, in China, East Africa and Vietnam.

The first concern stems from a lack of capacity in developing countries to cope with any unintended consequences, says Joyce Thomas Peters, delegate to the CBD from Grenada, in the Caribbean.

“Synthetic biology research can only be done by countries that have the science capacity — other countries have no idea how to assess it, and that is why we are raising the issue in international bodies like CBD,” she says.

Thomas Peters, a former SBSTTA working group chair, adds: “At the very least we want regulation by the CBD, but a moratorium on the release of synthetic organisms would also be good”.

And David Rejeski, director of the science and technology innovation programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington DC, United States, says: “Research on environmental and ethical issues can be shared across nations. In other emerging technologies, such asnanotechnology, it was the basis of a lot of dialogue.”

The centre has been pushing for an inventory of companies and organisations involved in synthetic biology, how near products are to entering the market, and details of any risks they might pose to the environment and human health.

“We need this at an international level,” Rejeski says. “Some products are already appearing, and although they are not yet at an industrial level there is a need for vigilance. There needs to be money available for risk assessments.”

Are crops under threat?

Then there are the fears that artificially created products could compete with crops farmed in developing countries.

For example, more than 7,500 Kenyan farmers cultivate the artemisinin tree,A. annua, according to the ETC Group. Cheaper, synthetic versions of the drug could put their livelihoods at risk, critics say.

Besides artemisinin, there are commercial investigations into synthetic versions of rubber, vanilla, saffron and the sweetener stevia — all of which are currently produced from natural products grown in East Asia, Latin Americaand South-East Asia.

Rubber plant farm in the Philippines

Vanilla produced using a synthetic biology process using yeast “is moving from the laboratory to a test facility”, says Paul Verbraeken, investor relations manager at Evolva, the Swiss company carrying out the work.

“If things go to plan it could be available sometime next year or in 2014.” He also predicts synthetic stevia could be on the market by 2015.

But he argues that synthetically produced vanilla will not displace existing production — it will be an additional source. “Our product will not replace the natural product, for which there will always be demand. Top chefs will always want it.”

Significant research is also underway into synthetic solutions for the next generation of biofuels. Such innovations include photosynthetic algae, which can continuously secrete oil through their cell walls, and which can be harvested for fuel.

“There is a lot of production of synthetic algae with investment by Japanese and Korean companies in the coastal areas of the Philippines and no one knows what the environmental risks may be,” says Dano.

Conflicts of interest

Concerns have also been raised about synthetic organisms used in industrial-sized vats, on the basis that they could require large amounts of biomass to power them, which would compete with cash crops for land.

But here, the interests of developing countries diverge. Some countries, such as Brazil, may benefit from selling biomass for synthetic organism production, and could also host production factories.

Because the implications go beyond environmental concerns, agriculture and trade ministries have also been calling for more information on, and assessment of, the underlying science.

This issue was evident at COP 10, the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity, which included a ministerial summit at Nagoya, in Japan, in 2010.

At Nagoya, the Philippine government pushed for a resolution to prevent any release of synthetic life, cell or genome into the environment. “The Philippines says it may not be against synthetic biology, but wants to exercise the principle of precaution, because there are potential impacts on biodiversity,” says Dano, from the ETC Group.

The Philippines was backed at Nagoya by a number of African countries, including Cameroon, Kenya, Liberia and South Africa. In Latin America, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic also supported the precautionary approach.

But Argentina, Brazil and some European Union countries opposed a moratorium on field release, agreeing only to convene an expert group on synthetic biology. Yet, insiders say, little has been done since then, and some critics worry that if the upcoming COP meeting does not address the issue it may go unresolved.

Harvesting crops in Brazil

In particular, the position of Argentina and Brazil has made it difficult for developing countries to build consensus. “Brazil has jumped on the synthetic biology bandwagon. It sees it as a future source of sustainable products,” says Eric Hoffman, from Friends of the Earth in the United States.

Governance: on the road to Rio

Several countries are now keen that next week’s SBSTTA meeting should not be another missed opportunity.

The ETC Group, Friends of the Earth and others, under the umbrella International Civil Society Working Group on Synthetic Biology have produced a submission stating that “SBSTTA must not defer its consideration of synthetic biology as a new and emerging issue requiring governance“. [1]

They point out that no intergovernmental body is currently addressing the potential disruptive impacts of synthetic biology on developing economies, particularly those that depend on agricultural exports.

CBD officials say the issues will be covered.

“Synthetic biology is definitely not going to be pushed aside,” says Robert Höft, environmental affairs officer at CBD. “The chances are something will be done and my expectation is some form of expert process to look at the various types of synthetic biology and the potential impacts on biodiversity, as well as the social issues.”

Some have said they will make sure the topic is raised at the forthcomingRio+20 meeting in Brazil in June. “Rio+20 is about the green economy and these issues are part of that,” says Grenada’s Thomas Peters.

“Because Rio was the place where the early biodiversity conventions came from, it is the appropriate place to go back to,” she adds.

“Science has overtaken the current convention. You have to reshape the conventions or the mechanisms to keep up with changes that are taking place. The existing convention does not cater for organisms created from scratch.”

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Filed under Land Grabs

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Filed under Land Grabs