Renewed Defense of British Columbia’s Central Walbran Ancient Forest

Bobby Arbess aka Reuben Garbanzo / Friends of Carmanah/Walbran

Sixty years of logging have left only five percent of the primary low-elevation ancient temperate rainforests of Vancouver island remaining. These are some of the world’s most biologically productive forests, attaining higher levels of plant biomass than any ecosystem on earth. The logging industry liquidated the vast majority of these diverse native old-growth forest ecosystems, replacing them with even-aged monoculture tree plantations.

In 1991, 78 days of civil disobedience successfully halted 16 kilometres of scheduled road development through the last, expansive roadless ancient forest wilderness of the Walbran Valley on south Vancouver island. The Road Stops Here campaign combined prolonged tree-sits, road blockades, office occupations, street theatre, dramatic banner hangings, international support and massive public pressure to protect the land a few kilometres upstream from Canada’s iconic Pacific Rim National Park/West Coast Trail. This area is now known as ‘ground zero’ in British Columbia’s ancient forest movement, and a new battle is heating up.

The 16,000 hectare Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park established in 1994 was a bittersweet victory for environmental activists who fought to save the valley’s ecologically outstanding ancient forests. The park boundaries were drawn up at a roundtable of stakeholders dominated by transnational forest companies owning timber licenses in the valley. The largest and oldest western redcedar trees in the world live at the confluence of three main branches of the watershed, at the heart of the wilderness now known as the Central Walbran Ancient Forest. The 485 hectares north of Walbran river, though designated a “special management zone”, was excluded from full park protection.

Twenty-five years of intense public scrutiny and regulatory provisions have limited “harvesting” to one cutblock in the Central Walbran Ancient Forest. The area is once again the focus of a direct action struggle to keep industrial destruction such as chainsaws, heli-logging and road building out of this wild rainforest of giant trees adjoining the park.

Ongoing road building on steep slopes of the unprotected land-base opens more and more old-growth remnants to clearcut logging. In reaction, there is a growing resurgence of public support, particularly in rural communities, for preserving the unfragmented wilderness of the Ancient Forest. Before a twelve-year government policy of shutting down local unionized mills in favour of raw log exports, the rural communities were based on thriving forestry towns. Now they watch the last massive trees pass their windows on the backs of the same log trucks which exported their livelihoods.

In June 2015, logging company Teal Jones submitted a plan for eight cutblocks in the area. With approval given for a heli-logging operation to high-grade cut a grove of 500-1200 year old trees, logging is now imminent in this pocket wilderness within the traditional Pacheedaht First Nations territory.

There is a slow-growing yet persistent expression of opposition to the logging within the indigenous community, to the chagrin of band council leaders. These leaders maintain a close relationship with the logging company and manage their own logging operations elsewhere in their territory, with plans to build and run a sawmill to generate jobs and revenues.

Many economic alternatives to continued old-growth logging are being proposed to address the high unemployment and poverty in the community:

  • ethnocultural forest tourism
  • harvesting of non-timber and other traditional forest products such as mushrooms, berries, and basketry materials
  • ecologically-managed second growth plantations
  • value-added production of finished wood products
  • maximizing employment per cubic metre of wood and minimizing impacts on the land, waterways and biological diversity who depend on healthy and old-growth forests for their continued survival

The remaining old-growth forests of the Walbran valley harbor the highest concentrations of the Marbled Murrelet, an endangered seabird, anywhere outside of Alaska. The forests also shelter other old-growth dependent birds including the Western Screech owl, Western Pygmy owl, and Northern Goshawk, all listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as vulnerable or threatened. Fifteen years of old-growth forest canopy research has revealed hundreds of species found nowhere else in the world, inhabiting suspended soil habitats of the forest canopy. These unique microhabitats are found as much as two hundred feet off the forest floor, and are not supported by second-growth forests.

Climate activists are now pointing out the critical ecological role these old forests play for the whole world in sequestering atmospheric carbon and buffering against runaway climate change.

The provincial government has ignored several requests to protect the area, including a petition card campaign of 6000 signatures presented in the legislature in September.

Activists built a witness camp in mid-September to host a continuous presence of observers watching for the start of logging in approved cutblock 4424. Others recently established a “checkpoint” action camp on a main road into the area. In autonomous actions of non-violent civil disobedience, they have erected sporadic road barricades denying access to logging and road-building crews. Company officials have requested that activists move their camp to allow for preparation of a large landing for loading logs onto trucks. So far the activists have not responded to this request and a confrontation in this area may be imminent.

The activists are calling for people to converge on Vancouver Island to observe, support, or participate in actions; make supporting donations through their website; contact BC residents and politicians; and spread the news of the threats and the resistance. They encourage members of the international community to join the Friends of Carmanah/Walbran Facebook group to stay in the loop of daily developments and to access action updates, relevant links and articles, road instructions, and carpool information.

The Friends of Carmanah/Walbran is a loose-knit community of people around the world sharing the passion, resources and collective action to protect this ancient forest, once and for all.

Buffalo Field Campaign: Update from the Field

By Stephany Seay / Buffalo Field Campaign

Winter is setting in.  Snow is accumulating, and with the snow comes migration. The deep snows of Yellowstone’s high plateau drive elk, buffalo, deer, moose, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep down to lower elevations.  Unfortunately for hundreds of wild buffalo, this migration can mean the end of their lives; not because food is hard to find — winter is extremely challenging, but they are well-equipped to use their huge heads to “crater” through snow to get to the life-giving grasses below — but because the lower-elevation grasslands they seek are located in Montana where they enter a deadly conflict zone put in place by livestock interests.

As the buffalo begin their winter migration, BFC volunteers begin their own, returning to camp from all points of the compass to stand with the buffalo. The early snowfall necessitates the opening of our Gardiner camp along the Park’s north boundary, which we will do this Saturday; it’s been quite a few years since we opened up Gardiner camp this early. Patrols are preparing for another difficult season of documenting all actions made against the buffalo, monitoring their migration, and sharing our stories and first-hand experiences in an effort to end this war against wild buffalo. Will you join us?

In the Hebgen Basin, west of Yellowstone National Park, at least ten buffalo have already been killed by treaty hunters, and Montana’s state hunt will begin on Saturday, with other treaty hunts to follow. In addition to six months of combined state and treaty hunts, Yellowstone National Park, the Montana Department of Livestock, and even some tribal entities, are aiming to capture and kill hundreds more buffalo. Through hunting and slaughter, the Interagency Bison Management Plan agencies intend to kill nearly 1,000 Yellowstone buffalo. There are fewer than 5,000 left, and the Yellowstone population — the world’s most important — is made up of America’s last continuously wild herds. Ecologically extinct throughout their native range, and not yet federally protected, bison are endangered. In 2014 we filed a petition with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect wild bison under the Endangered Species Act, and sometime this fall the USFWS is expected to issue their finding.  If they issue a negative finding, rejecting ESA protection — and no thanks to politics, we expect they will — we are prepared to take the next step.

Come stand with the buffalo if you can, help keep us on the front lines, and continue to spread the word to save these sacred herds.

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!

Displaced women of San Juan Copala hunger strike

Displaced from San Juan Copala, a Triqui indigenous community in the municipality of San Juan Juxtlahuaca, the women have begun a hunger strike. They are demanding from the government the fulfillment of the promises of return to their territory or their immediate relocation.

In 2007, the struggle for the autonomy of San Juan Copala was disrupted by the intervention of the Union of Social Welfare of the Triqui Region (UBISORT), operated by the PRI, by surrounding the community and finally the expulsion of around 700 people in 2009. Lorena Merino Martinez—representative of the displaced people whose husband (along with a 7 year old boy) was assassinated in the same year by the paramilitary group—explains:

“Among those who were expelled violently it is because the government doesn’t like autonomy, there are political parties that are in with the government. For that same reason the government sent resources to the political parties in order to put an end to the autonomy, in order to be able to take possession of the community because the government finds it more convenient to have political parties and that is why they put an end to the autonomy.”

The members of the community found themselves forced to leave their territory through violence. Their dwellings, according to Lorena, are now occupied occupied by paramilitary members, who are, in some cases, neighbors. Her husband’s murderer, who was freed in 2012, now lives in San Juan Copala. The territory, she says, contains important mineral resources. “For that reason they expelled us and now the government doesn’t see the conditions for us to return to our community.”

Under the demand for justice and the return to the community, the Oaxacan government signed in 2013 an accord for relocation, but it remained only on paper.

“September 13, 2013 we signed an agreement with the government of the State where they committed themselves to protecting the homes of the displaced and they also agreed to relocate us short term in Central Valleys in 90 days. More than two years have already passed. In Oaxaca there are private properties but the government doesn’t consider the price very high and for that reason they haven’t been relocated to this date.”


Since [Nov. 4], members of the Triqui community have been in the corridor of the government palace in the Oaxacan capital demanding the fulfillment of the agreement of 2013, but the response, one more time, was repression and removal:

“Today [Nov. 5] at 3:30 AM we got more than 200 riot police, and they removed us with force from the corridor of the palace, and dragged old women and young sleeping children, throwing us outside and sprayed gas in the faces of our children and aimed the pistols they carry. And they treat us as if we were delinquents. Three of our companions were threatened by the riot police, and a 12-year old boy was chased by the police.”

During the removal, those who objected had their belongings taken.

The situation of the displaced, it is mean, unjust and violent. Many find themselves refugees in the homes of sympathizers or live on the streets. Lorena Merino told us that they used to have coffee and banana farms and had no problems getting permission to sell their products and handicrafts. But the current conditions are difficult and painful. She is worried about the children of the community that today, because of the displacement, neither eat nor study decently.

“The truth is, living on the street is no decent place for our children, being hungry, cold and thirsty is difficult, and for that reason things have not progressed on the part of the state, and for that reason we have chosen, this day, to go on a hunger strike, right now we have been on this hunger strike for six hours, but not one government official has approached us in order to open dialogue regarding our relocation.”

Article originally published in Spanish at SubVersiones. Republished in English by Intercontinental Cry under a Creative Commons (BY-NC 4.0 México) license. Translation by Heidi Bruce.

Hidden Danger of the Keystone Pipeline Celebration

photo source
photo source

by Clay Cochran / Deep Green Resistance

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
-Robert Frost

President Obama announced Friday morning that he has denied TransCanada’s permit application to build the Keystone XL (KXL) oil pipeline in the U.S. Many in the mainstream environmental movement hailed this as a positive seismic shift in public policy and public perception, and a harbinger of the inevitable saving of our planet. Were it only that simple. Unfortunately, although the denial of the KXL build is in itself a good result, it carries with it some insidious dangers to the continuation of the fundamental work of saving this planet.

It is understandable that many think Obama’s denial of the KXL is a huge victory for the environment. Sadly, that view is myopic, and typical of the wishful thinking hampering the environmental movement around the world. The denial of the KXL does not accomplish what we ultimately need: the shutting down of the entire industrial, fossil-fuel driven society murdering the planet.

Unfortunately, the history of the environmental movement has many incidences where small victories have caused a loss of focus on the big picture, or otherwise misdirected us into falsely believing the one-off accomplishment sufficient to save our planet. Make no mistake, we must be ever vigilant not to let the leaders of industrial civilization (i.e. the greedy, patriarchal, conscious-less ‘leaders of industry’ and their paid-for politicians and mainstream media) characterize the globally suicidal events that are unfolding. They will always use a deceptive framework supporting their relentless need for unsustainable expansion, and lead many into losing sight of the ecologically desperate times that we are facing.

Deep Green Resistance believes the only way our planet can be saved for all species is for the current patriarchal and industrial civilization to be immediately dismantled. We also believe there is grave danger in premature self-congratulation for small accomplishments that seemingly are a win for the environment, but in truth do nothing to alter the existing paradigm of corporate power or slow the inevitable march towards unsustainable expansion and the murder of the planet. Simply stated, the processes that have been put in motion ― runaway climate change, population overshoot due to industrial agriculture, species extinctions, and ‘resource’ extraction ― are far too developed to be stopped by any means that allows the industrial complex to remain in existence.

In the book Deep Green Resistance, co-author Lierre Keith writes

”The culture of the left needs a serious overhaul. At our best and bravest moments, we are the people who believe in a just world; who fight the power with all the courage and commitment that women and men can possess; who refuse to be bought or beaten into submission, and refuse equally to sell each other out. The history of struggles for justice is inspiring, ennobling even, and it should encourage us to redouble our efforts now when the entire world is at stake. Instead, our leadership is leading us astray.”

Our leadership continues to lead us astray. President Obama gives lip service to his concern for global climate change guiding this KXL denial decision, but the truth is hidden in his message. According to a Scientific American article, among his reasons for rejection were that

…the pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the U.S. economy, nor would it increase U.S. energy security or help to lower gas prices, which have already declined dramatically over the last year.

With these criteria for making his decision, we’re clearly not ready to take a victory lap for the environmental awakening of the global leadership.

Also in the DGR book, the authors discuss Lester Brown’s Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, pointing out that “although Mr. Brown is to be [commended] for understanding that the problems our planet is facing are systemic and interrelated, [his plan] unfortunately falls prey to what many other ‘plans’ do; it leaves the overlapping accelerants of capitalism, industrialization, and civilization in place.”

With the KXL decision in the news, it is critical to keep in mind the myriad disastrous ‘projects’ which continue unabated. As the DGR authors warn, these other projects evidence the hard truth that, so far, the work of the environmental movement has indeed left capitalism, industrialization, and civilization firmly in place. That three-headed monster has no intention of voluntarily leaving us to salvage what is left of our biosphere, so we are left with no other alternative than to terminate it ourselves, and with extreme prejudice.

A recent article in the Financial Post states:

While TransCanada Corp. has been cooling its heels on its Keystone XL proposal for the past six years, the oil pipeline business has been booming in the United States. Crude oil pipeline mileage rose 9.1 per cent last year alone to reach 66,649 miles. […] Between 2009 and 2013, more than 8,000 miles of oil transmission pipelines have been built in the past five years in the U.S., […] compared to the 875 miles TransCanada wants to lay in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska for its 830,000-bpd project. By last year, the U.S. had built 12,000 miles of pipe since 2010.

[AOPL spokesperson John Stoody said] “While people have been debating Keystone in the U.S. we have actually built the equivalent of 10 Keystones. And no one’s complained or said anything.”

A Climate Central article discusses the many alternative plans already developed to transport the tar sands of Canada:

As a way around those challenges, other pipelines are in the works. One pipeline is already operating and sending hundreds of thousands of barrels of tar sands bitumen to Texas every day.

Experts, such as Stephen Kelly, a former U.S. diplomat and a visiting professor of public policy and Canadian studies at Duke University, say that the long-term outlook for Canadian oil sands production is not closely linked to the fate of Keystone XL.

“Canada has ample financial incentive to find ways to get its oil to world markets, and it’s likely to find ways to build pipelines to its coast, despite opposition,” he said last year.

feh_003434_000001_Unistoten 2The Keystone XL decision and its accompanying self-congratulations should be a warning to us all not to lose sight of the big picture. The Keystone XL alternatives do face opposition in Canada from overlapping groups of climate activists, grassroots environmentalists concerned about local impacts, and First Nations peoples, with the Unis’tot’en Camp a prime example of a coalition for active on-the-ground resistance. We must remain vigilant in fighting pipelines and other infrastructure expansion projects wherever they’re proposed, and be skeptical of any misdirection from the fundamental work of ending the industrial-patriarchal complex.

There is some good news. Deep Green Resistance believes that the insanity of the industrial planet-killing machine can be stopped. We believe that a sustainable and just world can be achieved, and we can transition away from being a consumer society. The Deep Green Resistance strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare (DEW) is a recognition of the scope of what is at stake (the planet); an honest evaluation of the potential for a mass movement (none); and an assessment that industrial civilization depends on highly vulnerable infrastructure.

DEW keeps front-and-center the understanding that there will be no comprehensively successful environmental actions if we allow the current industrial framework to remain in existence. The people in power who are driving 200 species to extinction each day have no qualms about leading humans to the same fate, and show no signs of voluntarily altering their behaviors. It is well past time to make them stop.

I urge you to take a look at the Deep Green Resistance website and to reflect on the future of this planet. The Decisive Ecological Warfare strategy is multifaceted and needs your help, with work to be done wherever your skill set and interests lead you. Get involved and save our home.

If you’d like to read more analysis like this, and news of grassroots resistance to environmental destruction, sign up at the upper left of this page to receive email notifications of new posts.

Dam breach of open pit iron ore mine catastrophic for Brazil

Elvira Nascimento
Elvira Nascimento

Cyntia Beltrão reports from Brazil on what may be the country’s worst environmental disaster ever, at the Samarco open pit project jointly owned by Vale and BHP Billiton:

Last Thursday, November 5th, two dams containing mine tailings and waste from iron ore mining burst, burying the small historic town of Bento Rodrigues, district of Mariana, Minas Gerais state. The village, founded by miners, used to gain its sustenance from family farming and from labor at cooperatives. For many years, the people successfully resisted efforts to expel them by the all-powerful mining company Vale (NYSE: VALE, formerly Vale do Rio Doce, after the same river now affected by the disaster). Now their land is covered in mud, with the full scale of the death toll and environmental impacts still unknown.

Officially there are almost thirty dead, including small children, with several still missing. The press and the government hide the true numbers. Independent journalists say that the number of victims is much larger.

photo source
photo source

The environmental damage is devastating. The mud formed by iron ore and silica slurry spread over 410 miles. It reached one of the largest Brazilian rivers, the Rio Doce (“Sweet River”), at the center of our fifth largest watershed. The Doce River already suffers from pollution, silting of margins, cattle grazing in the basin land, and several eucalyptus plantations that drain the land. This year Southeastern Brazil, a region with a normally mild climate, endured a devastating drought. Authorities imposed water rationing on several major cities. Meanwhile, miners contaminate ground water and exploit lands rich in springs. The Doce River, once great and powerful, is now almost dry, even in its estuary. The mud of mining waste further injures the life of the river.

We do not know if the mud is contaminated by mercury and arsenic. Samarco / Vale says it isn’t, but we know that its components, iron ore and silica, will form a cement in the already dying river. This “cement” will change the riverbed permanently, covering the natural bed and artificially leveling its structure. The mud is sterile, and nothing will grow where it was deposited. A fish kill is already occuring. We do not know the full extent of impacts on river life or for those who depend on the river’s waters.

Soon the dirty mud will reach the sea, where it will cause further damage, to the important Rio Doce estuary and to the ocean.

afterthedisaster3Some resources in Portuguese to learn more and get active:

The Castle Rock Prairie Dogs are Gone: Open Letter from an Exile

By Deep Green Resistance Colorado

What follows is an essay from a Deep Green Resistance member. Perhaps this Open Letter serves as an epitaph for the Castle Rock Prairie Dog community, as well as a call to act. We welcome all those who would stand up in defense of the living.

Open Letter From an Exile:

I wore this shirt, long-sleeved, multi-patterned, funky, well tailored hand-me-down for almost every day I worked on the prairie dog relocation at the “Promenade” site in Castle Rock Colorado.

The “Promenade” site was only that in the avaricious life-sucking minds of the capitalist pig developers. The “site” was really a scrap of prairie community, a last survivor already lacerated by monstrous earth movers, surrounded by apartments, highway, box stores, a mall, parking lots—anti-life.

The shirt faded faded under the intensity of the high-altitude sun. The shirt was embroidered with the words, “Knowledge Wisdom Truth” on the button facing.

I don’t know why.

My camp hat was also a constant part of my attire for those five arduous weeks. A grubby white canvas cloth wide brim decorated in black permanent marker with free-hand representations of dragonflies and guitars. The art was gifted on a happy Folks Festival afternoon by a daughter long sense grown.

Perhaps it was this shirt, and my camp hat – that made the sight of this human so familiar that – on the last day of my participation in the relocation, a sweet bird trusted my presence enough to land on my hat while it was on my head. I will never forget the sensation.

I think it is the greatest compliment I have ever or will ever receive. It will eternally break my heart for I have yet to live up to that trust.

Every step I took upon this scarred, tragically doomed prairie home, now extinct, was a step into the sacred. There are no words to describe her smell, her touch, her sounds, the beat of her heart, the soils the stones, the animals, the birds the bones, the plants in and out of flower. Paradise opened every day just by looking down up around. I am crying as I write this.

We saved most of the Castle Rock Prairie Dogs that survived the holocaust, the fumigation. Some would not leave. No matter how we tried to trap them, to flush them out, they would not be captured. They died on the land of their ancestors when the earth-movers came and obliterated billions of living beings and their infinity of wondrously woven relationships, spun through timeless time and loving trust.

All dead. In the void created the psychopaths are constructing a mall, more and more insatiable life sucking monstrosities following atrocities.

The prairie dogs we relocated are no longer prairie dogs. They inhabit a mountain meadow, in peace. Perhaps they are becoming meadow dogs, weaving new relationships in a new land. They are refugees of the War on Earth.

I was paid for the work that I did and the source of that money was the developer.

It was a band of beautiful women who did the relocation work, who sacrificed so much, loved completely and are wounded deeply.

Some of us could not stop gathering. I was one who compulsively collected stones and bones and feathers, wood and, in the beginning, flowers and herbs to press and burn. They seemed to be calling to me. I was trying to find the answer to a mystery.

Surely somewhere, in such abundance there must be the key to continuing her existence? Surely the beauty and story of any bit of this land could awaken even the most callous heart and save the community?

I know better; psychopaths have no heart. For the most part, humans are already deluded and dead, slaves to machines, servants to destruction. Who are you? How dare you!

Now all I have is a pile of stones and bones, feathers and wood, flowers dried flat and a certainty that this love, this immersion in Prairie gave me. I can wake up and be a whole human.

I am now in exile from Life in Alabama. On the way I stopped to pray at the Witchaphi Wall. I left a blood red stone from that Prairie Home in that sacred place. I offered prayer for the salvation of Prairie Life and a prayer for human redemption in service of Earth.

The song, “A Feather’s Not a Bird” came to Rosanne Cash as she sat with the Witchaphi Wall.

The Chorus:

“A feather’s not a bird,
The rain is not the sea,
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me”

There are also these lines in her song:

“There’s never any highway when you’re looking for the past.
The land becomes a memory and it happens way to fast.”

I am in exile, from communities of Life, but not for long. We are rapidly approaching no return, there will be no communities of Life to return to. We will go extinct with them.

There is no point in running away. There is nowhere to run to that has not been marked for destruction.

Nothing left to do,
But defend the land, and let the river run though me.

And You?

Jennifer Murnan

Derrick Jensen: Forget Shorter Showers

Why personal change does not equal political change

by Derrick Jensen / Deep Green Resistance

Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much — and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

Water Pouring into a Bucket

Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption — residential, by private car, and so on — is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per-capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.

So how, then, and especially with all the world at stake, have we come to accept these utterly insufficient responses? I think part of it is that we’re in a double bind. A double bind is where you’re given multiple options, but no matter what option you choose, you lose, and withdrawal is not an option. At this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive (and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology). So if we choose option one — if we avidly participate in the industrial economy — we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of “success” in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world — none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.

Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.

The second problem — and this is another big one — is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”

The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.

The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned — Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States — who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.

Originally published in Orion.

Toward Strategic Feminist Action

Artwork by Summer-Rain Bentham, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

PART ONE: First steps for an effective fight-back

In the face of a worldwide crisis of male violence against women, radical feminists are preparing for a grassroots resurgence. This is the first in a series looking at effective strategies to take back women’s space and challenge male violence.

By Tara Prema / Deep Green Resistance

Western patriarchy arrived on the Pacific Coast of North America less than two hundred years ago. In some places, it hasn’t completely eradicated traditional cultures. These notes come from unceded indigenous land on the frontlines of the white male supremacist invasion.

Here, as elsewhere, our enemies publicly intimidate women activists with impunity. We face death threats, violence, stalking, and censorship from both the right and the left. This war of words is part of the escalating global war on women.

Brutality is everywhere we look. In Canada, men have murdered or “disappeared” over twelve hundred indigenous women in the past decade. Currently, the rate of male-on-female homicide is rising sharply – in some communities, it has doubled in a few years. Rape, assault, and sex trafficking have reached an all-time high and they are still growing. The victims are women and girls of all ages, races, nationalities, and social classes; however, males inflict much greater violence on indigenous women and women of color.

At the same time, women-centered spaces are disappearing and our feminist networks are divided by infighting. Male supremacists of all stripes aim their rage at targets of opportunity. The backlash is here and it’s worse than expected.

It’s time for emergency measures. That means strategic decisions about which battles to fight, against whom, and on whose turf. When the goal is to stop men from killing women, we must teach and learn how to fight back to protect ourselves and each other. In order to do that, we must join together for mutual aid and avoid becoming casualties ourselves.

Most of us are traumatized. Part of healing involves getting to the point of responding to threats effectively and learning to deal with fear, anger, and helplessness in a healthy way – by taking back our power.

Strategic Action: an introduction

iceland womens strike

Our position is one of asymmetric struggle against entrenched systems of patriarchal violence and domination that go back thousands of years in the West. Our strategy is like a guerrilla resistance movement against an occupying force that seems unbeatable – at least at first.

Success in asymmetric conflicts lies in making sure we are prepared for effective, sustainable action that moves toward the goals we’ve chosen. Campaigns that lead nowhere drain our energy and expose us to our enemies. Successful symbolic actions are excellent for boosting morale and recruiting but they are not ends in themselves. The outcome of each action doesn’t have to be large, but the goal should be.

The most useful analysis of effective strategies in asymmetric conflicts comes from the book Deep Green Resistance: A Strategy to Save the Planet. DGR divides effective actions into three categories:

  • shaping actions bring about the conditions where resistance is possible
  • sustaining actions allow resistance to begin and continue
  • decisive actions are capable of bringing down patriarchal institutions.

Creating Conditions and Capacity

Like any other human endeavor, whether building a house or planting a field, sustained grassroots action requires certain pre-conditions. For this movement, we must develop the capacity to reach out, organize, and defend ourselves and each other. There are dozens of ways that women around the world are creating the conditions to successfully challenge male domination and hold space for our sisters. For example:

  • Women-only groups, gatherings, and discussions about liberation
  • Naming the problem and naming the agent (male violence) in our speech and writing
  • Anti-violence campaigns as part of healing and trauma recovery (and vice versa)
  • Creating affinity groups and mutual aid networks
  • Hosting women’s self-defense trainings
  • Speaking out in public against male violence when it’s safe to do so
  • Speaking privately with our sisters when it’s not

Strategic feminist actions are campaigns with achievable outcomes that lead toward a larger goal.

Networks of resistance are essential for our survival. Many of our networks are secret out of necessity. In the past year, we’ve seen radical women take back space by organizing our own conferences, like Radfem Riseup and Radfems Respond. Others are pushing back against censorship by mobilizing en masse, as fans of Meghan Murphy did when her publisher was threatened with boycotts.

wss 2

When the goal is empowering a generation of women to fight male violence and rape, a crucial tactic is developing those skills — for example, by training women to teach others self-defense and protective strategies as the Warrior Sisters do. We might also consider public demonstrations that women are ready and able to physically fight men and win.

Creating a loud, visible culture of resistance is a longer-term goal that can lead to larger group mobilizations and decisive victories, like local uprisings to expel violent males from our communities. (It wouldn’t be the first time – see the Gulabi gang in India.)

The first task of a strategic activist is to find others who share the same values, in order to sustain our morale and bring ideas to action. When there’s no group nearby, we can travel to the nearest get-together, find or create radical feminist spaces online, and start our own groups.

  • Most groups start with just a few people. Talk to strong female friends and acquaintances to find those who share the same goals and values.
  • Launch a petition – either online or on paper. It can be a demand letter (“Fund women’s shelters!”) or a general call for support (“Yes I support organizing against male violence in my community”). The email addresses you collect become your outreach list.
  • Start or join an online discussion forum or a private Facebook group for radical feminists in your region. Reach out, ask for advice, find out what other women are doing or would like to do.
  • Call a meeting. The ones who show up are the organizing committee for future events and gatherings. (Make sure to set a time and place for the next meeting.)
  • Host an event: a film screening, a book discussion, a street demo, or a radical feminist speaker from out of town. Keep that signup sheet handy.
  • Prepare and discuss a basis of unity. Set out goals, guidelines, and responsibilities early on. Make sure there’s agreement on the group’s direction, how to screen new members, and how to end relationships with those who disrupt the group or don’t share its goals.

Often it’s not safe to organize. But we do it anyway – outside of the public eye, anonymously, or under a nom de guerre. Every woman who is publicly feminist has to deal with more than her share of hate. That’s why it’s so important to get together and watch each others’ backs. The goal of our enemies is to isolate and terrorize women in order to neutralize us. Don’t let them win.

ws training ubc

  • Take safety precautions, like keeping home and work addresses private.
  • Follow security culture guidelines.
  • Let other organizers know about any threats immediately.
  • Post security people at public events.
  • Accompany activists who are targeted.
  • Inspect incoming packages, email messages, friend requests, and other invitations before opening or responding.
  • Block hostile individuals on social media so they can’t see personal details, friends, and family.
  • Use security measures (like data backups and two-step verification) on computers, websites, and email.
  • Have an emergency plan and a bugout bag for leaving home in a hurry.
  • Report credible threats to your group’s security coordinator. Police are often indifferent or abusive, but it may be useful to report the threat in case the target is forced to defend herself.
  • Keep event locations secret until hours before, or disclose them only to registered participants.

Male violence has taken the lives of thousands of women while terrorizing millions more. We have choices: We can keep our heads down and hope the violence passes us by. We can spend time and energy on ineffective or counter-productive tactics. Or we can connect our networks and grow a coalition with the power to confront the killers and win.

Remember: Solidarity between women has survived repression for more than a millennium in some parts of the world. Male supremacists have done their worst and we are still here fighting back. Our reality and our wisdom will outlive the dominant culture’s delusions.

Parts Two and Three of this series will look at strategies for sustaining and decisive actions

We hope other radical feminists find this introduction useful, and we welcome your feedback as we draft the next chapters in this series.

Inside the indigenous movement to protect India’s commons

By  / Waging Nonviolence

In early October, news emerged that India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change was blocking the implementation of a high-level government panel’s report on tribal rights that recommended the creation of stringent rules to safeguard indigenous people from displacement.Meanwhile, two state governments have begun implementing a much different set of guidelines — issued in August without any interference — that allow the private sector to manage 40 percent of forests for profit at the expense of indigenous forest dwellers. In addition, another ordinance passed this year will permit private corporations to easily acquire land and forests from indigenous communities and carry out ecologically harmful mining. These legislative and policy decisions are usually made without the knowledge of indigenous communities whose lives, livelihoods and ecosystems will be worsened by these irresponsible actions of the government.Hence, indigenous communities in Uttar Pradesh, a northern state and Odisha, in the east, are strengthening their organizing to protect their rivers, lands, forests and hills from “development” that would displace thousands of local residents and destroy the environment.

“People from my community and I were beaten, detained or jailed unnecessarily for opposing tree felling in our forests, some years ago,” said Nivada Debi, a feisty 38-year-old woman from the Tharu Adivasi community in Uttar Pradesh. “We visited the police station multiple times for their release. The government did not assist the injured. Despite the police and government indifference, we will fight for our land and environment.”

A mother of four children subsisting on the forests, Debi is active in grassroots resistance that started nearly 20 years ago and has grown into the All India Union of Forest Working People, or AIUFWP. The group is made up of many indigenous people who subsist on forests and are collectively protecting forests from poachers and encroachers.

Nivada Debi at the Lucknow rally against the imprisonment of the opponents of the Kanhar dam in July 2015. (WNV/Pushpa Achanta)

Debi was among hundreds — from the AIUFWP, the allied Save Kanhar Movement and other resistance groups — who traveled to Lucknow in July 2015 for a rally protesting the continued incarceration of their comrades fighting land grabbing in other districts of Uttar Pradesh. Roma Malik, the AIUFWP deputy general secretary, and Sukalo Gond, an Adivasi, which means original inhabitant, were among those arrested on June 30, before they were to address a large public gathering about the illegal land acquisition for the Kanhar dam and the violent repression of its opponents by the state. Another member of AIUFWP, Rajkumari, who prefers to go by her first name, was jailed on April 21, after 39 Adivasis and Dalits, who are considered outside the caste hierarchy, were brutally shot at by the police during a peaceful protest on April 18. The demonstration, which began on April 14 — the birthday of B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution and an icon for many Indians, particularly Dalits — was opposing the construction of a dam across the Kanhar river in the Sonbhadra district of southeastern Uttar Pradesh.

Rajkumari was released toward the end of July while Gond and Malik were freed in September. However, others are still imprisoned on fabricated charges. Courts are delaying hearing their cases or denying them bail.

AIUFWP members, some of whom were previously involved with other local resistance movements, have been actively opposing the construction of the Kanhar dam for years. It would submerge over 10,000 acres of land from more than 110 villages in Uttar Pradesh and the neighboring states of Chattisgarh and Jharkhand, displacing thousands of local people and disrupting their lives and livelihoods. The dam was approved by the Central Water Commission of India in 1976, but was abandoned in 1989 after facing fierce opposition, especially from the local people whose lives and ecosystem would be destroyed by the proposed dam. However, construction resumed in December 2014, violating orders to stop it from the National Green Tribunal — a government body that adjudicates on environmental protection, forest conservation and natural resource disputes. No social impact assessment was done, nor were the necessary environmental or forest clearances — mandated by the Forest Conservation Act — obtained by the state government.

“Since this dam can destroy our survival and also adversely impact the surroundings, we have been opposing its construction and related land acquisition for many years,” said Shobha, a determined 42-year-old Dalit. “On December 23, 2014, the police caned some of our comrades when we were peacefully protesting the revival of building the dam earlier that month. However, the police falsely accused some leaders of our struggle of attacking the sub-divisional magistrate.” Shobha, who also prefers to go only by her first name, is among the vocal leaders of a women’s agricultural laborers union, which has allied with AIUFWP, in the village of Bada.

Shobha (center) with daughter Deepika (left) and associate Rekha (right) before the Lucknow rally against the incarceration of the opponents of the Kanhar dam in July 2015. (WNV/Pushpa Achanta)

Around 400 miles from Sonbhadra, in the Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of southern Odisha, live the Dongria Kondhs, an indigenous community of over 8,000 people. They have been fighting tirelessly to protect their sacred mountain, the nearly 5,000-foot high Niyamgiri, from large private corporations — like Vedanta Limited — that are trying to mine bauxite in the area to produce aluminum. Supporters of the Dongria Kondhs were arrested in Delhi on August 9 outside the Reserve Bank of India, as they peacefully highlighted Vedanta’s illegitimate and harmful mining in the Niyamgiri. Vedanta’s mining would violate the Forest Rights Act, which states that indigenous communities are entitled to remain in the forests — and utilize the produce, land and water in the forests — while conserving and protecting them.

“The Niyamgiri symbolizes a parent to our community,” said Sadai Huika, a steadfast 45-year-old Dongria Kondh woman from Tikoripada village. “While the streams that originate from it help our farming, the plants and grass that grows on it feed our cattle and goats. We cannot exist without it and will safeguard it from anyone trying to harm it.”

Huika and people from hundreds of villages near the Niyamgiri are active members of the Niyamgiri Protection Forum, which originated around 2003 to resist attempts by Vedanta to begin mining where the Kondhs live, with the support of the Odisha state government. At every one of the 12 village council meetings with government officers held in 2013 atop the Niyamgari, community members stated that they would not allow mining nearby.

Kumuti Majhi, an elderly Dongria Kondh man and one of the forum’s leaders, is among the few people who have traveled within and outside Odisha to advocate against mining and garner vital support for their struggle. He has met ministers to explain how significant the Niyamgiri is to his community and their reasons for safeguarding it.

By organizing protests locally and with allies around the world — and meetings with Vedanta’s shareholders and empathetic government officials, who the forum has enlightened about the need to protect the Niyamgiri — the group has stalled the mining.

“We know that extracting bauxite from the Niyamgiri will pollute our environment and also affect all living beings here,” Majhi said. “Hence, we will stop anyone coming to plunder the Niyamgiri, despite police harassment and false charges against us and our families.”

Gold mining boom threatens communities in Suriname

By Apoorva Joshi  / Mongabay

This is the second in a two-part series on gold mining in Suriname. Read the first part here.

  • Gold mining in the small South American country grew by 893 percent between 2000 and 2014.
  • Much of the small-scale and industrial gold mining in Suriname is taking place within the boundaries of the traditional territories of local communities.
  • With gold prices continuing to rise overall despite recent drops and Suriname’s political economy deeply entrenched in resource extraction, conservationists worry mining expansion will be hard to stop.

High gold prices combined with lax land use regulations have led to an explosion in mining in Suriname. A recent report by the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) finds that gold mining in the small South American country grew by 893 percent between 2000 and 2014, and is threatening the health and ways of life of many communities in the region.

Much of the small-scale and industrial gold mining in Suriname is taking place within the boundaries of the traditional territories of the Maroons – descendants of formerly enslaved people of African heritage who escaped from plantations during Dutch colonial rule and established thriving communities in the country’s hinterlands after successfully fighting for their freedom.

Suriname’s six main Maroon communities all reside along rivers leading upstream deep into the rainforest, the report says. The majority of Maroons live in the central-eastern part of the country – where the mineral-rich Greenstone Belt and gold deposits are located. Through statistical analysis, the ACT discovered that encroachment of gold mining is significantly more severe within Maroon territories than outside of them. The team writes that only one Maroon community far from the Greenstone Belt is currently not seeing any gold mining on their lands.

Suriname boasts large tracts of intact forest landscapes (IFLs), which are continuous, undisturbed areas of primary forest. However, Global Forest Watch shows significant IFL degradation, with the country experiencing nearly 17,000 hectares of tree cover loss in its IFLs between 2001 and 2014. Much of this is happening in areas with gold mining activity.
Suriname boasts large tracts of intact forest landscapes (IFLs), which are continuous, undisturbed areas of primary forest. However, Global Forest Watch shows significant IFL degradation, with the country experiencing nearly 17,000 hectares of tree cover loss in its IFLs between 2001 and 2014. Much of this is happening in areas with gold mining activity.
Mining extent (red) in Maroon-occupied areas. Image courtesy of the ACT.
Mining extent (red) in Maroon-occupied areas. Image courtesy of the ACT.

For some Maroon groups, small-scale gold mining has become a major component of their landscape and their daily lives. In many of their villages – particularly in Paramaka, Aukan and Matawai communities – villagers have become economically dependent on gold mining. Anthropologist Marieke Heemskerk has shown that in some Maroon villages, 70 to 80 percent of households get their regular income from family members working in gold mines. Villagers with informal concessions are able to collect fees from the garimpeiros – the Brazilian miners – and others working on their lands, and some have become quite wealthy as a result.

The Matawai Maroons who live along the Saramacca River in central Suriname, are among the smallest of the Maroon communities in terms of population. Their territory covers about 560,000 hectares and many of their villages are among the most remote and least-known in the country. Consequently, the Saramacca River, the surrounding ecosystem and the villages themselves remained relatively quiet and peaceful while other Maroon communities were contending with the pressures of inland colonization and resource extraction.

The northern portion of the Matawai territory, however, is located in the reaches of the Greenstone Belt. Being close to populated settlements, they are easily accessible via roads. This has allowed rapid expansion, with a number of the northern Matawai villages located at ground-zero for Suriname gold mining.

“According to our calculations derived from deforestation data, 81.51% of all deforestation in the Matawai territory is due to gold mining,” the report says.

Community members from the Matawai villages of Boslanti and Vertrouw learning to use GPS technology in a village mapping exercise. Photo courtesy of the ACT.Community members from the Matawai villages of Boslanti and Vertrouw learning to use GPS technology in a village mapping exercise. Photo courtesy of the ACT.

Four Matawai villages – Nyun Jakobkondre, Balen, Misalibi, and Bilawatra have been particularly impacted by the large gold mines that encircle them. In fact, much of the small-scale mining in the region is done by Maroons themselves, which is threatening their traditional livelihoods of hunting, fishing, woodworking, etc.

“As more Maroons in the Matawai community and elsewhere are becoming dependent on partaking in mining for household income, these and other local practices are eroding,” said Rudo Kemper, GIS and Web Development Coordinator for the ACT. “Many of the Matawai youth in particular are no longer as interested in traditional activities, as they know that there are lucrative profits to be made working in the mines.”

To make matters worse, mining activities has polluted waterways with mercury, which is used to separate the gold ore from sediment. Mercury can act as a neurotoxin, and has contaminated river fish, which are no longer safe to eat. Arable land is also threatened. According to Kemper, “in areas like Nyun Jakobkondre, the gold mining is taking place so close to the village that fertile land for cultivation is becoming scarcer.”

Nieuw Koffiekamp, a village settled by Maroons after it was relocated because of floods, is now located right in the middle of one of the most prosperous and mineral-rich veins of the Greenstone Belt. Known as Gros Rosebel, the area was one of the first industrial mining concessions in Suriname. Villagers have been using the area for sustainable livelihoods for generations, but the ACT report alleges they were neither consulted with nor informed about the concession. Years later, the government set up a task force dedicated to relocating the village once more. The village continues to fight for its existence, despite being literally fenced in by gold mining activity. Community members argue they have the right to extract resources from their own land and thus participate in small-scale gold mining.

Even Brownsberg Nature Park, a 14,000-hectare reserve and popular tourist destination, hasn’t been spared from the clutches of mining. From early on, gold miners have been active within its boundaries, where an estimated 924 hectares of primary forest has been lost to gold mining. In 2012, deforestation in the park reached an all-time high, with 200 hectares of forest cleared. In that same year, public awareness about mining inside Brownsberg began increasing when WWF–Guianas published a report with aerial photography of the damage to the park. “Since then,” Kemper said, “the rates of small-scale mining in the boundaries of the park have dropped somewhat, although deforestation caused by mining in the park [continues] to expand.”

Partially republished with permission of Mongabay.  Read the full article, Gold mining boom threatens communities in Suriname

Strategic activism