Editor’s Note: With the ineffectiveness of the current environmental movement becoming more and more apparent, people are turning to other means to save the natural world. DGR believes in the use of any technique to save the natural world. However, we also believe that caution should be expanded towards the so called “renewable” energy as well. Also care should be taken in what actions would happen in declaring a climate emergency.
By Chuck Collins/Common Dreams
The 1960s folk singer Malvina Reynolds wrote a song: “It Isn’t Nice,” singing, “It isn’t nice to block the doorway. It isn’t nice to go to jail. There are nicer ways to do it. But the nice ways always fail.”
Keep Malvina in mind as you read about the climate protests next week and in the days to come, including Climate Defiance blocking the doors to Citigroup because of their financing of new oil and gas projects. Prepare to witness a militant escalation of tactics aimed at the fossil fuel industry and their role in delaying society’s response to climate change.
After a summer of floods, fires, droughts, record heat, and weather disruption, we are clearly moving into the “new abnormal,” fueled by increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet even President Biden can’t seem to mouth the words “climate emergency.” As part of the June budget deficit deal, Biden approved an expedited Mountain Valley gas pipeline project along with an unprecedented legal shield against delaying lawsuits.
There are still avenues and pressure points for humanity to avert the worst outcome of climate disruption, which is an extinction event. But this will require bold action in what scientists call the critical decade ahead.
A new United Nations global climate report card finds countries need to catch up in meeting their Paris Agreement goals in reducing emissions. We would be making more progress if an unrepentant fossil fuel industry wasn’t using its considerable clout to block the transition to a clean energy future.
As global leaders gather in New York City for Climate Week and other United Nations meetings, hundreds of thousands will join the March to End Fossil Fuels. Some of them will be “blocking the doorways.”
Actions in Europe presage US coming attractions. Extinction Rebellion UK has blocked roads and building entrances, Just Stop Oil activists threw soup at paintings and disrupted cultural events, while other European activists blocked private jet runways.
Their focus on fossil fuel corporations makes sense. Investigative reporting has revealed that the largest fossil fuel companies, including Shell and ExxonMobil, have known about the dangerous repercussions of burning coal, gas and oil for decades. And this week The Wall Street Journal offered its own expose about Exxon’s internal strategy to downplay climate risk.
If governments and the public had known what these corporate leaders knew four decades ago, we could have moved more quickly to a safe energy transition. Instead, the industry has “run out the clock”—making low-hanging fruit adjustments impossible and putting our planet on a trajectory towards ecosystem collapse right up until the present moment.
The leaders of a couple dozen global energy corporations are making conscious decisions to build new infrastructure to extract and burn billions of tons of carbon and methane presently sequestered. A Guardian expose identified 195 carbon bomb projects that would each burn a billion tons of carbon over their lifetime. Private airports are making plans to expand capacity for private jet travel, one of the least defensible forms of luxury excess.
In this context, more people are abandoning our political system as the arena for making change, focusing on private sector responses such as carbon capture technologies, and using militant direct actions to block new oil, gas, and coal infrastructure.
Disruptive direct action, such as efforts by Extinction Rebellion and Climate Defiance, are critical to drawing attention to the fight, an urgency that will only grow as ecological stability unravels. On Earth Day last year, a Colorado activist, Wynn Bruce self-immolated himself on the steps of the Supreme Court as they handed down a decision undermining climate protections.
The collision course between ecological realities and our insufficient societal responses will only intensify. The coming decade will see more Wynn Bruce acts of desperation and eco-sabotage, like that depicted in the dramatic new film, How to Blow Up a Pipeline and the nonfiction book by Andreas Malm with the same name.
Works of future fiction may be preparing us for what may lay ahead. In Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson depicts a murky “black ops” group that leads to private jets falling from the sky and hostage-taking.
In my novel, Altar to an Erupting Sun, a group of terminally-ill grandmothers calling themselves the Good Ancestors self-immolate themselves in the lobby of ExxonMobil, a wake-up call that mobilizes humanity. Other fictional activists focus on preparing their New England communities to face a disrupted future by building local food resilience, mutual aid, and the capacity to welcome climate refugees. In The Deluge, author Stephen Markley describes the radicalization of right and left-wing activists to rising sea level rise and economic collapse.
There are still avenues and pressure points for humanity to avert the worst outcome of climate disruption, which is an extinction event. But this will require bold action in what scientists call the critical decade ahead. What we need is a bold “just transition” program that ends fossil fuels as soon as possible, including a declaration of a climate emergency, a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure, and the elimination of government subsidies for oil, gas, and coal, and its timely phase-out.
Until this program can move forward, be prepared to find people blocking the doorways.
“Direct action is all we have left. Save the world. #Melbourneclimatestrike IMG_5249” by John Englart (Takver) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
“Violence on the Land is Violence on our Bodies”: Appalachian Frontline Women’s Divestment Delegation Highlights Dangers of Mountain Valley Pipeline in Meeting with UBS Bank
Joint press release with Divest Invest Protect and The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, California— On September 6, a delegation of frontline women leaders from Appalachia and advocates met with UBS Bank to highlight concerns of human rights violations along the Mountain Valley Pipeline, as well as environmental harms in the Appalachian region as a result of the pipeline.
During the meeting, the Appalachian Frontline Women’s Divestment Delegation provided testimony and shared stories, data and research on the multiple ways that the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and its construction pose a serious threat to communities, water, air quality and the global climate.
Originally expected to be completed in 2018, the MVP Mainline now runs five years behind schedule and $3 billion over budget. UBS Bank is one of the banks financing MVP, and during the meeting, delegates highlighted that since the project’s inception, the joint owners of Mountain Valley Pipeline have sustained financial losses. In May, 2022, RGC Resources, parent company of Roanoke Gas, disclosed a $29.6 million impairment charge on MVP. Similarly, NextEra announced an $800 million loss in February, 2022, and stated that it was reevaluating its investment in MVP. Additionally, Mountain Valley LLC has incurred millions in fines and settlements for environmental violations and billions of dollars’ worth of expenses in legal battles, permit negotiations, and costly construction delays.
Delegation members provided eye witness accounts and detailed information about specific impacts Indigenous communities and communities of color face in regards to the construction and operation of MVP. The pipeline route will go through Black, Indigenous, Latino, and low-income communities across Appalachia who would experience the brunt of environmental injustice. According to the company’s own 2017 Final Environmental Impact Statement, elderly, disabled, poor, and medically underserved residents are over-represented in the path of the project. Pollution caused by pipelines and methane gas infrastructure has been linked to several adverse health effects, including respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. The racial inequities that will ensue from the MVP construction route are so indisputable that the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board denied an air permit on environmental justice grounds. Additionally, construction of MVP has already damaged sacred sites on the homeland of the Monacan Indian Nation, Occaneechi, Saponi, and Tutelo tribes, including a burial mound near Roanoke, Virginia, which dates back several thousand years.
In June 2023, a provision in the Fiscal Responsibility Act approved all remaining permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Another provision stripped the judiciary of any authority to assess the legality of the permits, and therefore opportunity for challenges and input from local communities, forcing the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss two long-standing legal challenges against the MVP that had been staving off construction for years. Construction is now moving forward on the MVP Mainline following Congressional intervention deemed unconstitutional by well-regarded legal scholars.
Delegates shared research on how MVP can negatively impact local ecosystems and the global climate. Experts state that MVP will emit over 89 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution annually, equivalent to the pollution from 24 average US coal plants. The pipeline route will cut across over 1,000 waterways and harm the ecosystems of multiple species of concern, including six federally endangered or threatened species and an additional four state listed species. The pipeline will also run over terrain susceptible to landslides in an active seismic zone, raising concerns over pipeline ruptures and explosions. Delegates highlighted the August 2023 Notice of Proposed Safety Order by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) stating that conditions along the MVP may “pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property, or the environment.”
The Appalachian Frontline Women’s Divestment Delegation, organized by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) and Divest Invest Protect (DIP) includes: Dr. Crystal A Cavalier, Ed.D, MPA (Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation), Adjunct Professor and Co-Founder, 7 Directions of Service; Dr. Emily Satterwhite, Professor and Director of Appalachian Studies (Appalachian Resident); Crystal Mello, Community Organizer, POWHR (Appalachian Resident); Michelle Cook (Diné), Founder of Divest Invest Protect; with Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN).
“Violence on the land is violence on our bodies. MVP is literally a death sentence for many in our communities and region, threatening our health and livelihoods. Our communities are disproportionately burdened with health hazards through policies and practices that force us to live near sources of toxic waste, such as pipelines, sewage works, mines, landfills, power stations, compressor stations, major roads, and emitters of airborne particulate matter. As a result, our communities suffer higher rates of health problems attendant on hazardous pollutants.” Dr. Crystal A Cavalier, Ed.D, MPA (Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation), Adjunct Professor and Co-Founder, 7 Directions of Service
“Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fly-by-night LLC is incapable of construction in compliance with environmental laws. MVP’s leadership clearly has no idea what they’re doing— but that hasn’t stopped them from rushing to place corroded and defective pipes in our land and water before PHMSA’s Notice of Proposed Safety Order can take effect. MVP is putting our lives at risk and then prosecuting us in the courts for trying to protect ourselves.” – Dr. Emily Satterwhite, Professor and Director of Appalachian Studies (Appalachian Resident)
“We’ve been devastated by the forward progress of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. We’re being sacrificed and it’s hard to imagine at times that this is even real. We’re literally in the fight for our lives – The struggle for my home, the struggle for clean air and water, the struggle for the planet, it’s a constant stresser in my life and in the lives of others in my community. We’ll never give up on protecting our home.” Crystal Mello, Community Organizer, POWHR (Appalachian Resident)
“The Appalachian Mountains, the oldest mountains in the world, her peoples, and countless other species, are under an urgent threat from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). We call for everyone to listen to the Mountains; the river’s babbling brook; the Fish; the Black Bear; the Hell Bender; and Falcon, and even the stones. Life itself cries out for urgent intervention against risks of fire and catastrophic explosions; their siren song sings screaming, Stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Our peoples of Appalachia were not created to be sacrificed to their altars of money and profit. Our peoples of Appalachia were not created to serve corporate extractivists agendas that destroy our bodies, health, water, and lands. We will protect our Mother the Mountain and we will protect one another. Our Mother the Mountain, she who is worthy of adoration and defense. The berry jewels of her forests, her glittering crystal silver waters, her golden harvests of grain and corn. She provides all we need for eternity and only requires respect for this opulence. UBS in this historic moment needs to do their due diligence to prevent risks relating to their financing; to respect internationally recognized human rights obligations to both people, planet, and the earth’s biodiversity.” – Michelle Cook (Diné), Founder of Divest Invest Protect
“The Mountain Valley Pipeline will have disastrous impacts for frontline communities who will experience the worst of fossil fuel pollution, for biodiverse species whose very habitats will be destroyed, and for our global climate which cannot take another pipeline project. It is time to end the era of fossil fuels for the health of our communities and planet. We must stop the very worst of the climate crisis before it is too late. We are calling for financial institutions to listen to communities and science, conduct thorough due diligence, and stop the harms of fossil fuel extraction. UBS and other banks have an opportunity to be leaders in the just transition by divesting from fossil fuels and instead financing projects that support the well-being of communities, ecosystems, and our planet. Now is the time for financial institutions to firmly respect international human rights standards and climate agreements as we collectively move towards a clean, just, and healthy future for all. There is no time to lose!” – Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
Katherine Quaid, WECAN International, email@example.com
Michelle Cook, Divest Invest Protect, firstname.lastname@example.org
This press release is also available online.
Photo by Elijah Mears on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: In the Fight for Who We Love series, we introduce you to a species. These nonhuman species are what inspires most of us to join environmental movements and to continue to fight for the natural world. We hope you find this series inspiring, informative, and a break from news on industrial civilization. Let us know what you think in the comments! Also, if there is a species that you want us to cover in the upcoming months, please make suggestions. Today they are polar bears.
By Kim Olson and Benja Weller
When there’s talk about climate change affecting other species, people often think of polar bears. Because yes, their habitat is being destroyed — and we’ll get to that.
But the reason we’re writing about polar bears today is because long before I (Kim) knew anything about climate change or melting ice caps, they were my favorite wild animal. Because to me, they represent patience and intelligence, strength and resilience, playfulness and beauty.
FOOD + BEHAVIOR
A polar bear stretches in Kaktovik, Alaska. Photo: Kim Olson
Like much of the wild world (what’s left), polar bears must put in some serious effort and time to acquire their next meal, and as the largest terrestrial carnivorous mammal on earth, that’s no small amount.
So how much food do they need, then?
“Polar bears need to consume approximately 4.4lbs [2kg] of fat daily or a 121lbs [55kg] seal provides about 8 days’ worth of energy. Polar bears can eat 100lbs [45kg] of seal blubber in one sitting.”
A typical polar bear meal doesn’t vary a whole lot and includes one main course: seals (ringed, but also bearded, hooded and harped). But when food is scarce, they’re opportunistic eaters and will munch on berries, fish, plants, birds, small mammals — basically whatever they can find, which unfortunately also includes human garbage.
Hunting patiently on an ice sheet
While polar bears use their semi-webbed, big-ass paws (about 12in / 30cm, which is bigger than most human heads!) to wander the snowy ground and doggy paddle around the Arctic Ocean like nobody’s business, they aren’t aquatic animals. So they have to hunt usually at the edge of sea ice or next to a seal’s breathing hole.
Once the bears locate a suitable place to hunt, they get comfortable and prepare themselves for a potentially long wait. This most common “still-hunting” method, which they’re the most successful at, requires that the bears barely move for hours and sometimes even days.
Days! I don’t know about you, but I find that kind of commitment and patience remarkable. Because in an age where instant gratification is a thing, us civilized humans may sometimes feel it’s unbearable to have to wait longer than even thirty minutes for a meal when we’re hungry. But polar bears? They’ve got the patience thing down. I mean, they have to. Because, contrary to popular belief, food doesn’t actually come from the grocery store.
When not about to pounce on a seal, polar bears are generally slow-moving creatures, ambling leisurely and deliberately to conserve their strength. At times they may wander for miles, their huge paws helping to keep them from sinking too deeply into the snow.
A bear walks across the snowy ground in Kaktovik, Alaska. Photo: Kim Olson
EVOLUTION + HABITAT
Harsh climate made polar bears become specialists
Polar bears diverged from brown bears but it’s not clear when — some estimates say a few hundred thousand years while newer guesses put it at a few million years.
But no matter when the split occurred, polar bears developed some unique characteristics that help them survive in a harsh climate where average winter temperatures are around -29°F / -2°C.
Most bears live north of the Arctic Circle in the US, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia, and spend much of their lives on sea ice hunting (some sources say up to 50% of their time).
3 fun facts you may not know about polar bears:
- Their skin is black, which helps them absorb heat from the sun (when they have it, which is not much in the winter that far north!).
- Their fur (the thickest of all bears) is not white and is not actually hair. The outer layer of fur is in fact clear, hollow tubes. But because of the way these tubes reflect the visible light wavelengths, the fur appears white. And the hollow tubes provide insulation against the frigid temps and repel water.
- They don’t (typically) hibernate. Since their main food source (seals) is available only during the winter, only pregnant females hibernate (and in case you’re wondering, twins cubs are the most common), and even then it’s not a full hibernation like other bears do.
A mama bear with her two cubs in Kaktovik, Alaska. Photo: Kim Olson
Size: Males are about 2-3 times larger than females.
Length: 6-8′ [1.8-2.4m] females, 8-10′ [2.4-3m] males, 12″ [.3m] newborn
Height: up to 5′ [1.5m] at shoulder on all four paws, 7-11′ [3.3m] standing upright
Weight: 300-700lb [136-318kg] females, 700-1700lb [318-771kg] male, 1-1.5lb [.5-.7kg] newborn
Paws: webbed paws up to ~12” [30cm] across, which makes them good paddles
Lifespan: 20-30 years in the wild
Running Speed: 25mph [40kph]
Swimming Speed: 6mph [10kph] for up to 62mi [100km] continuously
Walking Speed: 3.4mph [5.5kph]
A solo polar bear walking in Kaktovik, Alaska. Photo: Kim Olson
THE BIGGEST THREAT
Melting ice sheets due to global warming
Most of us have seen pictures or videos of starving polar bears in the news. Skinny polar bears searching for food or sitting on an ice sheet with nothing around them but water are heart-wrenching to watch.
Photos and videos like those show the devastating effects of global warming, and are warning signs that express the conclusion in a BBC article by Helen Briggs and Victoria Grill: “Polar bears will be wiped out by the end of the century unless more is done to tackle climate change, a study (by Nature Climate Change) predicts.“
The single most important threat to the long-term survival of polar bears is loss of sea ice due to global warming, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. National Geographic writes about the bears in the Beaufort Sea region, who are among the best studied: “Their numbers have fallen 40 percent in the last ten years.”
Polar bear babies need fat
In our times of warmer climate, sea ice melts earlier in the spring and forms later in the autumn, forcing polar bears to walk or swim longer distances to the remaining ice sheets.
The second effect of melting sea ice is that the bears stay on land longer fasting and living off their fat stores. In both cases, the extra energy loss affects their ability to effectively reproduce and raise babies. When the mother is too skinny, a couple of problems arise:
Initially she can’t have as many babies as a healthy mom can. But when she does have cubs, they have a greater risk of dying by starvation due to the lack of fat in the mother’s milk. This can only mean that the entire population of polar bears decline.
Fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic
Pollution and the exploration of new oil and gas resources are also major threats to these white predators. As we’ve outlined in the article about Adélie penguins, there’s persistent organic pollutants (POPs) being moved from warmer areas to the cold Antarctic and Arctic.
If bears eat seals, they also consume POPs, and high levels of POPs rob polar bears of their vitamin A, thyroid hormones, and some antibodies which impairs their growth, reproduction, and the strength to fight off diseases.
Oil is toxic for animals in the Arctic
As easy-to-access oil and gas resources become scarcer, the industries explore in the most remote places to find this so-called “black gold.” Unhinged, they try to exploit the beautiful Arctic, even though offshore oil operations pose a great risk to the polar bears.
When oil spills into the sea, it affects the bear’s fur, reducing its insulating effect. The bears unknowingly ingest the oil which can cause long-term liver and kidney damage, even if it’s a small amount. Oil spills can wipe out entire populations when they happen in places where there’s a high density of polar bear dens.
Despite sitting around most of the time, National Geographic says that these high-energy beasts can burn through 12,325 calories a day, which is equivalent to 40 (!) burgers.
The polar bears can’t just adapt to melting ice sheets and change their hunting methods in an instant — evolution doesn’t work like that.
Two polar bears play fight in Kaktovik, Alaska. Photo: Kim Olson
WHY THEY’RE SPECIAL
If you ask us, a world without the magnificent polar bears is a world worse off. So they are one more reason #whywefight.
FURTHER READING + SOURCES
Featured Image: A female polar bear with her two cubs in Kaktovik, Alaska. Photo: Kim Olson
The 2023 DGR conference is scheduled for late August in northern California. This annual gathering is an opportunity for our community to share skills, reflect on our work, strengthen our connections, and plan for the future. While this conference is only open to DGR members, we do invite friends and allies on a case-by-case basis. If you’re interested in attending, please contact us, and if you’d like to donate to support the conference, click here.
Editor’s Note: The Manila Bay Reclamation Project is a series of projects around the bay in the cities of Manila, Pasay, Parañaque, Navotas, and Cavite. The projects- that should more accurately be called land grabs- ironically assert to “reclaim” the bay area for commercial, residential and tourism development. Offshore mining has started in the Manila Bay area.
Fisherfolks in the area have not been informed about the seabed quarry before it began. Now there are no fish for them to catch. Their entire livelihood has been destroyed. Many have relocated to other areas. The following is a statement by a coalition of organizations fighting for community rights and against the seabed quarry.
Statement on State of National Address
July 24, 2023
STATE OF NO ACTION (SONA). This is possibly our most apt evaluation of the performance of President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. and DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga.
One full year in office, and yet PBBM and Secretary Loyzaga have not acted on the demands of mining-affected communities, particularly the residents of Sibuyan Island, Romblon and Brooke’s Point, Palawan.
Fact is, mining operations continue in both regions and the respective Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation in Sibuyan and Ipilan Nickel Corporation in Brooke’s Point have not been cancelled.
During last year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) conducted a “serenade” at the DENR grounds addressing then newly-appointed DENR Secretary Loyzaga. We brought fruits and flowers as gifts, symbolizing the preservation of natural resources and our earnest desire to dialogue with the government.
Over the course of a year, grassroots communities have undertaken various activities to articulate our situation and push for our demands. The activities range from submission of petition letters and research studies, to vigils, dialogues and protest actions.
In particular, residents of Sibuyan and Brooke’s put up barricades demanding a halt in mining operations deemed illegal for lack of proper permits. People from both regions have been insistently asking the DENR for the cancellation of the MPSAs of the concerned mining companies.
The DENR did open its doors for consultations as well as dialogues with those either knocking on or protesting at its gates. They did give an ear to the leaders and representatives of mining-affected communities. They did promise to conduct investigations and address the concerns of people on the ground.
But, until now, mining-affected communities are still awaiting decisive government actions. Investigations have still to be conducted, mining operations have yet to be permanently stopped, and mining contracts have still to be cancelled.
Worse, while the demands of mining-affected communities are ignored, mining companies are given headway in their operations.
For instance, despite the moratorium in new applications for seabed quarrying permits imposed by the previous administration, seabed quarrying and offshore mining have become more active than ever.
Presently, there are 11 large-scale offshore mining projects all over the country. Also, based on a list obtained from the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), there are 175 reclamation projects lined up at different stages of application. According to environmental groups belonging to People’s NICHE, there are at least 46 reclamation projects in Manila Bay alone which would affect 32,000-hectares of fishing waters.
In the midst of a climate emergency, the continued destruction of nature through mining and other extractive activities is simply unacceptable. For the continued destructive operations of mining companies and the miserable conditions of people in mining-affected communities, we hold PBBM and the DENR fully accountable.
On this second State of the Nation Address, we strongly call on President Marcos and DENR Sec. Loyzaga to immediately and decisively act on the demands of the people.
Specifically, we demand a stop to destructive and illegal mining operations through the cancellation of large-scale mining contracts in Sibuyan and Brooke’s Point, and other sites of struggles. We also urgently call for a comprehensive review of seabed quarrying and offshore mining activities and a halt to the operations in Manila Bay.
We do not want to waste more time waiting. The time to act is NOW.
Pagkatapos ng usapan, AKSYON ANG KAILANGAN!
Alyansa Tigil Mina
Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party
Aksyon sa Kahandaan sa Kalamidad at Klima (AKKMA)
Alliances of Buguey for Community Development Advocates (Albucoda)
Alyansa Kontra Mina – Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental
Ang Aroroy Ay Alagaan, Inc (4As)
Anislagan Bantay Kalikasan Task Force (ABAKATAF)
Aroroy Youth Environmental Guardian (AYEG)
Bangan – Malabago Fisherfolk Association- BMFA
Bayay Sibuyanon Inc. (BSI)
Bileg Dagiti Babbae (Bileg)
Carrascal Cantilan Madrid Carmen Lanuza Baywatch (CCMCL Baywatch)
Convergence of Initiatives for Environmental Justice (CIEJ)
Didipio Earth Savers Multi- Purpose Association- (DESMA)
Guardians Brotherhood International Humanitarian Leadership, Inc.
Koalisyon ng Mamamayan at Sambayanan sa Northern at Sentral Luzon (Kumasa Na)
La Fraternidad Fisherfolk and Women Group (LAFFWO)
Living Laudatu Si
Marian Women Producers’ Cooperative (MWPC)
Maporac Aetas Organization- MAO
Nature Ambassadors of Sibuyan Island (NASI)
Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)- Negros Oriental Provincial Council
Risktaker- AMKKAS (Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Kalikasan ng Kasibu)
Samahan ng Mangingisdang Kababaihan sa Minanga Este (Samakami)
Sibuyanon Against Mining (SAM)
Tagbuyawan Lakeshore Association
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
Tubajon People’s Council (TUPECO)
Unahin Lagi ang Diyos (UNLAD)
Working Youth of Tubay (WYC)
Zambales North Payao Fisherfolk Association (ZambaNorFa)
Editor’s Note: In order to deter the tribal members and activists from fighting for Thacker Pass, Lithium Nevada has sued them. Unsurprisingly, as a corporation, they have greater funds to sustain their legal action. We appeal for all who can to support in whatever way you can. The details for financial donations are at the end of the post.
Lithium Nevada Corporation has filed a lawsuit against Protect Thacker Pass and seven people for opposing the Thacker Pass lithium mine.
The lawsuit is similar to what is called a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP suit, aimed at shutting down free speech and protest. The suit aims to ban the prayerful land defenders from the area and force them to pay monetary damages which could total millions of dollars.
“This lawsuit is targeting Native Americans and their allies for a non-violent prayer to protect the 1865 Thacker Pass massacre site,” said Terry Lodge, attorney working with the group. “These people took a moral stand in the form of civil disobedience. They are being unjustly targeted with sweeping charges that have little relationship to the truth, and we will vigorously defend them.”
The lawsuit targets Dean Barlese, respected elder and spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Dorece Sam from the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu (Te-Moak Shoshone and Washoe), Bethany Sam from the Standing Rock Sioux and Kutzadika’a Paiute Tribes, Founding Director of Community Rights US Paul Cienfuegos, and Max Wilbert and Will Falk of Protect Thacker Pass, which is also named in the suit.
They are charged with Civil Conspiracy, Nuisance, Trespass, Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations, Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, and Unjust Enrichment.
As part of the lawsuit, Lithium Nevada has been granted a Temporary Restraining Order which restricts the defendants and “any third party acting in concert” with them from interfering with construction, blocking access roads, or even being in the area. The accused parties are not involved in planning further protest activity at the mine site.
Regardless, these allegations are alarming to the Great Basin Native American communities who believe their religious practices are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. The lawsuit’s language places fear in the hearts of Native American people who want to pray and visit their ancestors’ gravesites.
The case references instances of non-violent prayer and protest that took place on April 25th, and a prayer camp named after Ox Sam (survivor of the 1865 massacre and ancestor of Dorece Sam and Dean Barlese) which was established at Thacker Pass on May 11th. On June 8th, that camp was raided and dismantled by police. One young indigenous woman was arrested and transported to jail inside a pitch-black box. In the aftermath of the raid, a ceremonial fire was extinguished, sacred objects were put in trash bags, and tipi poles were broken.
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act states that it is “the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religion of the American Indian…including…access to sites.”
Dorece Sam, President of the Native American Church of the State of Nevada:
“I take my grandkids to Peehee Mu’huh to teach them to pray for our unburied ancestors whose remains are scattered there, to collect our holy plants, to hunt and fish, and to collect medicinal herbs. The ancestors who were killed at Thacker Pass have never been given the proper prayers for their spirits. Lithium Nevada is desecrating our unceded lands and our ancestors’ resting places.”
Dean Barlese, respected elder and spiritual leader from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe:
“The Indian wars are continuing in 2023, right here. America and the corporations who control it should have finished off the ethnic genocide, because we’re still here. My great-great-grandfather fought for this land in the Snake War and we will continue to defend the sacred. Lithium Nevada is a greedy corporation telling green lies.”
“Our people couldn’t return to Thacker Pass for fear of being killed in 1865, and now in 2023 we can’t return or we’ll be arrested. Meanwhile, bulldozers are digging our ancestors graves up. This is what Indigenous peoples continue to endure. That’s why I stood in prayer with our elders leading the way.”
“Lithium Nevada is a greedy corporation on the wrong side of history when it comes to environmental racism and desecration of sacred sites. It’s ironic to me that I’m the trespasser because I want to see my ancestral land preserved.”
“Virtually every single accusation against us is a lie, and of course the corporation’s leaders know this. But our actions have scared them, so they are lashing out against classic nonviolent direct-action tactics. And this is yet another prime example of why we need to dismantle the structures of law that grant so many so-called constitutional ‘rights’ to business corporations, like access to the courts.”
Max Wilbert, Protect Thacker Pass:
“Around the world, a land defender is killed every two days. Murdering activists is hard to get away with in the United States, so corporations do this instead. This lawsuit is aimed at destroying the lives of people non-violently defending the land. But we’re not giving up. There are millions of people opposing this mine, and this fight will continue.”
“I’ve been involved in directly petitioning the courts for two years to enforce tribal rights to consultation without success. Now Paiutes and Shoshones are being sued for peacefully defending the final resting places of their massacred ancestors. Lithium Nevada is just another mining corporation bullying Native Americans once again. This pattern has got to stop.”
Lithium Nevada corporation has been locked in legal battles since 2021, when four environmental groups, a local rancher, and several tribes sued the Federal Government to attempt to overturn the permits for the mine. The suits allege failures of consultation, violation of endangered species law and water laws, and dozens of other infractions. The most recent filing in an ongoing Federal Court case brought by three local tribes was filed on Friday, arguing that Lithium Nevada needs to halt construction while it consults with tribes about the Thacker Pass massacre sites. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California will hear oral arguments in other cases later this month.
The news comes as Lithium Nevada’s parent corporation, Lithium Americas, has been implicated in four alleged human rights violations and environmental crimes related to their lithium mining operation in Cauchari-Oloroz, Argentina.
The defendants are seeking attorneys to join the legal defense team, and monetary donations to their legal defense fund. You can donate via credit or debit card, PayPal (please include a note that your donation is for Thacker Pass legal defense), or by check.
Editor’s Note: The following events are not organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity with both of these and encourage our readers to get involved in these if possible.
Radical Resilience and Restoration for Wetland Rights
On June 28th CELDF’s Kai Huschke will be presenting at the Society for Wetland Scientists annual conference. Joining Kai on the panel Socio-Ecological Resilience and Adaptation: Implementing Rights of Wetlands will be Senior Ecologist/Natural Climate Solutions Specialist Gillian Davis from BSC Group, Inc. and Tufts University Global Development & Environment Institute, Matthew Simpon, Director from the UK based organization 35percent, and Bill Moomaw, Tufts University Professor Emeritus. The four have been active as part of a global collective working on the community and national levels for the legal rights of wetlands.
The talk is a part of the Society for Wetland Scientists annual conference which will be held from June 27-30, 2023 in Spokane, WA, USA at The Davenport Grand Hotel.
Here are some excerpts from Kai’s talk:
Globally for the last 200 years the prevailing directive governmentally, legally, economically, scientifically, and culturally has been to extract and exploit the natural world for the wants and needs of a single species – humans. Colonization has never stopped; it has merely changed its stripes and patterns of speech but behaviorally it continues to conquer into submission and extinction the life forces of the planet with wetlands receiving a disproportionate amount of abuse.
The emergence of legal rights of nature efforts over the last 20 years in North America and across the globe is a potent force for the cultural shift necessary to actualize living from, in, with, and as nature. Wetlands restoration efforts in the name of rights of wetlands can only occur if there is a restoration of the human species on a massive scale that would allow for the healthy and harmonious balance of living from, in, with, and as nature. Science along with other aspects of the culture must reject colonizing systems of law, economics, governance, and even science itself and develop methods and systems outside the dominant one.
How Wealth Rules: Part III
CELDF’s Ben G. Price has been hosting lively and engaging discussions on his award-winning book, How Wealth Rules the World: Saving Our Communities and Freedoms from the Dictatorship of Property.
Many books have been written about wealth, power and politics in the United States. Most of them make intuitive sense. Wealthy people use their power to influence and control politics. But Ben Price’s new book is often counterintuitive as he explores how wealth itself is imbued with power.
CELDF is making available, a serialization of Ben Price’s book. You can read this award-winning book in free installments of downloadable pdf files and join Ben Price for monthly webinars to discuss the book in the sequence of shared chapters.
You can find earlier webinars: One Right to Rule Them All, The Dark Side of Property and Property is Not an Unalienable Right.
You can register for the next webinar (The Ongoing Counter Revolution) at June 13th from 7:00 – 8:30 PM EDT.
Photo by Sara Cottle on Unsplash