Utah government gives final approval to first US tar sands project

By Paul Foy / Associated Press

Utah gave its final approval Wednesday for the first commercial tar sands project in the U.S., handing a victory to a Canadian company that aims to start producing 2,000 barrels of oil next year in the start of what could grow into a larger operation.

The Utah Water Quality Board upheld the decision of state regulators and turned back an appeal from a Moab-based environmental group that vows to take up its fight in the state courts.

Living Rivers has fought the project every step of the way, arguing that tar sands mining will contaminate groundwater in a largely undeveloped area of Utah’s Book Cliffs region that drains into the Colorado River.

State regulators and the company insist the eastern Utah desert is so dry there is no significant groundwater to pollute. An administrative law judge agreed, sending a recommendation for approval to the Water Quality Board, which held hours of arguments before upholding a crucial state permit Wednesday by a vote of 9-2.

U.S. Oil Sands Inc. has said it was raising the money it needs to start digging after working since 2005 to obtain or defend its state approvals. Executives said they planned to produce oil from a 62-acre mountaintop pit starting in late 2013. The Calgary, Alberta-based company holds leases on 50 square miles of Utah trust lands sprinkled with gooey bitumen, a tar-like form of petroleum.

Read more from The San Francisco Chronicle:

El Salvador considering total ban on mining

By Robin Oisín Llewellyn / Mongabay

On hot days the broken stone and dried up silt from the San Sebastian mine in Eastern El Salvador bake in the sun. The slew of refuse is freckled with rock stained bright blue with cyanide, open to the elements that on rainier days will wash it downhill into the Rio San Sebastian below.

The openings of passages into the mine dot the mountainside, and further downhill a bright orange stream with a chemical stench flows into another. The American Commerce Group ceased operating here in 1999 but sought to return when the price of gold began its current escalation. After a Centre for Investigation of Investment and Commerce study found the local river to be 100,000 times more acidic than the area’s uncontaminated water, and cyanide levels to be ten times above safe levels, Commerce Group’s environmental permit was revoked. The company is subsequently suing the Salvadoran government for $100 million through the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Rising concern over the environmental impact of mining led both presidential candidates in the 2009 elections in El Salvador to pledge to suspend mining operations, a promise kept by current president Mauricio Funes. To prevent further legal cases, which are already draining millions from the country’s coffers, the Salvadoran legislature is considering a special law suspending administrative procedures related to the exploration and exploitation of metallic mining concessions.

Salvadoran environmentalists, in turn, are urging their government to go beyond the suspension of mining projects, and instead ban metallic mining altogether. Thousands of demonstrators marched through the capital this month to urge parliament to sign a law that would enshrine a “human right to water,” which they said would make it impossible to grant mining permits.

In a presentation outside the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly last week, El Salvador’s Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Umberto Luna gave his support to a complete ban. Luna said that El Salvador’s environmental, climatic, institutional, social and economic conditions meant that it would not be viable for the “metallic mining industry to pursue its extractive activities without risk to the health and living conditions of the Salvadoran People and the resources on which they rely.”

The Ombudsman further urged that “the different state institutions must prioritize the human rights of the population, and keep in mind that true development pursues the improved overall quality of living of the population, not just economic profit.”

A law against mining would transform the country’s legislative framework towards foreign investment. Canadian group Pacific Rim is demanding $77 million to recoup its investments at its El Dorado concession in the northern province of Cabañas, claiming that the government violated the country’s 1999 investment law by denying it a license to extract gold and silver. The investment law allows disputes between foreign investors and the state to be taken outside of the country and decided by the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

“Cyanide is not a vitamin”
Gatherings are being held around the country by anti-mining campaigners, raising awareness of the intertwined history of mining and water sources in the Central American gold belt. One meeting in the northern Salvadoran town of Ilobasco drew figures from a range of organizations united together in the National Roundtable against Mining.Ilobasco is in the agricultural countryside of Cabañas province, and the number of straw Stetsons dotting the sea of heads made the question asked from the podium almost rhetorical: “What do most of you do for a living?”

The audience responded en masse: “Farming!”

The speaker—Karen Vasquez of El Salvador’s Water Forum—echoed them before arguing that the access to land and water for tenant farmers would be made more difficult if the country failed to pass the proposed General Law on Water.The bill asserts that water is a “common good, finite, vulnerable, and essential for human life and ecosystems,” and prioritizes the human consumption of water over industrial uses. It has been sent by President Mauricio Funes to the Legislative Assembly for their approval, where it will be debated this month. The assembly is controlled by the President’s opponents, the right-wing ARENA party.

When Pacific Rim drilled to find gold beneath Cabañas, water sources used by local farmers dried up as subterranean water courses were diverted. Angel Ibarra of the Salvadoran Ecological Union sees such dangers reoccurring.

“Pacific Rim are talking about pursuing subterranean mining, so they’ll have to pump out the subterranean water and dehydrate the area, which would dry up the surface water and the wells,” he told the meeting in Ilobasco.

The proposed mine would, by its own projections, consume 3.2 million liters of water a year, and utilize cyanide to leach the gold from the rock.

“Cyanide is not a vitamin,” Ibarra says, responding to a member of the audience who told the podium that a chemist from the El Dorado mine visited their community to allay concerns over the compound. “Metallic mining causes cyanide and arsenic to be released into the area’s water, and causes acid mine drainage. There’s no such thing as green mining from a scientific or ecological perspective. It’s just propaganda.”

Acid mine drainage is caused by water generating acidity from the metal sulfides in disturbed rock formations. The sulphuric acid in turn releases toxic compounds and heavy metals, which are then washed into surface water.Ibarra points to the long term health damage that these elements can cause when released into the area’s water sources.

“The most serious problems begin when the mining stops, after the 6-10 years that the mine would function for,” he explains. “It’s afterwards that the kidney failures and the chronic illnesses begin. There are examples from other countries where this pollution has gone on for hundreds of years; we need a definitive ban on mining.”

Read more from Mongabay: “El Salvador mulls total ban on mining
Gail Dines: Escape from Guyland

Gail Dines: Escape from Guyland

By Gail Dines for Counterpunch

Feminists are busy people. We fight for equal rights, for stopping violence against women, for ending trafficking, prostitution, and stripping, and for a world where our children can have access to good education, health care, and day care. Now we have another job, because it seems that we are the only group willing to speak up on behalf of men’s humanity—and the only group that has steadfastly refused to buy into the pornified image of men as amoral life-support systems for erect penises.

The porn industry tells us that men need their porn, that ‘boys will be boys’. Now Susannah Breslin informs us in the Guardian that they also need strip clubs so they can express their ‘sexuality’ without fear of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Is this who men really are? Are they in fact so pathetic, socially inept, and incapable of developing authentic relationships with an equal partner? Do they really need to go to strip clubs because they are “a place where they can step outside the anxiety-fraught dating scene and talk to a woman who, as long as he keeps tipping, will give him the time of day”? Do they really need a safe space where they can treat women in ways that would warrant legal action in other contexts?

As the mother of a son, I have a vested interest in speaking up on behalf of men. My son—and I bet your son, too—was born with the full human capacity to develop a sexuality that is not based on the purchase of women’s bodies and feigned attention. But from the day my boy was born, this culture relentlessly bombarded him with messages that to be a real man was to be sexually exploitive, emotionally disconnected, and interested only in screwing as many women as he could. His masculinity was to be measured by his sexual conquests, and to refuse to buy into this limited, debased image of masculinity risked being labeled a pussy, a fag, a wimp—a gender traitor who had to be mercilessly ridiculed and policed by the alpha males of the pack.

When men do submit to the gender prison rules, when they become the sexual predator, the john, or the user, this is somehow construed as an expression of their authentic, inherent sexuality.  It’s as if a young man woke up one day and, all by himself, came to the reasoned conclusion that the best way to develop and express his sexuality was to watch women who, often through lack of economic choice, are forced to strip in front of creepy men and pretend that they are thrilled to be spreading their legs to pay the rent and put food on the table for the kids. Both women and men are paying a heavy price for this commercially constructed distortion of sexuality.

In his book Guyland, which discusses masculinity in the U.S., sociologist Michael Kimmel explores how college-age men today are not keeping up developmentally with their female counterparts. Plugged into video games from an early age, masturbating to porn, drinking themselves into a stupor, and replacing dating with hook-up sex, young men are paying a heavy toll.

When we read Guyland in my classes, the women students lose hope of finding a man to partner with—and they are only in their early twenties! They often say that spending time with men their own age is like “babysitting,” and they feel frustrated and angry at having to pretend to be the cool hot girl who likes porn sex. Yet the sad truth is that to ask for something more than casual sex with a guy who gets his sex ed from porn is to break the rules of heterosexuality in a porn culture.

Men, you don’t know this, but we feminists are in fact your best friends. Unlike Breslin, we believe that you deserve the right to author your own sexuality. We have fought against a sex industry that strips you of your sexual integrity, because we know that you are capable of more than what they expect of you. Yes, men, we are rooting for you! But we are rapidly tiring of being the only group fighting for your rights. You need to stop collaborating with an industry that is out to get you, and join the feminists in fighting for an equal and just society that does not reduce you to a penis, and women to a vagina for rent. Stop the sex industry from defining who men are, because your sons (and daughters) deserve better than this.

From Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/23/escape-from-guyland/

Film Review: Noho Hewa (The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i)

Film Review: Noho Hewa (The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i)

By Owen Lloyd / Deep Green Resistance News Service

What does it mean for a land to be under occupation?

For most of us, the surest indication of an occupation is the most sensational: a strong military presence, working to intimidate and silence any and all resistance.  Along with this, we would expect to see governing institutions operated by a foreign power, working to ensure that decision-making will represent the interests of the occupying class.

In order to bolster their strength and fortify their presence, the occupying power will encourage their own citizens to immigrate– and pressure the local peoples out of the country or into ghettos. With the law on their side, the entire landscape can be taken under colonial control.

The material benefits for the occupying class should be clear,  but there is also a powerful symbolism in such a takeover. It allows them to reshape the entire cultural landscape into a place that not only welcomes the occupying class, but also humiliates and oppresses those whose land was taken away from them.

As Anne Keala Kelly’s film Noho Hewa spells out in clear and painful detail, this is the state of Hawai’i under United States occupation. The title of the film itself translates to “wrongful occupation” in the Hawaiian language.

Military occupation

As the indigenous Hawaiian activist Haunani-Kay Trask wrote in her book From a Native Daughter:

Hawai’i is a militarized outpost of empire, deploying troops and nuclear ships to the south and east to prevent any nation’s independence from American domination. Fully one-fifth of our resident population is military, causing intense friction between locals, who suffer from Hawai’i’s astronomically high cost of housing and land, and the military, who enjoys housing and beaches for their exclusive use. [1]

The United States military physically controls about 6% of Hawai’i, including nearly a quarter of O’ahu, the most populous island of the chain. On an island less than half the size of Long Island, the United States maintains an incredible 26 training ranges.

These sites are often home to numerous endangered species as well as Hawaiian sacred sites. For instance, the training base in Mākua valley is known to be ringed by hundreds of cultural sites, and numerous endangered species make their home in the surrounding forests. In 2003 a military burn scorched more than half of the valley, causing untold ecological damage and destroying numerous sacred sites.

In another example of abusive action, when the US military wanted to expand the sewer facilities at Pearl Harbor onto a Hawaiian burial site, they gave indigenous people two options: either the kūpuna (elders) could be dug up and moved elsewhere, or the military could build the sewer system directly over the burial mound. Never was consideration made that building a sewer system over a burial site would be impermissibly wrong. As Kaleikoa Ka’eo says in the film, “We’re always, always at the threat of being evicted from our homelands, even when we’re under the ground.”

Despite all of this, and despite intense opposition by Native Hawaiian people and environmental organizations, the land remains under military control. In a horrible reversal of terms, the military refers to campaigns intending to liberate occupied land as “encroachment issues”. [2]

My Oxford dictionary defines the word encroach as “[to] intrude, especially on another’s territory or rights”. Alternatively it can also mean “[to] advance gradually beyond due limits”. [3] Etymologically, the word encroach comes from the same root as our word “crook”, and has been used in the sense of “seize wrongfully” since around 1400. [4]

Beyond simply having the power to control and occupy indigenous land against resistance, the power to desecrate sacred sites and iwi kūpuna, and the power to destroy entire ecosystems, by using this language the military is attesting that these are legitimate actions, and that resistance by indigenous people is wrongful, intrusive, and crooked. Insofar as the military is continuing to advance their military bases “beyond due limits” and onto indigenous land, it becomes very clear who is actually encroaching and who is being encroached upon.

The insanity of this situation is further demonstrated by the knowledge that 60-70% of all land occupied by the military in Hawai’i is “ceded land” (J. Kēhaulani Kauanui reminds us that “Ceded is a polite word for stolen”) taken from the Hawaiian monarchy and rightfully belonging to Native Hawaiian people.

This arrogant belief in a rightful dominance over indigenous people, over the land, and over the control of language is characteristic of the occupation of Hawai’i.

Tourism industry occupation

The other side of occupation in Hawai’i is the tourism industry, who are complicit in many of the same crimes as the military. As Haunani-Kay Trask points out in the film, these two industries hem Hawaiian people in from both sides: the military subjects the people to a foreign power, and the tourism industry binds them into racial servitude for the benefit of wealthy white travelers.

The film explores the methods the tourism industry uses to exploit Hawaiian people and Hawaiian culture. Luxury resort developments are constructed next to token archaeological sites. Golf courses and wedding venues are located adjacent to burial mounds. These combinations are not accidents. Constructing grandiose colonial facilities next to ancient Hawaiian sites feeds the unending American appetite for feeling superior to so-called “primitive people.”

As Hawaiian activist Kaleikoa Ka’eo says in the film regarding one of these developments, “We are the Hawaiians! Hawaiians are moved from the area, banned from the area. And all that’s kept are the artifacts of the Hawaiians, the archaeology of the Hawaiians. It’s a right to have those things protected but keep the Hawaiians out.” The historian Noenoe Silva adds, quoting George Vizenor, “The simulation of the native presence always signals the native absence.”

The landscape is a colonial landscape of power, a landscape that says white people are in control and that the presence of non-whites is only welcome insofar as they are there to entertain and service wealthy tourists. American tourists travel to Hawai’i craving the enactment of a myth, a sexualized myth where Hawaiian people (particularly women) crave nothing more than to service American people (particularly men), a myth enacting the logic of what Trask has called “cultural prostitution”. [1]

Hawaiian people have recognized this about American tourists, and have recognized the power of confronting this mythology. For instance, as the film shows, Hawaiian activists are very vocal in telling tourists that they are not welcome on the islands, that their presence is intrusive. In this way, they are both able to assert a control over their space, and to fight the mythology that Hawaiian people are eager and complacent servants for wealthy tourists.

For instance, when a Wal-Mart construction project discovered 44 iwi kūpuna and illegally removed them from their resting place, literally storing them under an onramp, Hawaiian people were energetic in protesting the desecration, telling tourists going to the store that they were desecrating their elders. In spite of the protests, for more than three years Wal-Mart refused to reinter the iwi kūpuna, whose rest was only assured after the release of this film.

Hawai’i as Sacrifice Zone

Even when Hawaiian resistance succeeds in fighting the tourism industry, the victories are often hollow. For instance, when Moloka’i Ranch’s plan to construct an exclusive resort was defeated, the ranch decided to lease the land to Monsanto to produce experimental varieties of corn that are not even edible. This is by no means an anomaly in Hawai’i. Honohano Naehu describes the island chain as a “sacrifice zone” for the biotechnology industry. As Naehu explains, “We have the most open field test sites for GMOs in the whole world.”

The military also uses Hawai’i as a playground for experimental research, in particular through its work with the University of Hawai’i, whose Research Corporation received $254,672,192 in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense between 2002 and 2008. The military continued performing tests with Agent Orange in Hawai’i long after it was universally known to cause cancer.

Today it uses Hawai’i as a dumping ground for radioactive waste, a housing ground for nuclear weapons, and as a staging ground for nuclear war games. As David Keanu Sai points out, Hawai’i is one of the most likely targets for a nuclear strike in the event of a war with China or Russia, due both to its location and its militarization, and serves as a convenient lightning rod for Americans living on the continent.

Settler Colonialism

Yet another way that occupation manifests itself in Hawai’i is through the influx of settlers and the establishment of settler culture. When we hear the word colonialism, we tend to think of extractive colonialism– a foreign occupying power stripping the wealth from a country and shipping it home. However, the primary form of colonialism in Hawai’i is settler colonialism, which, as J. Kēhaulani Kauanui explains, is “about  implanting non-Hawaiians in Hawai’i” and “replacing the indigenous people within their own landscape”.

Sheerly through outnumbering Native Hawaiian people, Americans are able to leverage power over them. And for that reason, massive ad campaigns entice Americans living on the continent to move to Hawai’i. These migrations ensure that Hawaiians remain a physical minority in their homeland.

More than this, having a large number of settlers helps prop up and maintain a culture of occupation that humiliates and trivializes indigenous people, hammering home who rules who.

When the military burns a sacred valley filled with cultural sites, or a massive golf course opens next to a burial mound, or Wal-Mart desecrates a burial site and stores iwi under an onramp for years despite vocal protestations, these are acts of war and genocide against Hawaiian people. These are deliberate efforts to subjugate an unwanted class of people, to make them disappear.

Cultural appropriation and the settler’s use of the historical landscape as a prop also helps to reinforce the culture of occupation. As the archaeologist Ty Kāwika Tengan says:

Occupation is one of the techniques for erasing indigenous peoples. By denying their presence today is to show that look, they’re all gone and dead now. We have their bones to show for it. It denies the continued persistence of indigenous peoples and, in many ways, buttresses this kind of narrative of the settler societies that came to replace them.

The tourism industry also serves an important function in a culture of occupation, forcing Native Hawaiians out through sheer economic cost of living. As Trask has written, by some estimates more Hawaiian people now live on the US west coast than in the Hawaiian islands.

For many of those that remain, homelessness is the only option that remains. While Hawaiians make up less than 20% of the population of Hawai’i, they account for 60% of the homeless population. Ghettoized villages abound throughout the islands, some of them home to thousands of people, and are often threatened by developers looking to expand their occupation and exploitation of the landscape.


The Hawai’i that exists in our imagination is not the real Hawai’i. The real Hawai’i is a land that is under cultural, psychological, economic, ecological, and military siege. It is a land where sacred places are desecrated every day to humiliate Hawaiian people and prop up a colonial culture. It is one of the most militarized places in the world. It has the highest concentration of GMOs anywhere in the world. It has more endangered species per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

As Trask says in the film, “This is not our natural environment anymore. This is a tourist environment. This is a military environment.”

There is nothing about this that is inevitable. As the existence of this film shows, and as the voices within it make clear, the wrongful occupation of Hawai’i is not something that has to be taken for granted. It is something that can and will be resisted, and it is something that can and will be won. And this powerful film is an important step in making it happen.

[1] Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai’i (revised), p. 17
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/01/us/army-faces-fierce-fight-on-historic-hawaii-valley.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
[3] Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, 1991
[4] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=encroach

The film Noho Hewa can be purchased from its website at http://www.nohohewa.com/

Beautiful Justice: This Culture Killed Amanda Todd

Beautiful Justice: This Culture Killed Amanda Todd

By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin

“Hello! I’ve decided to tell you about my never ending story.” These were the words written on the first two flashcards that 15-year old Amanda Todd shows viewers in the silent video she created about two months before she recently committed suicide to escape social torture.

Anti-bullying posters hang in every public school across the United States, yet kids continue to harass and hurt each other without intervention. Every school day, 150,000 students stay home out of fear of being picked on. Bullying has become epidemic, but still is only a symptom of the broader culture in which it exists. Despite even the most earnest efforts, youth problems and school problems cannot be solved until social problems and cultural problems are.

Amanda Todd is dead not only because she was born into this culture of bullying, but because she was born into it with a female body. Her flashcards continued: “In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam meet and talk to new people. Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect, etc. Then wanted me to flash. So I did. 1 year later I got a msg on facebook from him. Don’t know how he knew me. It said if you don’t put on a show for me I will send ur boobs. He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family names. Christmas break. Knock at my door at 4am. It was the police. My photo was sent to everyone. I then got really sick and got anxiety, major depression, and panic disorder.”

While tragic to be sure, Amanda’s case is but one among countless more that lead girls and women first to crippling depression and then to their deaths.

“I then moved and got into drugs and alcohol,” the flashcards went on. “My anxiety got worse…couldn’t go out. A year past and he came back with my new list of friends and school. But made a facebook page. My boobs were his profile pic. Cried every night, lost all my friends and respect people had for me…again. Then nobody liked me. Name calling, judged. I can never get that photo back. It’s out there forever. I started cutting.  I promised myself never again. Didn’t have any friends and I sat at lunch alone. So I moved schools again.”

The public humiliation visited upon Amanda Todd is a routine experience for women living under patriarchy, the system currently ruling the world through a campaign of violence. Many girls who have been similarly targeted have not and likely will never have their stories told because, unlike Amanda, they have the added disadvantage of being poor or lesbian or not white on top of already being female, which is hard enough.

“Everything was better even though I sat still alone at lunch in the library every day. After a month later I started talking to an old guy friend. We back and fourth texted and he started to say he liked me. Led me on. He had a girlfriend. Then he said come over my gf’s on vacation. So I did…huge mistake. He hooked up with me. I thought he liked me. 1 week later I get a text get out of your school. His girlfriend and 15 others came including himself. The girl and 2 other just said look around nobody likes you. In front of my new school (50) people. A guy than yelled just punch her already. So she did…she threw me to the ground and punched me several times. Kids filmed it. I was all alone and left on the ground. I felt like a joke in this world…I thought nobody deserves this. I was alone.”

Patriarchy means rule by men. Women can certainly support this system, as we see in the case of the girls who attacked and abandoned Amanda Todd instead of supporting her when she needed it the most. Never will women truly benefit from patriarchy, though, as it is predicated on their subjugation to men. Patriarchy is a system of power that controls women’s lives in every sense: economically, socially, bodily, and otherwise. Men and women are trained from birth to accept and fit into their respective social classes, known in shorthand as masculinity and femininity.

Masculinity says that men are only real men when they are violating or dominating someone else, someone whom they’ve deemed as “Other.” Femininity is also designed by and benefits men, because it attempts to naturalize female submission by claiming that women just like to be hurt and controlled. The school years are some of the most formative for human development, and so serve as a prime opportunity to indoctrinate children into the myth of patriarchy.

Kindergarten through twelfth grade schooling may be too far back for some to clearly remember, but surely the word “cooties” rings a bell. In this single word is all we need to know about how girls and boys are trained to see one another. What they see is that despised “Other.” Not human beings. From girls versus boys playground games, to boys at a slumber party huddled around a Playboy, to incidents of date rape after prom, children know perfectly well the meaning of sexism, of sexual hatred, regardless of if they articulate it or not. Boys know how to do it and girls know how it feels to have it be done to.

And children know perfectly well the meaning of homophobia and racism, too.

Amanda’s flashcards continue: “I lied and said it was my fault and my idea. I didn’t want him getting hurt, I thought he really liked me. But he just wanted the sex…someone yelled punch her already. Teachers ran over but I just went and layed in a ditch and my dad found me. I wanted to die so bad…when he brought me home I drank bleach. It killed me inside and I thought I was gonna actually die. Ambulence came and brought me to the hospital and flushed me.”

Few will hesitate to sum up the case of Amanda Todd as bullying, plain and simple, but perhaps it’s not so plain or simple. In her article about the Amanda Todd tragedy, educator and feminist Fazeela Jiwa takes the term “bullying” to task. She writes, “Bullying glosses over structural reasons for violence—reasons like race, gender, ability, and sexuality, among a myriad of insidious social hierarchies.”

From what is public knowledge about the trajectory of Amanda’s suffering, it’s hard not to see that the bullying she experienced was a direct result of her being female. Like all girls and women, she was a target of male violence. As Amanda has made clear, she was majorly coerced and exploited by two distinct male characters: the first pressured her to show her naked body over the internet, images of which he saved and used as blackmail against her for more sexual favors; the second manipulated her into having sex with him, only to later pit his girlfriend against her which resulted in the severe ambush that brought Amanda to first attempt suicide.

“After I got home all I saw on facebook—she deserved it,” read Amanda’s words. “Did you wash the mud out of your hair? I hope shes dead. Nobody cared. I moved away to another city to my moms. Another school…I didn’t wanna press charges because I wanted to move on. 6 months has gone by…people are pasting pics of bleach, clorex, and ditches. Tagging me. I was doing a lot better too. They said she should try a different bleach. I hope she dies this time and isn’t so stupid. They said I hope she sees this and kills herself.”

A few years ago, an anti-bullying event was hosted at City Hall. I and two other young activists and personal friends of mine were asked to speak on a panel on behalf of a radical community space with which we were involved. Other panels included teachers, parents, therapists, and students. All presented from their unique perspectives on the harms of bullying in school environments. Lesbian and gay high school students shared stories of being personally abused by kids at school: they told stories of being physically struck, shoved, and spit on. Many heterosexual students spoke, too. They were not spared from bullying either, targeted usually because they apparently looked or talked the wrong way.

Most of the adults who spoke suggested as a solution more strict consequences for those caught bullying. They also suggested more established support networks for the victims. Both ideas seemed appropriate to me, yet clearly incommensurate on their own. These have been the same solutions offered for years and bullying has not been prevented as a result. When it was my panel’s turn to speak, we pointed out that bullying is not an isolated act, but an obvious by-product of a culture sick with the drive of competition. We dared to be more explicit about the root problem: capitalism. (In case you’re wondering, no. The police stationed at the City Hall building were not in attendance at the event. And no, they did not ask us to spend the night.)

Who is ultimately responsible for Amanda Todd’s death? Who can stop bullying?

Is it the teachers? First of all, that depends on if the teacher is a decent human being. Many teachers, especially those who are male, do nothing but egg on the aggression in students. For our purposes, though, let’s say the teacher truly does care and wants to do what she or he can to prevent bullying. Well, next is how. The means available for teachers to make a difference are rapidly dwindling with school boards and administrations being taken over by the right-wing, comprised of people who are bent on disallowing even art and music programs, never mind a comprehensive anti-bullying curriculum. Regardless, much bullying happens out of the sight of teachers. It’s in the bathrooms, in the hallways, at recess, or before or after school.

Then it’s up to the parents to stop it. Once again, this depends on the parents being good human beings. Judging by the mass injustice and ecological crises caused by this society, I don’t see much reason to be optimistic about most people. However, for our purposes, let’s pretend these are parents that truly do care, that want to do what it takes to stop their child from bullying others or from being bullied. The parents can spend all the time they’d like having conversations with their child after school, but most kids learn just as much or more about life from the other kids they are around during the day. Unless every parent of every student is teaching the same lessons of love and compassion, and unless every student is listening in earnest and soaking up the morals, it’s only a matter of time before one child comes across another who says something like, “hey, let’s go make fun of that girl’s crooked teeth” or “hey, look at that fat kid.”

All of this brings us back to the original culprit; the one that creates the indecency of so many teachers and parents who enable bullying. I’m speaking of the dominant culture. If we have any chance of stopping the cruelty committed by children, we must stop the cruelty committed by adults. Where do we think the kids learn it? As Fazeela Jiwa notes, “Violent behavior stems from a tolerance of, or a reluctance to acknowledge, the power imbalances mired in the fabric of our social structures at all age levels…The same oppressive learned behaviors occur in the workplace, in bars and clubs, on the street, and in other adult-inhabited places.”

This whole country was founded on bullying. It started and continues with the genocide of indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans, the use of women as chattel, and the destruction of the natural world. To stop bullying means to stop the misogynists, white supremacists, homophobes, and earth-killers in power. It means to end capitalism.

Amanda Todd’s never ending story eventually did end when she tried again to drink bleach, and this time succeeded in taking her life. Even after her death, people continue to celebrate her humiliation and complain about the public outcry as annoying. This is sadism beyond words.

Those who are bullied need to know it’s not their fault. Those who are not bullied need to stand in absolute solidarity and intervene at every instance of abuse. As long as some people profit, whether socially or economically or both, from another’s suffering, none of us are free. Amanda’s never ending story is the never ending story of so many suffering under this cruel and ruthless culture. Unless we rise up to stop it, we can expect nothing from the future but more Amanda Todds.

“Why do I get this?” the flashcards in Amanda’s video finished. “I messed up by why follow me. I left your guys city. I’m constantly crying now. Every day I think why am I still here? My anxiety is horrible now. Never went out this summer. All from my past…lifes never getting better. Can’t go to school meet or be with people. Constantly cutting. I’m really depressed. I’m on antidepressants now and counseling and a month ago this summer I overdosed. In hospital for 2 days. I’m stuck…whats left of me now. Nothing stops. I have nobody. I need someone. My name is Amanda Todd.”

Beautiful Justice is a monthly column by Ben Barker, a writer and community organizer from West Bend, Wisconsin. Ben is a member of Deep Green Resistance and is currently writing a book about toxic qualities of radical subcultures and the need to build a vibrant culture of resistance.

Report finds half of earth’s wetlands destroyed since 1900

Report finds half of earth’s wetlands destroyed since 1900

By Agence France-Presse

An alarming 50 percent of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed in the last 100 years, threatening human welfare at a time of increasing water scarcity, a new report said.

Wetlands serve as a source of drinking water and provide protection against floods and storms, yet they have been decimated to make space for housing, factories and farms or damaged by unsustainable water use and pollution.

“In just over 100 years we have managed to destroy 50 percent of the world’s wetlands,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

“It is a startling figure,” he said at a UN conference in Hyderabad.

The report, compiled by an ongoing research project entitled TEEB, or The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, said coastal wetland losses in some regions, including Asia, have been happening at a rate of 1.6 percent per year.

“Taking mangroves as an example, 20 per cent (3.6 million hectares) of total coverage has been lost since 1980, with recent rates of loss of up to one percent per year,” said the report released Tuesday.

“We need wetlands because our existence, our food and our water is at stake,” said Ritesh Kumar of the environmental group Wetlands International.

Wetlands are known to cover about 13 million square kilometres (five million square miles) of the Earth’s surface, and are a natural sink for Earth-warming carbon dioxide, act as fish nurseries and are important tourist attractions.

In the United States alone, wetlands are estimated to provide $23 billion worth of storm protection every year, the report said.

The report was released at a conference of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, where environment ministers will hold three days of talks from Wednesday to try and raise funds to stop the decline of Earth’s natural resources.

From The Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/17/half-of-all-wetlands-destroyed-since-1900-threatening-human-welfare/