Preparing National Guards for Protests: Foresight or Suppression?

Preparing National Guards for Protests: Foresight or Suppression?

Editor’s Note: A week after the killing of a land-defender, the Governer of Georgia has signed an executive order to prepare national guards for protests against police brutality. Georgia has one of the highest incarceration rates in US. The protestors were defending a forest that was ordered to be cut down to build a “Cop City.” The protestors had set up camps and treehouses, which were being demolished by the cops before Tortuguita, the land-defender was shot. While the police claim that the victim had first attacked the police, it remains disputed by other demonstrators.

As a resistance gets more effective, the powerful use all means necessary to crush the resistance. Police crackdown is one of those tactics. Some activists, regardless of their dedication, may not be in a position to bear it for one reason or another. There will be others who are prepared to be on the frontline. Good organizing includes preparing the frontliners for any anticipated events.


While the move comes after law enforcement in Georgia killed a “Cop City” protester, one official said it is a “purely precautionary” measure before the anticipated release of video footage from an arrest in Tennessee.

By Jessica Corbett/Common Dreams

Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency through at least February 9 that will enable him to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops “as necessary.”

The order follows protests in Atlanta after 26-year-old forest defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran was shot dead last week during a multi-agency raid on an encampment to oppose construction of Cop City, a nearby law enforcement training center. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), which is investigating the case, has said Teran was killed after he shot and wounded a state trooper.

While the order begins by stating that “protests turned violent in downtown Atlanta” last Saturday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Kemp’s aides signaled that the move was not about the Cop City demonstrations but rather in anticipation of any potential response to video footage from Memphis, Tennessee showing the arrest of Black motorist Tyre Nichols.

As Common Dreams reported earlier Thursday, five fired Memphis cops were charged with second-degree murder and other crimes related to Nichols’ death. Footage of the 29-year-old’s arrest is expected to be released sometime after 6:00 pm local time on Friday.

“We understand the executive order is purely precautionary based on possible unrest following the release of the videos from Memphis,” an official in Georgia with direct knowledge of the situation told the AJC. “There are no immediate intentions to deploy the guard.”

The Atlanta Police Department also mentioned the Memphis case in a statement Thursday:

We are closely monitoring the events in Memphis and are prepared to support peaceful protests in our city. We understand and share in the outrage surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols. Police officers are expected to conduct themselves in a compassionate, competent, and constitutional manner and these officers failed Tyre, their communities, and their profession. We ask that demonstrations be safe and peaceful.

In a series of tweets Thursday, the Atlanta Community Press Collective named several people killed by law enforcement in recent years and suggested that Kemp’s order is about “trying to instill fear in anyone who stands up against police brutality.”

Meanwhile, national groups and progressive lawmakers have echoed local demands for an independent probe in Teran’s case.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has highlighted that it is separate from the Georgia State Patrol and said that GBI “is conducting an independent investigation,” after which it will “turn the investigative file over to the prosecutor.” The agency noted Wednesday that DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston has recused herself from the case so a special prosecutor will be assigned.

Some have pushed back against the “police narrative” that the “corporate media has ran away with” for Teran’s case, as forest defender Kamau Franklin told Democracy Now! last week, adding that “we find it less than likely that the police version of events is what really happened.”

“And that’s why we’re calling for an independent investigation, not one that’s done by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, not one that’s done by any federal authority, but a complete independent investigation,” Franklin said, “because that’s the only way we’re going to know what really happened.”

Featured image by Levi Meir Clancy via Unsplash

Forever Chemicals in Every River in the US

Forever Chemicals in Every River in the US

Editor’s Note: Plastic is not found in nature, so no microorganisms evolved to break it down completely. Microplastics are often too small to pick up or even notice, but they are everywhere: in the air, dust, and rain. They have been found in placentas and breast milk, and they appear especially abundant in baby poop— 10 times more than in adult feces. Plastic is a toxin and pollutant that is a byproduct of the production of fossil fuel manufacturing. People never asked for plastics, they were forced on us by industry. Eighty years ago there was no plastic in the stores. Today you would be hard pressed to find a product that is not covered in plastic. Deemed the “greatest thing since sliced bread,” plastic has brought convenience at a terrible cost. We have saturated the planet with a material that does not biologically break down, forever plastics. An EWG study shows the astounding level of PFAS in freshwater fish.


By The Environmental Working Group (EWG)

PFAS found at high levels in freshwater fish, with most concern for vulnerable communities

WASHINGTON – A new study by Environmental Working Group scientists finds that consumption of just a single serving of freshwater fish per year could be equal to a month of drinking water laced with the “forever chemical” PFOS at high levels that may be harmful.

Researchers calculated that eating one fish in a year equated to ingesting water with PFOS at 48 parts per trillion, or ppt, for one month.

The study bolsters EWG’s long-running calls for strict regulation of PFOS and the other toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, in addition to more tests of food such as fish, since diet is thought to be a major source of PFAS exposure for Americans. The findings are a particular issue for communities with environmental justice concerns, whose survival often depends on eating freshwater fish they’ve caught.

EWG found the median amounts of PFAS in freshwater fish were an astounding 280 times greater than forever chemicals detected in some commercially caught and sold fish. The testing data, from the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, showed that consuming a single meal of freshwater fish could lead to similar PFAS exposure as ingesting store-bought fish every day for a year.

“People who consume freshwater fish, especially those who catch and eat fish regularly, are at risk of alarming levels of PFAS in their bodies,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist and one of the study’s lead authors. “Growing up, I went fishing every week and ate those fish. But now when I see fish, all I think about is PFAS contamination.”

The forever chemical found at greatest concentrations in freshwater fish was PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard, averaging roughly three in four of total PFAS detections.

“These test results are breathtaking,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Eating one bass is equivalent to drinking PFOS-tainted water for a month.”

Consumption of PFOS-contaminated freshwater fish can cause significant increases in people’s blood serum levels of the forever chemical, creating potential health risks. Even infrequent consumption of freshwater fish can raise PFOS levels in the body.

“The extent that PFAS has contaminated fish is staggering,” said Nadia Barbo, a graduate student at Duke University and lead researcher on this project. “There should be a single health protective fish consumption advisory for freshwater fish across the country.”

The researchers analyzed data from more than 500 samples of fish fillets collected in the U.S. from 2013 to 2015 under monitoring programs by the EPA, the National Rivers and Streams Assessment and the Great Lakes Human Health Fish Fillet Tissue Study. The median level of total PFAS in fish fillets was 9,500 nanograms per kilogram, with a median level of 11,800 nanograms per kilogram in the Great Lakes.

“PFAS contaminate fish across the U.S., with higher levels in the Great Lakes and fish caught in urban areas,” said Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D., an EWG senior scientist and another co-author. “PFAS do not disappear when products are thrown or flushed away. Our research shows that the most common disposal methods may end up leading to further environmental pollution.”

Freshwater fish are an important source of protein for many people, and PFAS contamination threatens those who cannot afford to purchase commercial seafood. Communities that depend on fishing for sustenance and for traditional cultural practices are inordinately harmed. This makes exposure to chemical pollutants in freshwater fish a textbook case of environmental injustice.

“Identifying sources of PFAS exposure is an urgent public health priority,” said Stoiber.

“Forever chemicals” in freshwater fish

Drinking water systems across the U.S. are contaminated with “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. The presence of these toxic chemicals in water is known to harm humans who are exposed to them.

Interactive map: ‘Forever chemicals’ in freshwater fish

Drinking water systems across the U.S. are contaminated with the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. The presence of these toxic chemicals in water is known to harm humans who are exposed to them. This map shows how PFAS also contaminate fish in rivers, lakes and streams.

Industrial pollution

The widespread contamination of fish in rivers and streams across the country further emphasizes the need to end industrial discharges of PFAS.

EWG estimates there may be more than 40,000 industrial polluters of PFAS in the U.S. Tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, municipal landfills and wastewater treatment plants, airports, and sites where PFAS-containing firefighting foams have been used are potential sources of PFAS discharges into surface water.

This contamination of water has spread PFAS to soil, crops and wildlife, including fish.

“For decades, polluters have dumped as much PFAS as they wanted into our rivers, streams, lakes and bays with impunity. We must turn off the tap of PFAS pollution from industrial discharges, which affect more and more Americans every day,” said EWG’s Faber.

Testing fish for PFAS

The EPA and the FDA test differently to detect PFAS in fish. The EPA uses what’s known as draft Method 1633 to test for up to 40 PFAS compounds in fish tissue, as well as in wastewater, surface water, groundwater, soil, biosolids, sediment and the liquid that forms when waste breaks down in landfills.

National EPA tests show nearly all fish in U.S. rivers and streams are contaminated with PFAS in the parts-per-billion range – even greater than parts per trillion. Although the most recent test results found decreasing PFAS levels, freshwater fish are still contaminated at high levels.

The FDA improved its scientific method to test for 20 different PFAS compounds. Its approach is used to test seafood samples, as well as processed foods. In its 2022 survey of seafood, the FDA found much lower levels of PFAS in seafood from grocery stores. The median levels of total PFAS detected by the EPA were 280 times higher than levels in commercially sold fish tested by the FDA.

Health risks

PFAS are among the most persistent compounds in existence, contaminating everything from drinking water to food, food packaging and personal care products. PFAS build up in our bodies and never break down in the environment. They are found in the blood of virtually everyone, including newborn babies.

Very low doses of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to suppression of the immune system, including reduced vaccine efficacy, and an increased risk of certain cancers. PFAS are linked with increased cholesterol, reproductive and developmental problems and other health harms.

More than 200 million Americans could be drinking water contaminated with PFAS. The problem is likely worse than has already been confirmed, further underscoring the need for swift regulatory action.

“The EPA needs to move swiftly to set regulations for the industries most likely to be dumping PFAS into the environment. Downstream communities especially have suffered the consequences of unregulated PFAS discharges for far too long,” added Faber.

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

 


Featured image: “Wonder Bread, 1961 – Advertising Postcard” by Shook Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

An Environmental Defender Is Killed Every Two Days

An Environmental Defender Is Killed Every Two Days

Editor’s Note: Although it is taught in college, there are no business ethics. Industries have no morals. Their only purpose is to make money. There is no honor among thieves. If they have to kill to make a profit, so be it. It is most easily seen in the military industrial complex.

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious”. – Major General Smedley Butler

Civilization is raging a war against nature. If people get in the way of that destruction they will be violently removed, which can lead to their death. As this report shows, this is a reality in most of the world. We as defenders must be aware of this and prepare ourselves to protect ourselves because in most states the perpetrators are not prosecuted. We honor our fallen heroes and strive to bring the criminals to justice.


By Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams

“All over the world, Indigenous peoples and environmental defenders risk their lives for the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss,” said the head of Global Witness.

The advocacy group Global Witness on Thursday marked 10 years of collecting data on slain environmental defenders by publishing a new report revealing that at least 1,733 people have been killed over the past decade — a rate of one murder every two days.

“Our data on killings is likely to be an underestimate, given that many murders go unreported.”

The report — entitled “Decade of Defiance: Ten Years of Reporting Land and Environmental Activism Worldwide” — underscores how land inequality and efforts by governments, corporations, and wealthy individuals to own and control land drives deadly violence against activists.

“All over the world, Indigenous peoples and environmental defenders risk their lives for the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss,” Global Witness CEO Mike Davis said in a statement. “Activists and communities play a crucial role as a first line of defense against ecological collapse, as well as being frontrunners in the campaign to prevent it.”

As the climate emergency worsens, so does the killing, violence, and other repression that come with the capitalistic pursuit of land and the natural resources above and below the soil.

“Driven by the rising demand for food, fuel, and commodities, the last decade has seen an upsurge in land grabs for industries like mining, logging, agribusiness, and infrastructure projects, with local communities rarely consulted or compensated,” the report states.

“The actors colluding to grab land tend to be corporations, foreign investment funds, national and local state officials, and the governments of wealthy yet resource-poor nations looking to cheaply acquire land, harming local populations in the process,” the publication continues.

Global Witness said around 200 activists were murdered around the world in 2021 alone, a decrease from the 227 recorded killings in 2020. Although they make up only around 5% of the world’s population, more than 40% of the deadly attacks on environmental defenders targeted Indigenous people last year.

Mexico suffered 54 slain environmental defenders in 2021, the most of any nation and a marked spike from 30 killings reported there in 2020. Colombia (33), Brazil (26), the Philippines (19), Nicaragua (15), and India (14) all experienced more than 10 reported activist killings last year.

Of the 10 activist murders reported across Africa last year, eight were rangers killed in Congo’s Virunga National Park, where militant groups are fighting for control of resource-rich lands that are also home to some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas.

Global Witness cautioned that “our data on killings is likely to be an underestimate, given that many murders go unreported, particularly in rural areas and in particular countries.”

Indian scholar and activist Vandana Shiva said in an introduction to the report that “these numbers are not made real until you hear some of the names of those who died.”


Featured Image: An active jade mine in Hpakant township in Kachin state, northern Myanmar. Image by Arezarni via Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0)

 

Biomass Firms Tell Bright Green Lies

Biomass Firms Tell Bright Green Lies

Editor’s Note: Saplings cannot replace mature forests, with their hundreds of years of biodiversity and carbon sequestration. The biomass industry is destroying mature forests with a promise of planting saplings. Even if it had come from “waste wood,” huge amounts of energy is still involved in cutting, chipping, transporting and manufacturing of biomass pellets. Adding to that is the emissions involved in the actual burning. Biomass manufacturing is not green, clean or renewable. The sooner we stop doing it, the better.


By Justin Catanoso / Mongabay

  • On December 5, 2022, Mongabay featured a story by journalist Justin Catanoso in which the first ever biomass industry insider came forward as a whistleblower and discredited the green sustainability claims made by Enviva — the world’s largest maker of wood pellets for energy.
  • On December 15, citing that article and recent scientific evidence that Enviva contributes to deforestation in the U.S. Southeast, The Netherlands decided it will stop paying subsidies to any biomass company found to be untruthful in its wood pellet production methods. The Netherlands currently offers sizable subsidies to Enviva.
  • Precisely how The Netherlands decision will impact biomass subsidies in the long run is unclear. Nor is it known how this decision may impact the EU’s Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) certification process, which critics say is inherently weak and unreliable.
  • Also in December, Australia became the first major nation to reverse its designation of forest biomass as a renewable energy source, raising questions about how parties to the UN Paris agreement can support opposing renewable energy policies, especially regarding biomass — a problem for COP28 negotiators to resolve in 2023.

Prompted by exclusive reporting from Mongabay, the House of Representatives in The Netherlands’s Parliament has approved a motion that compels its government to stop paying subsidies to wood-pellet manufacturers found to be untruthful in their wood-harvesting practices.

On December 14, the Dutch House, by a 150-114 vote, approved a motion introduced by Rep. Lammert van Raan of Amsterdam, a member of the progressive Party for the Animals. In his motion, van Raan noted that up to €9.5 billion ($10 billion) have been reserved by the government through 2032 to subsidize the purchase of domestic and foreign-produced wood pellets for energy and heat generation.

“The risk of fraud with sustainability certification of biomass is significant,” van Raan wrote. Then, in reference to a Mongabay story published December 5, he added: “A whistleblower who worked at Enviva, the biggest maker of wood pellets, has reported that all of Enviva’s green claims are incorrect [and] according to an important recent scientific study… Enviva contributes to deforestation in the southeastern U.S.”

Van Raan concluded his motion by writing that the House “calls on the government to ensure that all subsidies do not end up at parties that cheat with sustainability certification.”

The approved motion requires the Dutch government to seek a higher level of proof under the third-party Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) certification process. Enviva already participates in the SBP, but critics note that the certification process is inherently weak and unreliable, especially regarding the climate and biodiversity impacts of tree harvesting.

Van Raan’s motion seeks to address such problems as the SBP standards used by the European Union are not seen as adequately holding pellet manufacturers accountable for their harvest practices. NGOs and journalists have shown, for example, that clear cutting of native, biodiverse forests are common industry practices, yet such harvests are still certified as sustainable. The Netherlands’ challenge is to make the SBP process more rigorous and transparent. And if those higher standards aren’t met, pellet makers like Enviva could lose millions in subsidies.

Whistleblower speaks out

The Mongabay story that precipitated the Dutch motion featured the first employee from within the multibillion-dollar global wood pellet manufacturing industry to ever speak out publicly. The whistleblower, a high-ranking Enviva plant official who declined to be named, told Mongabay that Enviva’s claims of using mostly treetops, limbs and wood waste to produce pellets were false, as were other sustainable policy claims.

“We take giant, whole trees. We don’t care where they come from,” said the whistleblower, who no longer works for Enviva. “The notion of sustainably managed forests is nonsense. We can’t get wood into the mills fast enough.”

Mongabay confirmed many of the whistleblower’s allegations in November when this reporter observed firsthand a forest clearcut in eastern North Carolina where nearly half the trees from a 52-acre industrial site were chipped and transported to an Enviva pellet-making plant. Also, a recent study by the Southern Environmental Law Center illustrated how Enviva’s tree harvesting since opening its first plant in 2011 in North Carolina is contributing to net deforestation in coastal North Carolina and southern Virginia.

In response, Enviva told Mongabay it stood by its public assertions regarding the sustainability of its wood-harvesting practices. The company also said it believed the whistleblower was not credible in his allegations.

Global doubts over biomass as a renewable energy source

In April, The Netherlands voted to stop subsidizing wood pellets for about 50 new heat-generating, wood-burning plants. But existing plants (200 for heat, and four for energy that co-fire with wood pellets and coal) still receive subsidies of nearly €600 million annually ($635 million). In 2021, The Netherlands imported 1.2 million metric tons of wood pellets from the southeastern U.S., much of that coming from Enviva.

The move by the Dutch to hold pellet makers accountable for their sustainable harvest claims — a first in the European Union — comes at the same time the biomass industry suffered its first global setback. On December 15, Australia amended its renewable energy policy to exclude woody biomass from native forests as a renewable energy source. That decision essentially blocks the biomass industry, which has no presence in Australia, from getting started there.

More trouble may lie ahead for Enviva. A Seattle-based law firm, Hagens Berman, is seeking plaintiffs in a possible class-action lawsuit against the Maryland-based public company.

The law firm is recruiting Enviva investors who believe they have been harmed financially by what the attorneys call greenwashing — appealing to investors because of Enviva’s ESG (Environment Social Governance) credentials, when in fact the company is allegedly harming the environment and contributing to climate change.

Enviva denies these allegations as well. Hagens Berman has set a January 3, 2023 deadline for plaintiffs to come forward.

The growing unease of governments toward biomass as a subsidized renewable energy source comes after years of pressure from scientists and forest advocates who have presented evidence and argued that burning forests to make energy is dirtier than coal, while also harming ecosystems and reducing forest carbon storage capacity — even as the climate and biodiversity crises intensify.

Mongabay has reported on biomass since 2014 with more than 60 articles, while other media outlets have increasingly brought attention to the topic.

Activists have pressed hard for years to put a biomass discussion on the agenda at annual UN climate summits, to no avail, but are encouraged by events in The Netherlands and Australia. They say they remain hopeful that actions by policymakers will soon match growing public opposition to using forest wood for energy in a climate crisis.

Justin Catanoso is a regular contributor to Mongabay and a professor of journalism at Wake Forest University in the United States.


Featured image Ameresco Biomass Cogeneration Facility at SRS by Savannah River Site is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Europe Removed Dams at a Surprising Rate

Europe Removed Dams at a Surprising Rate

Editor’s note: Dams change the way rivers function and they impact water quality. Slow-moving or still artificial lakes heat up. This results in abnormal temperature fluctuations which affect sensitive species and lead to algal blooms and decreased oxygen levels. Organic materials build up behind dams and start to produce the perfect environment for carbon dioxide and methane producing microbes. Particularly, migratory species are badly affected by the presence of dams.

Although dams are being taken down in Europe and the US because people have begun to realize the dam-age they do to ecosystems, they are not coming down fast enough. Additionally, new ones continue to be built. At this point in the human caused ecological collapse of the planet’s life support systems, it would be best to leave dam building to the beavers. 


By Tara Lohan /The Revelator.

The 1999 demolition of the Edwards Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River set off a wave of dam removals across the United States. Since then some 1,200 dams have come down to help restore rivers and aquatic animals, improve water quality, and boost public safety — among other benefits.

Across the Atlantic, European nations have been busy removing thousands of river barriers, too. But until recently the efforts have gone largely unnoticed, even among experts.

Pao Fernández Garrido can attest to that.

An engineer and expert in ecosystem restoration from Spain, Fernández Garrido was finishing her master’s thesis in 2012 when she attend a dam-removal training in Massachusetts that was part of a conference on fish passage.

She was floored to learn about the United States’ widespread dam-removal efforts and returned to Europe determined to learn what was happening with dam removals on the continent — and to be a part of the action.

So did Herman Wanningen, a freshwater consultant  from the Netherlands, who also attended the conference. Fernández Garrido joined him when he founded the World Fish Migration Foundation in 2014. Soon after they helped form a coalition organization called Dam Removal Europe that also includes European Rivers Network, WWF, Rewilding Europe, the Rivers Trust, Wetlands International and the Nature Conservancy.

One of the first things Fernández Garrido and her colleagues wanted to know was the extent of river fragmentation on the continent. That wasn’t easy: While the United States has an exhaustive inventory of its 90,000 dams, not every European country, they learned, had collected similar data.

At the time not much was known beyond the fact that Europe had 7,000 large dams. But as their project to map river barriers, known as AMBER, got underway, they learned the on-the-ground reality included many smaller dams and other barriers — at least 1.2 million river barriers in 36 European countries.

Fernández Garrido and her colleagues spent more than three years on research, including river surveys in 26 countries, to gather the more robust data. Their results, published in Nature in 2020, found that on average river barriers occur almost every half mile.

Two-thirds of these barriers are under seven feet tall, but small doesn’t mean insignificant. Low-head dams and smaller obstructions like weirs and sluices can still block the movement of some fish, as well as aquatic plants, invertebrates, and the flow of sediment and nutrients.

Many of the dams — around 150,000 — are also obsolete and no longer provide any beneficial functions.

The good news, though, is that they also found that 4,000 European river barriers had already come down in the previous 20 years, with France, Finland, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom being the most active.

These efforts, though, had largely flown under the radar.

“Nobody was talking about these, nobody,” says Fernández Garrido. “The United States is celebrating that it has removed 1,200 and nobody’s celebrating in Europe because nobody knows.”

That’s changed as they continued with their work to compile research, organize supporters across the continent, and push policymakers for action.

In 2019 the researchers delivered a report on case studies of dam removals and their benefits to the European Commission. The following year the World Fish Migration Foundation published the first-ever Living Planet Index on the global state of migratory fish. It found that migratory freshwater fish populations in Europe had dropped 93% since 1970, much higher than the already dismal global average of 76%.

The cumulative weight of those findings may have had a big impact on policy.

That same year the European Commission published its biodiversity strategy for 2030.

“For the first time ever in history, it stated that we should free at least 25,000 kilometers (15,500 miles) of river in Europe from barriers by 2030,” says Fernández Garrido.

While that was welcome news, it was still only a guideline — not legally binding.

In May 2022, however, the commission followed up with a proposal called the EU Nature Restoration Law. “In this law, they say we must start removing dams,” she says. And the proposed language calls for restoring 15,500 miles of river to a “free-flowing state by 2030.”

The European Parliament will need to ratify the law in the next couple of years. “In the meantime politicians could work to weaken it,” she says. “That’s why environmental groups are working hard to keep it strong.”

On the ground, the work to restore free-flowing rivers continues.

Last year 239 river barriers were removed in 17 European countries, including more than 100 in Spain. Finland is in the process of removing three hydroelectric dams on the Hiitolanjoki River, which will aid salmon populations. And France is home to the tallest dam removal on the continent yet, the 118-foot Vezins Dam on the Sélune River in Normandy, which was removed in 2020. Demolition began this summer on a second dam on the river, La Roche Qui Boit, which will allow the Sélune to run free for the first time in 100 years. Migratory fish populations like salmon are expected to return, and the dam removals will also reduce toxic algae that pooled in the warm waters of the reservoirs during summer.

Some of this work — and more — is showcased in a new documentary, #DamBusters, by director Francisco Campos-Lopez of Magen Entertainment. The film follows Fernández Garrido across Europe as she meets dam-removal heroes in Spain, France, Estonia, Lithuania and Finland.

“Restoring nature is probably the job of our time, our generation,” she says in the film.

“Construction to remove Centreville Dam” by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

But it’s a process that will also take time.

“There are some river systems, like for example in North America, where the benefits of dam removal are shocking and so amazing because that river system was only blocked for only 100 years,” she tells The Revelator. “But when you are talking about recovering our river systems in Europe that have been controlled and mismanaged for 500 years, 600 years, 1,000 years, we have to be cautious about what we expect.”

But even if ecological restoration comes more gradually, political movement has been swift.

“The progress since we started in 2016 until now — having policies proposed at the European level — it’s amazing,” Fernández Garrido says. “It’s really an achievement.”

The combination of research, policy reports, political pressure and movement-building have kickstarted a river restoration effort that shows no signs of slowing down — and could be a model for other regions.

Photo by Yifu Wu on Unsplash

Corporate Capture of Global Biodiversity Efforts of UN Summit

Corporate Capture of Global Biodiversity Efforts of UN Summit

Editor’s Note: The UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) was held from the 7th to 19th of December, 2022 in Montreal, Canada. This article was published shortly before that. It highlights how the COP has been hijacked by corporate interests. Corporate capture of environmental movement is not new. For a long time now, corporations have been trying to push their agenda in the form of greenwashing. Unless we reject these tactics and any form of corporate influence over these conferences, there is little benefits that they could bring to the natural world.


By Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams

“Their ‘solutions’ are carefully crafted in order to not undermine their business models; ultimately they do nothing for the environment,” said one Friends of the Earth campaigner.

With the next United Nations Biodiversity Conference set to kick off in Canada this week, a report out Monday details how corporate interests have attempted to influence efforts to protect the variety of life on Earth amid rampant species loss.

“Addressing corporate capture of the CBD is a precondition for saving biodiversity.”

After a long-delayed and mostly virtual meeting in Kunming, China last year to work on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), nearly 20,000 delegates are headed to Montreal for the second part of COP15, which will bring together countries party to a multilateral treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) report, titled The Nature of Business: Corporate Influence Over the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Biodiversity Framework, “explores how business interests have tried to shape the recent course of the work” of the 30-year-old treaty and, “in many cases, have succeeded in doing so.”

While the publication focuses specifically on the development of the new framework — widely regarded as a Paris climate agreement for nature — the group’s analysis notes that “the context is the broader and longer span of business influence over the CBD, especially since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 where the CBD was open for signature.”

“To achieve their desired results,” the report explains, “corporations have used a variety of tactics and strategies to influence the CBD processes, including the following: direct party lobbying; targeting individual delegations or becoming part of them; installing direct contacts in the CBD Secretariat; making use of revolving doors; co-opting civil society, academia, and think tanks; funding U.N. activities; the distortion of language and concepts; and public-private partnerships.”

Pointing to such activities, Nele Marien, FOEI’s Forests and Biodiversity program coordinator, declared Monday that “corporate influence goes deep into the heart of the CBD.”

Taking aim at fossil fuel and mining giants, she said that “one strategy in particular stands out: The formation of purpose-built lobby coalitions allowing many corporations, such as BP or Vale, to present themselves as part of the solution and advocates for sustainability with green-sounding names. However, their ‘solutions’ are carefully crafted in order to not undermine their business models; ultimately they do nothing for the environment.”

The report points to offsetting, self-certification, self-regulation, and “nature-based solutions” as examples of measures that give the impression of action without any impactful changes.

 

“There is a fundamental conflict of interest,” Marien stressed. “Corporations are the most prominent contributors to biodiversity loss, ecosystem destruction, and human rights violations. Addressing corporate capture of the CBD is a precondition for saving biodiversity. The U.N. and its member states must resist corporate pressure and the CBD must reclaim its authority to regulate business.”

Fellow FOEI program coordinator Isaac Rojas argued that “putting corporations in their place would allow peoples-led solutions to biodiversity loss to regain momentum.”

“Indigenous peoples and local communities protect 80% of existing biodiversity, often by defending it with their lives,” he said. “Conserving biodiversity goes along with taking IPLCs and their human and land tenure rights seriously.”

However, the current draft framework has critics concerned, with FOEI warning that it “increasingly bears the strong hallmarks of lobbying by business interests.”

“Businesses in many countries are ‘pushing at doors’ that are already permanently open to them.”

The report also highlights that “it is difficult to disentangle what has resulted specifically from corporate lobbying from what certain parties might have desired anyway, given their strong disposition towards ‘nonregulation,’ voluntary action, market mechanisms, private sector implementation, and weak or nonexistent monitoring, reporting, and corporate accountability.”

“Businesses in many countries are ‘pushing at doors’ that are already permanently open to them,” the document continues. “The picture is further obscured by the collaboration of most of the major corporate lobbying groups with certain international conservation organizations. The lobbying of these groups has converged and merged around many issues.”

“But the consequences are clear: The GBF lacks the ‘transformational’ measures required by the biodiversity crisis,” the report adds. “The chance for a global agreement that is able to address the underlying drivers of biodiversity, transform economic sectors, initiate measures to reduce consumption, and hold corporations to account, seems to be lost.”

Given FOEI’s findings and fears, the group offers reforms for the entire U.N. system and the CBD.

Recommendations for the broader system include resisting pressure to give corporate interests a privileged position in negotiations, excluding business representatives from national delegations, increasing transparency around lobbying and existing links to the private sector, ending all partnerships with corporations and trade associations, establishing a code of conduct for U.N. officials, and monitoring the impact of companies on people and the planet.

As for the biodiversity convention, the report asserts that “rightsholders should have a voice regarding policies that affect the territories and ecosystems they live in,” and “corporations should not be part of decision-making processes and should not have a vote.”

The biodiversity conference this week comes on the heels of the COP27 climate summit that wrapped up in Egypt last month — which critics called “another terrible failure” given that the final agreement did not include language about phasing out all fossil fuels, which scientists say is necessary to prevent the worst impacts of rising temperatures.

 

One of the public demands going into COP15 comes from over 650 scientists who, in a new letter to world leaders, push for an end to burning trees for energy.

“Ensuring energy security is a major societal challenge, but the answer is not to burn our precious forests. Calling this ‘green energy’ is misleading and risks accelerating the global biodiversity crisis,” Alexandre Antonelli, a lead author of the letter and director of science at the U.K.’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, told The Guardian Monday.

Combating industry claims about the practice, the letter concludes that “if the global community endeavors to protect 30% of land and seas for nature by 2030, it must also commit to ending reliance on biomass energy. The best thing for the climate and biodiversity is to leave forests standing — and biomass energy does the opposite.”

The 30×30 target referenced in the letter is a top priority for several countries going into the Chinese-hosted conference, as Carbon Brief noted last week, introducing an online tool tracking who wants what at the event.

“But China has not invited world leaders to Montreal, sparking fears that the political momentum needed to produce an ambitious outcome will be lacking at the summit,” the outlet reported. “Slow progress on the GBF at preparatory talks in Geneva and Nairobi has also raised concerns among observers, scientists, and politicians.”


Featured Image Big Corporate Discovers the Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia“by David Blackwell. is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.