Soco oil corporation planning to devastate Congo gorilla reserve

By John Vidal / The Guardian

The Virunga national park, home to rare mountain gorillas but targeted for oil exploration by a British company, could earn strife-torn DR Congo $400m (£263m) a year from tourism, hydropower and carbon credits, a WWF report published on Thursday concludes.

But if the Unesco world heritage site that straddles the equator is exploited for oil, as the Congolese government and exploration firm Soco International are hoping, it could lead to devastating pollution and permanent conflict in an already unstable region, says the conservation body.

Congo has allocated oil concessions over 85% of the Virunga park but Soco International is now the only company seeking to explore inside its boundaries. This year Unesco called for the cancellation of all Virunga oil permits.

Soco, whose board of 10 directors have wide experience with oil companies working in conflict areas including Exxon, Shell and Cairn, insist that their operations in Congo would be confined to an area in the park known as Block V, and would not affect the gorillas.

Soco chairman, Rui de Sousa, said: “Despite the views of WWF, Soco is extremely sensitive to the environmental significance of the Virunga national park. It is irrefutable that oil companies still have a central role in today’s global energy supply and a successful oil project has the potential to transform the economic and social wellbeing of a whole country.”

He added: “The park has sadly been in decline for many years officially falling below the standards required for a world heritage site. The potential for development just might be the catalyst that reverses this trend.”

However Raymond Lumbuenamo, country director for WWF-Democratic Republic of the Congo, based in Kinshassa, said that security in and around the park would deteriorate further if Soco went ahead with its exploration plans.

“The security situation is already bad. The UN is involved with fighting units and the M23 rebel force is inside the park. Oil would be a curse. It always increases conflict. It would attract human sabotage. The park might become like the Niger delta. Developing Virunga for oil will not make anything better.”

“The population there is already very dense, with over 350 people per sqkm. When you take part of the land (for oil) you put more pressure on the rest. Oil would not provide many jobs, people would flood in looking for work,” he said.

One fear is that the area is seismically active and another eruption of one of the volcanoes in the park could damage oil company infrastructure and lead to oil spills in the lakes. “Virunga’s rich natural resources are for the benefit of the Congolese people, not for foreign oil prospectors to drain away. Our country’s future depends on sustainable economic development,” said Lumbuenamo.

“For me, choosing the conservation option is the best option. We can always turn back. Once you have started drilling for oil there’s no turning back,” he said.

But Raymond accepted that while the gorillas were safe at present, the chances of the park generating its potential of $400m a year were remote. “It would be difficult to make the kind of money that the report talks of. Virunga used to be a very peaceful place and can be again. The security situation right now is bad. The UN is involved with fighting units. Its not as quiet as it used to be.”

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Capitalists amping up destruction of Congo rainforests for palm oil plantations

By Jeremy Hance / Mongabay

Industrial oil palm plantations are spreading from Malaysia and Indonesia to the Congo raising fears about deforestation and social conflict.

A new report by The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), dramatically entitled The Seeds of Destruction, announces that new palm oil plantations in the Congo rainforest will soon increase fivefold to half a million hectares, an area nearly the size of Delaware. But conservationists warn that by ignoring the lessons of palm oil in Southeast Asia, this trend could be disastrous for the region’s forests, wildlife, and people.

“Governments of Congo Basin countries have handed out vast tracts of rainforest for the development of palm oil with apparently little or no attention to the likely impacts on the environment or on people dependent on the forest,” Simon Counsell, Executive Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, said.

The palm tree used to produce palm oil originated in Africa, so production in the Congo Basin isn’t new. But industrial palm oil production involving massive plantations is a recent development for the region. The approach, modeled after operations in Southeast Asia, raises concerns among environmentalists who argue that palm oil has been a disaster for the forests of Malaysia and Indonesia. Indeed, scientific research has found that between 1990 and 2000, 86 percent of all deforestation in Malaysia was for palm oil.

The largest palm oil developer in the Congo Basin is currently Malaysian-owned Atama Plantations SARL, which is working to establish a 180,000-hectare (450,000-acre) plantation in the Republic of Congo. But the entire enterprise is masked by a complete lack of transparency, says the report.

“No publicly available maps of the concession are available, but evidence suggests that the forests designated for clearance mostly appear to be virgin rainforest that is habitat for numerous endangered species, including chimpanzees and gorillas. The area borders, and some of it may fall inside, a planned National Park and Ramsar site,” according to the RFUK report, which notes that logging has already begun on the concession.

The RFUK report further questions whether the plantation development is simply an excuse to log what it calls “primary forests with significant timber stocks.”

Another controversial concession, this time in Cameroon, has received considerable pushback from international NGOs as well as local groups. U.S.-based Herakles Farms is working to develop a 60,000 hectare palm oil plantation in forest bordering four protected areas, but the company’s reputation has been tarnished by local protests, as well as condemnation from international groups such as Greenpeace. Last year, 11 top tropical biologists sent an open letter to Herakles condemning the project.

But Herakles and other companies say they are bringing economic development to a notoriously poor part of the world.

The RFUK report notes that in many cases governments appear unwilling even to take advantage of the economic benefits of palm oil plantations, by overly-sweetening deals to foreign corporations.

“The contracts signed between governments and oil palm developers are being kept secret, reducing transparency and democratic accountability. Those contracts that have come to light show that governments have already signed away some of the potential economic benefits, by granting developers extremely generous tax breaks of 10 to 16 years and land for ‘free’ or at highly discounted rates,” the report reads.

In addition, the palm oil plantations are sparking local conflict with traditional landowners, much as they have done in Malaysia and Indonesia. Locals often have little input on the project and in some cases leases are extraordinarily long, for example Herakles Farms’ lease is 99 years.

“New large-scale oil palm developments are a major threat for communities, livelihoods and biodiversity in the Congo Basin,” Samuel Nguiffo, Director of the Center for Environment and Development (CED), Cameroon, said. “It is absolutely not the appropriate answer to the food security and job creation challenges the countries are facing. Supporting small-scale family agriculture is a better solution.”

Guarani communities working with NGOs to protect wildlife corridor

By Jeremy Hance / Mongabay

Last month, three Guarani communities, the local Argentine government of Misiones, and the UK-based NGO World Land Trust forged an agreement to create a nature reserve connecting three protected areas in the fractured, and almost extinct, Atlantic Forest. Dubbed the Emerald Green Corridor, the reserve protects 3,764 hectares (9,301 acres) in Argentina; although relatively small, the land connects three protected other protected areas creating a combined conservation area (41,000 hectares) around the size of Barbados in the greater Yaboti Biosphere Reserve. In Argentina only 1 percent of the historical Atlantic Forest survives.

“The agreement that has been reached is truly ground-breaking,” John Burton the head of World Land Trust (WLT) said in a press release, “and it’s been heralded as such by the government of Misiones. In my view, it is probably the most important land purchase the WLT will ever make, because of the innovations involved and the wealth of biodiversity it protects.”

Once stretching along South America’s Atlantic coast from northern Brazil to Argentina, the Atlantic Forest (also known as the Mata Atlantica) has been fragmented by centuries of logging, agriculture, and urbanization. Around 8 percent of the Atlantic Forest still survives, most of it in Brazil, and most of it fragmented and degraded.

“The rainforest of Misiones is the largest remaining fragment of the Atlantic Rainforest of South America. It is full of unique plants and important animal species—it is vital to preserve the best sample of this ecosystem,” noted Sir Ghillean Prance, an advisor to the project and scientific director of the Eden Project, in a press release.

The establishment of the Emerald Green Corridor, which was purchased from logging company Moconá Forestal, ends 16 years of the Guarani communities fighting for their traditional lands. The land will now be considered Traditional Indigenous Lands, while the indigenous community is currently working on a conservation management plan to protect the forest and its species.

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Religion of Technology: Little Techno Savior Moments

Religion of Technology: Little Techno Savior Moments

Editor’s Note: Technology has created a virtual lifespace for all: a lifespace that gives us calculated doses of dopamine and gets us addicted to it. The following piece urges us to remove ourselves from the technological world that we have unwittingly been entangled into and to place ourselves within the natural, real world.

Praise the Technology!

By Mankh

  • 89% of Americans say they check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking up.
  • 75% of Americans feel uneasy leaving their phone at home.
  • 75% use their phone on the toilet.
  • 69% have texted someone in the same room as them before.
  • 60% sleep with their phone at night
  • 57% consider themselves “addicted” to their phones
  • 55% say that they have never gone longer than 24 hours without their cell phone.
  • 47% of people say they feel a sense of panic or anxiety when their cell phone battery goes below 20%.
  • 46% use or look at their phone while on a date.
  • 27% use or look at their phone while driving.
    [“2023 Cell Phone Usage Statistics: Mornings Are for Notifications“]

After a Hewlett-Packard BIOS update fried my computer’s motherboard I had four-and-a-half days without a computer while the part was in transit to the neighborhood repair guy I found because of guidance in a dream from a Carolina Wren reminding me to look local; then Internet via cell phone helped find the repair guy.

The night before I had decided to go to Best Buy’s Geek Squad, and later on learned that they typically don’t replace motherboards.

I am not much adept with cell phone internet usage so without the habitual computer checking of email and news-hounding web-searching, I wondered: What is that habit, that urge, that compulsion that has so many people hooked to their gadgets?…hooked as if the gadget is the Oracle of Delphi and everyone doesn’t have a clue what’s going on or what the future will bring UNTIL they beseech the high priestess of technology.

Various online stats indicate that people check their phones anywhere from every three to twelve minutes! Without doing that, what else is there to check, to tune-in to?

How about: the natural world, meaningful symbols, mental exercises, deep listening, dreams, to name but a few.

Perhaps people too-often feel something lacking or the need to feel complete by having interacted with someone, or a message, news article, video, or game. Normal urges yet when obsessively habitual, I venture to say that there is the searching for such a tech moment so as to save one’s self.

But save one’s self from what? Boredom?

Or to riff the old saying attributed to Socrates, the examined life which makes life worth living?

In that case, the gadget becomes a lazy savior, but not an individual savior rather a conveyor of little techno savior moments which while temporarily satisfying, the feeling doesn’t last long so one must check the gadget again for another little savior moment, and again.

Some of the hooks of this religion of technology are: the promises put forth by the advertising merchants of veneer from their pixel pulpits; keeping up with the corporate news sports-style coverage of “perpetual war for perpetual peace,” as historian Charles A. Beard phrased it; an incessant need to be in communication with human beings, at the neglect of the non-human beings.

Little techno savior moments also lean toward mechanical, robotic and unemotional forms of communication, well, except for emojis and exclamation points!!!!!

(wow! he-she-they must really omg like me!!!!!)

Yet here I am scribbling with pen and paper looking forward to my computer’s born-again status so that I may type and share this missive with whomever may happen to read it.

Ay, there’s the rub, the to tech or not to tech rub . . . or how much to tech.

I can’t begin to address the big picture of technology usage as it is the backbone of global and local business transactions, plus personal interfacing, whether you can touch the face or not. So I simply address the consciousness of the usage as I see it playing out in society at large.

Little techno savior seekers move in lockstep with their electronic marching orders of selected, scripted, distorted or outright lies news-feeds; shop till you reach the top of social status clicks; assuage deep-rooted personal insecurities by amassing more ‘likes.’

Yet in the AI world, even the concept of a savior has been depersonalized and reduced to a drive-thru fast-food fleeting moment.

I propose that how we use the gadgets is one starting point for re-evaluation, the how being the consciousness with which we use them and a weighing of what we are not using enough: our feet, our hearts, our minds, dreams, intuitions, hunches, meditations, messages from our so-called neighbor the natural world and how those messages intertwine with the dreaming time that is beyond time, beyond rational thought, beyond click and ye shall find.

The good news is that all that good stuff is readily available inside you and outside your window if you’re willing to work for it, work as hard as a child working in an underground mine in the Congo for cobalt so you can have the facility to send an emoji that a new day is dawning.

And by “work” I don’t mean job for money rather the discipline and receptivity to serving something bigger than your ego, something bigger than appeasing your momentary fancy of a feel-good hook.

Bob Dylan sings in “My Back Pages”:
“In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach…
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.”

And so I must dismiss any notion that this scribbling will save anyone, though I would like to think that it may tilt the scale of consciousness so that more people will be able to save themselves.

After four-and-a-half days with minimal gadget use, I am reminded that it is a tool and the manner in which humanity produces and uses such tools will determine their functionality or lack there of, with ever the questions: At what cost to habitats where massive mining occurs; at what cost to the well-being of the workers, too-often slave laborers; at what cost to one’s self and the natural world for the lack of selfless service to that very world?

In his book The Religion of Technology, David F. Noble cites technology as often spurred by a “masculine millenarian mentality,” often exhibited with the military and science frame of mind, along with a sense of religious redemption. Yet this sense of redemption is deceptively foolhardy.

According to J. D. Bernal, quoted in the book:
“The cardinal tendency of progress is the replacement of an indifferent chance environment by a deliberately created one. As time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed. In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the humanly controlled universe.” (p. 175)

What this boils down to is if we as a species go the route of playing materialistic God . . . or are willing to play along with and be played by the Earth and the spiritual energies above and within Her.

While perhaps too cute or quaint or unbelievable to some human beings, the likes of little Carolina Wrens can show the way. But such guidance can not be bought rather is the fruit of relationship, as for many years I have put and let stay up undecorated holiday wreaths on my patio, keep them up even when they have dried from scented fresh woods green to brown.

Why? Because the wrens often sleep and, while I can’t scientifically prove it, dream in them.

Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is a verbiage experiencer, in other words, he’s into etymology, writes about his experiences and to encourage people to learn from direct experiences, not just head knowledge.

He writes, small press publishes, and is the author of 17 books. Mankh travels a holistic mystic Kaballah-rooted pathway staying in touch with Turtle Island and the cycles of the Seasons. His works can be found here. You can also find this article on his blog post.

Photo by kaipong/Getty Images via

Why Renewable Energy Will Not Solve the Problem

Why Renewable Energy Will Not Solve the Problem

Editor’s note: If you search the keywords renewable energy problems you’ll be snowed under with deceptive synonyms like challenges, opportunities or even solutions. Most articles don’t go into the depth of why “renewable” energy is continuing the ongoing environmental atrocities.

In Germany the buzz word is energy shift (Energiewende), which means we allegedly shift from a “bad energy” to a “good one”. But in reality it’s just a shift of our addiction from one “drug” to another, that is similarly contaminating. As Boris highlights in his article, only through a transition to a de-industrialized society will we live in a truly sustainable relationship with Mother Earth.

Why Renewable Energy Will Not Solve the Problem

By Boris Wu/DGR Germany

The word for world is forest. Long before humans existed, in the geological eras we now refer to as the Carboniferous and Permian, vast, dense swamp forests of ancient ferns, calamites, and the now extinct species of Sigillariaceae, Diaphorodendraceae, and Lepidodendraceae dominated the landmass of our planet. The high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere provided ideal growing conditions for plants and led to an overproduction of biomass that accumulated in the swampy soils of the primeval forests.

Over millions of years, parts of these swamps were regularly flooded by rivers and thus covered by sediments of clay and sand. These cyclical sedimentation conditions compressed and drained the swamp soils. Particularly in the Upper Carboniferous period, the organic source material was air sealed and compacted under high pressure and heat and thus finally converted into hard coal.

The other word for world is water. Alongside the primeval forests, nutrient-rich shelf and inland seas shaped the primeval landscape. Water is literally the source of all life, and even those of us who eventually left the seas in the course of evolution and learned to live on land still carry it in our blood. Our blood plasma contains salt and ions in a ratio remarkably similar to that of the oceans.

Our sacred Mother Earth, in her infinite love for all life, gave birth to an almost infinite variety of it. The primeval shelf seas were rich in life, with marine microorganisms such as algae forming by far the largest proportion of marine biomass. In the deeper zones, the dead algae were deposited on the sea floor together with clay particles. The low-oxygen conditions prevented the complete decomposition of the algal biomass and led to the formation of fouling sludge (Sapropel). The formations of thick sediment sequences with a high proportion of organic material, slowly accumulating and concentrating over millions of years, eventually became the energy source that made the industrialization of civilization possible: crude oil.

Ultimately, our planet has only one source of energy, namely the sun. All fossil fuels consist of millions of years of solar energy stored in fossil biomass. In the meantime, our holy Mother Earth, in her infinite love, created a further, almost infinite variety of life. The dinosaurs were followed by birds, mammals and finally the species that today quite immodestly calls itself Homo sapiens sapiens, the wisest of the wise. How wise it is to destroy the planet on which we live, however, must be questioned.

For the longest time of their existence, Stone Age people, who were primitive only in the imagination of the civilized, lived in harmony with ecological principles, until some cultures made a functional mistake: They cultivated annual grasses with nutritious seeds in large-scale monocultures. The surplus of easily storable and tradeable carbohydrates from grain monocultures led to unprecedented population growth, the construction of city-states with standing armies, patriarchal ruling cults, monotheistic religions, slavery and an endless wave of violence, war, colonialism and environmental destruction, in short, the form of culture we call civilization. Climate change is not a recent phenomenon.

The deforestation of primeval forests, the draining of swamps etc. for agriculture, mining, the construction of warships and other war machinery already had measurable effects on the global climate in ancient times, as we know from atmospheric data from gases stored in the no longer perpetual ice of Antarctica and Greenland.

In essence – and the essence is our relationship with the planet and our fellow creatures – there were and are only two human cultures: indigenous and civilized. While indigenous peoples live in harmony with biological principles, endless expansion, colonialism and overexploitation are the hallmarks of any civilization that eventually lead to its collapse. Civilizations have always displaced or destroyed indigenous peoples.

After the dominant Western civilization expanded throughout Europe and, after 1492, continued expanding to the Americas where it committed the greatest genocide on indigenous peoples in human history, in its endless hunger for resources it made a second, functional and fundamental mistake: it began to make use of the fossil fuels coal and oil, thereby increasing its destructive power to the extreme. Industrial civilization is civilization on steroids, and its steroids are fossil fuels.

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. While indigenous peoples had always fought for the preservation of nature and thus their livelihoods, people in the Western world were now also beginning to gather and try to protect wild places and wild creatures from destruction by our civilization. Climate change only came to public attention in the 1990s, as scientists like James Hansen only began to understand in the late 1980s that the burning of millions of years of stored fossil solar energy within a single century, and the release of the carbon dioxide trapped in it, would wreak havoc on our planet’s climate.

Due to the unprecedented overuse of our planet on an industrial scale, we Westerners today have more resources and energy at our disposal than any previous human generation. Western affluence and the arrogance that comes with it have seduced the environmental movement into a very narrow public discourse that focuses solely on global warming and unrealistic technocratic utopias, and in which the most extensive, dramatic and rapid extinction of species of all time, which we are currently witnessing, no longer plays a role.

Global warming is only just beginning to have a serious impact on us. The destruction of the environment, the extinction of all non-human life, in short the fact that civilizations, and especially industrial civilization, are inherently destructive and overexploiting their resources. This by definition can never be sustainable and will inevitably collapse. Although the resulting fact that we should actually radically change our way of life, are a taboo subject in public discourse.

The functional error in the belief system surrounding so-called renewable energy is that the fossil fuels coal and oil are literally storage devices for millions of years of fossil solar energy. These “natural batteries” have a higher energy density than any energy storage system developed by humans. Diesel stores 46 times more energy per kilogram than the most modern lithium-ion battery. Fossil fuels are therefore incredibly practical because they are easy to transport, can be stored indefinitely and can be burned whenever needed.

The entire electricity grid infrastructure is built on these characteristics, although the term “grid” is inaccurate in more ways than one. Firstly, it is more of a network than a grid. Second, it is not a single grid, but hundreds of grids around the world, each supplying power to a specific region. The entire network essentially works like one big circuit that starts and ends at the power plants. Sub-circuits lead to individual households, companies, factories, server farms, hospitals, etc. Electricity still flows between the regions, but it is carefully regulated.

The wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric power plants that we summarize under the vague term “renewable energies” are not energies or energy sources in the true sense of the word, but technologies that can convert sunlight or the kinetic energy of wind and water into electricity. The terms used in public discourse, such as “energy transition”, “renewable energy” or “green energy”, suggest that we want to switch from one form of energy to another. This is where the error in thinking lies, because what we are actually trying to do is to replace fossil energy storage with modern technologies for generating electricity.

One of the many problems with this is that this additionally generated electrical energy fluctuates greatly, depending on the sunlight, the prevailing wind or the current. According to estimates, the modern electricity grid can only cope with up to 35% electricity from wind power and 12% electricity from photovoltaic, i.e. a total of around 47%, or just under half of so-called renewable energy, as these fluctuations can still be balanced out by conventional coal and gas-fired power plants.

High power fluctuations are not compatible with a functioning industrial power grid. Most household appliances can cope well with a voltage fluctuation of 5 to 10 percent, but modern factories, server farms and hospitals with their highly complex equipment and machines require precise, stable currents.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to combine the intermittent, highly fluctuating power flows from thousands of wind turbines and solar power plants into a reliable grid voltage because there is no buffer storage on a grid scale (currently, conventional coal and gas-fired power plants serve as a kind of buffer, as power generation can be ramped up or down quickly depending on demand). The fact remains that the grid was not built for so-called renewable energies, but for fossil fuels.

But quite apart from that, even if ingenious scientists and engineers managed to convert the electricity grid completely to solar, wind and hydroelectric power, there is still the small problem that our civilization is destroying the planet. The hope of saving our civilization through modern technologies, which in reality do not help the planet but are themselves destructive in many ways, is just a Bright Green Lie. We cannot live on a destroyed planet, and it is long past time for a serious and radical discourse that addresses in necessary depth the highly dysfunctional relationship between our culture and our sacred Mother Earth, who brought us all forth in her infinite love, and who is our only home.

Boris Wu is a father of two, a Permaculture farmer, radical environmental activist and cadre for Deep Green Resistance

Photo: Stone Age dwelling at Kierikki Stone Age Centre Oulo Finland, Ninaras/CCBY 4.0