More than 50 indigenous and Afro-descendant representatives of the Black and Indigenous Liberation Movement (BILM) call on the States of the Americas to address climate change from a differentiated, non-discriminatory justice perspective that addresses historical reparations for the impacts of colonialism. (more…)
Making the connections: resource extraction, prostitution, poverty, climate change, and human rights
Editor’s note: This article has been published in The International Journal of Human Rights. Unfortunaltly we don’t have the rights to publish the whole article which is behind a paywall, but we are publishing the extract and some quotes.
This article describes the connections between resource extraction, prostitution, poverty, and climate change. Although resource extraction and prostitution have been viewed as separate phenomena, this article suggests that they are related harms that result in multiple violations of women’s human rights. The businesses of resource extraction and prostitution adversely impact women’s lives, especially those who are poor, ethnically or racially marginalised, and young. The article clarifies associations between prostitution and climate change on the one hand, and poverty, choicelessness, and the appearance of consent on the other. We discuss human rights conventions that are relevant to mitigation of the harms caused by extreme poverty, homelessness, resource extraction, climate change, and prostitution. These include anti-slavery conventions and women’s sex-based rights conventions.
Farley writes: “In this article we oﬀer some conceptual and empirical connections between prostitution, resource extraction, poverty, and climate change.1 These associations are clariﬁed by Seiya Morita’s visual diagram, in Figure 1.2 In the short term, resource extraction leads to a sudden increase in the sex trade, as shown by the arrow on the left side of the diagram. In the long term, resource extraction causes climate change as indicated by the right arrow. Climate change then leads to crises in peoples’ ability to survive extreme events such as drought, ﬂoods, or agricultural collapse. These climate change catastrophes result in poverty which then mediates and channels women into the sex trade. The arrow on the bottom of Figure 1 illustrates this process.
The initial phase of resource extraction launches and expands prostitution
“At ﬁrst, colonists and their descendants subordinate indigenous people who live on lands rich in natural resources. Historically, extraction industries have exploited young, poor men who are paid well to perform jobs that no one else wants because the jobs are unplea- sant and dangerous. This initial phase of resource extraction temporarily results in a boom economy with cash-rich but lonely working-class men. In order to pacify the workers and enrich the pimps, women and girls who are under pimp control are delivered to workers in these boom/sacriﬁce zones such as the Bakken oil ﬁelds in USA and Canada, gold mines in South Africa, coltan mining regions in Colombia, and logging regions in Brazil.3 This movement of traﬃcked women increases prostitution both in the boom town and in neigh- bouring communities. Following is an example of this process.
“The Bakken oil ﬁelds of Montana/North Dakota/Saskatchewan/Manitoba are located in lands where the Dakota Access Pipeline causes physical, psychological, and cultural damage to the community, and ecocidal harm to the land and the water.4 In 2008, large numbers of pipeline workers moved into the Bakken region’s barracks-style housing which were named man camps. Sexual assaults, domestic violence, and sex traﬃcking tripled in communities adjacent to the oilﬁeld sacriﬁce zones,5 with especially high rates of sexual violence toward Native women.6 Adverse consequences of living near extractive projects include increased rates of sexually transmitted infections and still- births; general deterioration in health; ecological degradation and climate change; threats to food security; and political corruption – all of which severely impact women.7 When resource extraction is terminated, for example when coltan mining was halted in Congo because of environmental protests, the newly expanding sex trade remains in operation, an enduring legacy of colonisation. Belgium’s domination of Congo gradually shifted from state to corporate colonisation.8 The Belgian colonists’ commodiﬁcation of the nation diminished the people’s social and political power, leaving them poorer, with fewer resources, and often desperate for a means of survival even before the later phase of climate change occurred. This sequence happens wherever resources are commodiﬁed. Initially, a boom economy based on resource extraction creates short-term job opportunities and wealth previously unknown. Prostitution is established both to pacify the workers and to generate money for pimps and traﬃckers. When the boom economy goes bust, men’s continued demand for paid sexual access, combined with women’s need for survival – drive the institution of prostitution, which remains even after the extraction industry has ended.”
Melissa Farley (2021): Making the connections: resource extraction, prostitution, poverty, climate change, and human rights, The International Journal of Human Rights, DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2021.1997999
The whole article is accessible here: https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2021.1997999
Melissa Farley is a research and clinical psychologist who has authored many articles and 2 books on the topic of prostitution, pimping/trafficking, and pornography. She is the executive director of Prostitution Research & Education, a nonprofit research institute that conducts original research on the sex trade and provides a library of information for survivors, advocates, policymakers, and the public. Access to the free library is at www.prostitutionresearch.com.
This article originally appeared in Survival International.
Featured image: Mr Mobutu Nakulire Munganga, a Batwa man from Kahuzi Biega National Park, DRC, who was shot by a park guard in 2017. His son was shot and killed in the same attack. They were gathering medicinal plants. The Wildlife Conservation Society has supported the park. © Survival
– Committee chair “frustrated, exasperated, incredulous at WWF’s failure to take responsibility” for human rights abuses
– Independent expert underlines “continued impacts of colonialism in conservation”
– He accuses WWF of “shocking deception” and warns “WWF won’t change their behavior unless forced to do so”
An unprecedented hearing by the US House Natural Resources Committee has seen WWF’s reputation shredded by Representatives from both parties, and independent experts, and a denunciation of the “fortress conservation” model that leads to human rights atrocities.
The organization was subjected to unprecedented attack for its involvement in human rights abuses, and refusal to take responsibility for them.
Survival International’s Fiore Longo called it “the conservation industry’s equivalent of the Abu Ghraib scandal – a moment from which it will never recover.”
The hearing was prompted by exposés by Buzzfeed News and many other investigations, including testimonies from Indigenous people collected by Survival International over many years, that laid bare WWF’s involvement in human rights abuses, particularly in Africa and Asia.
Dozens of Indigenous and local people have been raped, murdered and tortured by rangers funded by WWF, which has known about the abuses for decades but done little to address them. The abuse stems directly from a conservation model that sees the removal of Indigenous and local communities when their land is seized to create conservation areas. Other organizations have also been implicated in similar abuses, including the Wildlife Conservation Society and African Parks.
Professor John Knox, who led a WWF-commissioned review into human rights violations in WWF projects, told the hearing: “I’ve been very disappointed by the failure of WWF to make a break with their past… WWF’s leadership is still in a state of denial about its own role in fortress conservation and human rights abuses.”
He called on the organization to apologize [for its involvement in past human rights abuses] and take responsibility [for its failures], and castigated WWF for misleading the committee: “WWF’s statement to this sub-committee takes quotations from the panel’s report out of context, and thereby gives a false impression of the panel’s findings. It is frankly shocking…
“These allegations have also highlighted the continued impacts of colonialism in conservation: The old way of doing conservation, Westerners coming into a country, setting up a national park with strict borders and ridding the area of its inhabitants, is still causing conflict today.”
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D) said: “I’m absolutely shocked by the human rights violations and treatment of local and Indigenous communities that have been reported today… It’s devastating to hear” that US funds have contributed to “truly heinous atrocities.”
Committee Chair Rep. Jared Huffman (D) condemned Ginette Hemley, WWF’s Senior Vice-President of Wildlife Conservation, who represented the organization at the hearing after its President and CEO in the US, Carter Roberts, declined to testify. Huffman also criticized WWF’s failure to take responsibility for the abuses they funded: “… International conservation funding is potentially being put at risk because so many people are frustrated and exasperated and incredulous about WWF’s failure to take responsibility. You wouldn’t answer a simple Yes/ No question about whether you bear any responsibility, much less provide [an] apology…”
He said: “From the beginning, WWF has focused on elaborate excuses to distance themselves from the allegations”… and behaved “as if the problem is just bad PR for WWF.”
Rep. Cliff Bentz ( R ) also lambasted the organization: “WWF has been irresponsible – their testimony is embarrassing. They need to step up and admit that they are at fault… The word colonialism comes to mind.”
The head of Survival’s DecolonizeConservation campaign, Fiore Longo, said today: “This was the conservation industry’s equivalent of the Abu Ghraib scandal, a total demolition of what little remained of WWF’s reputation. Again and again their hard-wired instinct to cover up, avoid blame, and pretend they’re changing while carrying on with business as usual, was exposed for all to see.”
Survival’s Director Caroline Pearce said today: “As John Knox said, WWF is not unique in how it behaves: this kind of abuse is deeply embedded in the traditional conservation model, which is directly in conflict with human rights and particularly Indigenous rights. For decades it has been not just ignored but supported by huge, establishment conservation organizations, who pull in massive governmental and corporate funding while turning a blind eye to atrocities against Indigenous and other local communities. Their theft of vast areas of Indigenous lands in the name of nature conservation is, as Rep Bentz said, a modern colonialism that is finally and ruthlessly being exposed.
“This must be a wake-up call, not just to WWF’s celebrity supporters like Leonardo DiCaprio and Prince William, but also to philanthropic and corporate backers throwing money at fortress conservation supposedly to “protect” 30% of the earth: these organizations and their conservation model are toxic. With COP26 about to start, a true path to securing environmental sustainability and biodiversity requires a rights-based approach – and, in particular, Indigenous land rights being recognized – and does not go through conservation NGOs for whom abuse is a feature, not a bug.”
- Ana Villa has fearlessly confronted agribusiness multinationals and armed groups that have tried to take over the land where rural communities and Indigenous people live in the Colombian plains.
- She risks her life fighting for the rights of vulnerable communities in the municipality of Cumaribo, a region that serves as the intermediate zone between the savanna and the Amazon rainforest in eastern Colombia’s Vichada department.
- The communities’ support has empowered her to continue her fight in a dangerous region for environmental defenders.
This article originally appeared in Mongabay and is a journalistic collaboration between Mongabay’s Latin America (Latam) team and Colombian digital news website Rutas del Conflicto.
Featured image: Ana Villa has made several trips to Bogotá to report safety and environmental breaches in the Colombian plains. Image by Ana Villa.
Ana Villa has traveled dozens of times on the highways of Vichada department in eastern Colombia, in service to her rural community. These trips can take up to 18 hours and cross an extensive savanna that’s the ancestral home of Indigenous communities and today hosts landless peasant farmers, or campesinos, who arrived in the area several decades ago. More recent arrivals, coming in the past 15 years, include agribusinesses, agroforestry and oil companies.
Villa defines herself as a “woman of character,” and her persistence has been key when dealing with land rights and environmental issues on behalf of her people in the municipality of Cumaribo. “Anita,” as her acquaintances call her, has not been afraid to confront the multinationals that have come to the region to establish large monoculture plantations, or the violent criminal groups that seek to dispossess rural and Indigenous communities of their land.
In 1991, Villa and her family arrived in Cumaribo seeking better opportunities and fleeing the violence that displaced them from their home in Cubarral, in Meta department, also on the Colombian plains. In 1996, she bought Las Azucenas, an estate that, in her words, “was only savanna and cheap,” but had no property title, like many other plots in Vichada.
Cumaribo is the largest municipality in Colombia by area, at 74,000 square kilometers (28,500 square miles) — more than three times larger than El Salvador, and more than twice the size of Belgium. It’s located in the Orinoquía region, the basin of the Orinoco River that forms an intermediate zone between the savanna and the Amazon rainforest. It’s in this region, with its enormous water wealth, where farmers like Ana Villa have sought out opportunities to build a dignified life. Large companies have also been attracted to the region, drawn by the extensive stretches of fertile soil in which to set up their industrial farms.
“There are two kinds of leaders: born leaders who seek to defend their community, and leaders on paper who claim for themselves and never seek collective gain,” says Luis Torres, a rural community leader from Vichada and friend of Villa’s. “She is a born leader. We admire her and that is why she’s in charge of everything.”
Villa has been active across a range of platforms to report the abuses that rural and Indigenous people living in Vichada experience. She has received threats from criminal groups for trying to help dozens of families obtain land rights. On one occasion, armed men cornered her and she confronted them. Besides her reports, she has also stood up to large agribusiness multinationals trying to take over land in the region.
This is her story.
“I started to worry about environmental issues when I saw that the streams on my farm were drying out,” Ana Villa says. “I filed a complaint after they sprayed the entire river basin with glyphosate. Since then, I started to fight for water.”
Her leadership and drive to protect natural resources soon extended beyond Cumaribo. Villa has taken her claims and protests to Yopal, the capital of the Casanare department, also in the Colombian plains. In 2014, the eastern region of Colombia was gripped by an intense summer that caused water shortages.
Some communities in the affected departments took their grievances to Yopal to demand answers from Corporinoquia, the departmental environmental authority. Leading environmental activists, including Villa, met to demand the resignation of Corporinoquia’s executives. They argued the authorities had taken little action in times of drought and didn’t follow up on complaints from communities about water contamination by the oil and agroforestry industries. “You go and report [it] and nothing is done. We wanted them to quit because they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do,” Villa says.
Martha Jhoven Plazas Roa, at the time the director of Corporinoquia, said in the authority’s 2014 accountability report that Corporinoquia had responded to most of the complaints and had carried out proper environmental controls in the region. She said that of the 1,123 complaints the corporation received in 2014, it handled about 1,000.
However, according to Villa, in the almost seven years since then almost nothing has changed; the complaints have not yielded the expected results, and companies continue to pollute the water. Making a request to the environmental authority is more complex today because its headquarters in Cumaribo has been closed since the end of 2020. Anyone trying to engage with Corporinoquia must travel at least five hours to La Primavera, another municipality in Vichada.
Being the leader of her community entails many responsibilities for Villa, including taking care of her neighbors’ and colleagues’ requests, and being the face of the claims against municipal administrations, public force, settlers who want to take over lands, multinational agribusiness companies, and even criminal armed groups. Addressing all this has put Villa in danger on several occasions. In 2014, while backing the protests against Corporinoquia’s management, she received her first death threat. “A man called me and said that my community had to obey him and leave the companies alone,” she recalls.
A year later, in 2015, while she was on her way to a meeting with villagers petitioning for their land rights, she was intercepted by armed men. “I don’t know what happened to me at that time. I had a lot of [anger] and I started telling them everything that crossed my mind: that they were used to killing people tied up because they were cowards. I told them that if they were going to kill me, they would have to kill me right there,” Villa says. Some residents of Cumaribo who witnessed the incident came to her aid and forced the three armed men to leave.
But Villa also speaks firmly to villagers if she sees that they are the ones damaging the environment. “The truth is that community members are targeted to plant coca. Sometimes they don’t think about the future,” Villa says, noting that the difficulty of growing food crops often pushes rural people to cultivate the more lucrative coca plant for the illegal drug trade. “In several meetings, I have told them that we must not cut down the forests, that we [should] plant the savanna and take care of the forests in Vichada because they are very small, and from there, streams that make up the river basin are born. If we cut down the forests, we are going to kill the fauna, we will destroy everything.”
“We trust Anita and that’s why we’ve asked her to stand up against it all,” says Torres, the community leader. “We take care of each other because those of us who claim land are targets of threats.” Villa says the community’s support is her source of strength, and that she’s not afraid to exercise leadership in a dangerous region for environmental defenders because “the community has my back, we all take care of each other.”
2021 brought good news for Ana Villa and her family. After more than a decade of claims, they received the property title to Las Azucenas, the farm they bought in 1996. This win provided another impetus for Villa to continue supporting 13 families in her municipality who are also seeking official titles to the lands they have inhabited for decades.
Villa has played a fundamental role in the community since 2014, when she witnessed families from a village in Cumaribo being displaced from where they lived. The villagers have sought official ownership of the land from the National Land Agency (known by its acronym in Spanish as ANT). Villa says she witnessed armed men arrive claiming to be the owners of those properties. One of the displaced villagers, Nepomuceno Pilón Caicedo, later became Villa’s friend and partner in pushing the families’ claims. “We are settlers. When we arrived there was nothing. We built our houses there and eventually the village,” Caicedo says. Villa has helped them contact lawyers for advice and collect information to request ownership of the lands. “I help the community members with information, contacts and writing documents,” she says.
Her activism has made Villa an expert on land issues. “When I started as a leader in the Community Action Council, I joined the Norman Pérez Bello Claretian Corporation as a volunteer and I began to learn about land claims and what to do in those cases,” she says. The Norman Pérez Bello Claretian Corporation is an organization that assists vulnerable communities, rural and Indigenous people fight for their rights. To date, Villa has helped 20 families in various villages who are in the process of formalizing ownership of their lands with the ANT, or by making requests to the Land Restitution Unit, the government agency in charge of verifying that applicants have lost their lands due to Colombia’s long-running armed conflict, and taking these cases before specialized judges.
An official with the Norman Pérez Bello Claretian Corporation describes Villa as a very active leader who has been present in various political events to report what is happening in her community and the abuses that villagers and Indigenous people who live in Vichada are going through. “Ana helped us a lot to build and establish a protection and self-care system in rural areas,” the official says. “She is a woman who has always made an effort to report and make her voice heard as a campesina who defends human, land, ecosystem and environmental rights.”
In 2013, Villa and other social leaders created the Association of Community Action Council of Vichada (Asojuntas Vichada), which was the beginning of the reports regarding the irregular accumulation of vacant land by various companies on the Colombian plains. This is one of the major battles she has fought.
In the council, she met Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas, a lawyer. Together, they began to document how the company Colombia Agro, which at the time was owned by the U.S. multinational Cargill, had accumulated about 50,000 hectares (nearly 124,000 acres) comprising more than 40 campesino properties. Cargill had done this with the assistance of Brigard Urrutia, a law firm, it was later revealed.
Colombia Agro had created dozens of paper companies, each of which would buy a piece of land and thus evade the limits on accumulating vacant land. Under a 1994 law, no individual or company may own more than one property that has been vacant. The legislation seeks to guarantee that state lands are handed over to underprivileged villagers and distributed to a few. In Vichada department, no more than 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres) can be granted to a single applicant.
Cargill, one of the largest agribusiness companies in the world, has had a presence in Colombia since the 1960s. Communities in several countries where the company operates have complained about its business and environmental practices, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. environmental campaign group Mighty Earth.
Ana Villa and the lawyer Luis Guillermo Pérez showed how Cargill, with the help of Colombian officials, had acquired land larger than the urban and suburban areas of Bogotá, spanning 47,700 hectares (118,000 acres). Villa says she began investigating the case when several foreigners arrived in the region to buy the land that the government had already granted to villagers after a process that took decades. She says many of the villagers sold their land at low prices due to the difficult conditions of violence in which they lived. The outsiders, after a few months, resold the land to Cargill for much higher prices.
Villa says that while the company was obtaining titles for properties in Cumaribo, rural and Indigenous communities who had been trying for years to obtain land titles continued to wait in vain. Mongabay Latam and Rutas del Conflicto were able to verify that the ANT had denied several adjudication requests from Villa’s neighbors, who, as victims of forced displacement, had to go to the Land Restitution Unit. The unit accepted their cases and will present them before a judge.
In 2013, Villa and Pérez’s complaint reached Colombia’s Congress, via the offices of Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo and Representative Wilson Árias. The two congressmen that same year initiated a debate in which they stated that the then Colombian ambassador to the U.S., Carlos Urrutia, was a partner in the law firm advising Cargill. Villa traveled from Cumaribo to Bogotá and participated in the debate in Congress, testifying about what she and other leaders in the area had documented.
After the debate, Urrutia resigned as ambassador, but Cargill and its subsidiary remained in the area as owners of the properties where corn and soy crops were being cultivated. Villa continued to be the spokesperson for the rural and Indigenous communities who complained daily about the effects of the agrochemicals used by the company.
The fight against environmental pollution
In Cumaribo several rural and Indigenous communities have complained to Corporinoquia about Colombia Agro’s environmental behavior between 2013 and 2015. Villa has led several of those claims to protect the health of Indigenous people as well as the ecosystems of the area. “They all drink the water from the river, that’s what they bathe with. Fish died some time ago. We went with the engineer Julián Quintero” — a former Corporinoquia contractor who has helped Villa draft the environmental complaints — “and we even saw dead rays, and the Indigenous people got sick,” Villa says.
The mismanagement of Colombia Agro’s waste has been recorded in several visits made by Corporinoquia. Mongabay Latam and Rutas del Conflicto requested information on these visits, and the environmental authority said it has carried out five inspection processes since 2013, in which it found that Colombia Agro did not have permits for the discharge of industrial wastewater.
In two visits, it found an “open-air disposal of solid and hazardous waste” on two properties,” as well as “the illegal capture of water (surface and underground) and discharge of domestic and non-domestic wastewater to the ground, without the respective permits” on three properties.
The complaints against the company’s environmental impact escalated into a criminal prosecution in 2016, after a villager living close to the company reported the aerial spraying of crops using the herbicide paraquat. According to Colombian environmental regulations, this chemical may only be used manually. The newspaper El Espectador reported in 2015 that prosecutors had charged various officials from Colombia Agro with environmental damage, including former manager Juan Aquilino Pérez and the contractor in charge of aerial spraying.
Mongabay Latam and Rutas del Conflicto were able to verify that Aquilino Pérez and other company officials and contractors were charged in 2016 for the illegal use of resources, aggravated damage to renewable resources, and environmental contamination. As of March 2021, the criminal process is still ongoing and no ruling has been handed down.
According to the residents of the area, the prosecution for environmental damage caused Colombia Agro to reduce its operations in the area in 2017. However, Ana Villa says that in 2019 the company returned stronger and resumed its agribusiness project. To find out if they are still operating in the area, we searched for the ownership titles and confirmed that they continue to belong to Colombia Agro through the companies it created to acquire them. By reviewing documents from the Chamber of Commerce, we were also able to confirm that Cargill is no longer associated with Colombia Agro.
The documents show that, in 2016, the parent company that owns Colombia Agro went from Black River SAS, which was a Cargill subsidiary, to Proterra, a company created by former Cargill officials.
Robert Philipp Hutter, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, worked for Cargill in 1999 and is the son of former Cargill president Heinz Hutter, is also the president of Proterra. According to its website, Proterra is a private equity fund manager, and while Cargill no longer owns it, the multinational still “maintains its relationship with Proterra as committed limited partner to the Funds.”
Mongabay Latam and Rutas del Conflicto were able to establish that Matthew David Waller, partner and head of finance and operations of Proterra, has an ongoing criminal case with Colombian prosecutors for damage to the environment, related to the Colombia Agro case and its properties in Vichada.
We contacted Cargill representatives in Colombia to ask if the company directly managed the properties, if it had resumed the agribusiness project in Vichada, and if it had made adjustments to comply with Colombian environmental regulations. But Cargill only said that since 2015 it has had no ties with the companies that own the land in Vichada. We tried to contact Matthew Waller from Proterra and officials from Colombia Agro, but got no response.
There is no clarity on the presence and performance of companies like Colombia Agro in the region. Ana Villa says she fears the agribusiness projects have been reactivated, which in the past, and according to reports from Corporinoquia, have caused damage to the natural resources of Cumaribo.
Also, the presence of criminal armed groups in the region has increased over the past year. Several Indigenous and rural communities have reported threats against leaders who defend their rights to own land and have a healthy environment. Even the Ombudsman’s Office, with its early warning system, raised concerns in April 2020 about the increase in criminal armed groups and threats to social leaders in municipalities in Meta and Vichada.
Several neighbors have warned Villa about the dangers of traveling to certain areas. She says she’s become very discreet while traveling to relay community requests to government agencies. “My life has changed a lot since becoming a leader, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I know that there are many complications such as threats and risks, but I have dedicated myself to the people most in need, to the people who live in the most remote and abandoned territories,” she says.
Despite all this, whenever she is needed, she is willing to travel, if necessary for more than 25 hours. That doesn’t matter to her, she says. She insists on finding solutions that help improve the living conditions of her rural community and of the Indigenous people who trust her work.
AUGUST 23-26: Water protectors to gather at Minnesota State Capitol in ceremony to stop Line 3 pipeline Hundreds of supporters to rally on Wednesday, August 25th
(St Paul)- Indigenous water protectors and allies will gather at the Minnesota State Capitol in late August for Treaties Not Tar Sands. From August 23rd to 26th, Indigenous grandmothers from White Earth Nation will hold ceremonial space on the Capitol lawn. On August 25th, hundreds of people will gather for a rally from 2 – 5 PM to call on Governor Walz and President Biden to stop the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline from transporting tar sands oil across northern Minnesota. On Wednesday night after the rally, some water protectors intend to hold space and camp out on the Capitol lawn.
The primary public event, the rally on August 25th, coincides with the end of the Treaty People Walk for Water. Led by Indigenous water protectors, the walk began on August 7th from the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which is the site of several recent Line 3 spills. The walkers are bringing a message from the frontlines to Governor Tim Walz and President Joe Biden at the Capitol: “Stop Line 3!”
August 25th: Treaties not Tar Sands Rally details:
- What: A rally with hundreds of water protectors featuring drumming, singing, and remarks from Indigenous leaders in the movement to stop Line 3 and others.
- Where: Minnesota State Capitol, 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., St Paul, MN
- When: August 25th, 2 – 5 PM
- Interviews: spokespeople will be available before, during, and after the rally
- Media check in: please check in at the media table when you arrive to coordinate interviews and get oriented to the event
August 24th: Additional Media Availability
Press are invited to attend a media availability with the Indigenous grandmothers leading ceremony and other organizers at the Capitol at 11:30 AM on August 24th.
Press are welcome to attend the second day’s ceremonial opening that morning at 10 AM. While you may be permitted to document some elements of ceremony, please respect requests from Indigenous leaders to stop filming or photographing at any point.
There are opportunities for photo and scheduled interviews Monday the 23rd to Friday the 27th.
The Ceremony at the Capitol has been organized by elder women from the White Earth Nation, and the events including the rally and encampment are organized by groups including the RISE Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network, and MN350, and are endorsed by a broad coalition of Minnesota racial and environmental justice groups. For more information visit: Treaties Not Tar Sands and the event Facebook page.
Established in 1990, The Indigenous Environmental Network is an international environmental justice nonprofit that works with tribal grassroots organizations to build the capacity of Indigenous communities. I EN’s activities include empowering Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, the health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.
Learn more here: ienearth.org
The Center for Biological Diversity
For Immediate Release, August 18, 2021
Julie Teel Simmonds, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 990-2999, email@example.com
Sharon Lavigne, RISE St. James, (225) 206-0900, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909, email@example.com
Decision Follows Lawsuit, Permit Suspension, Public Pressure
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday it will require a full “environmental impact statement” for the massive petrochemical complex Formosa Plastics proposes to build in St. James Parish, Louisiana. The decision is a major victory for opponents of the plant, who sued to block the project in January 2020 and convinced the Army Corps to suspend its permit last fall.
Wednesday’s announcement means the Army Corps will now do a complete analysis of the public health, environmental, climate, environmental justice and cultural impacts of what would be one of the world’s biggest plastic-making plants. Plaintiff groups representing the Black and low-income communities affected by the project — from an already polluted industrial corridor known as Cancer Alley or Death Alley — have long said a proper environmental review would show the project should never be built.
“The Army Corps has finally heard our pleas and understands our pain. With God’s help, Formosa Plastics will soon pull out of our community,” said Sharon Lavigne with RISE St. James, who earlier this year was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work defending her community from petrochemical polluters. “Nobody took it upon themselves to speak for St. James Parish until we started working to stop Formosa Plastics. Now the world is watching this important victory for environmental justice.”
RISE St. James, Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Healthy Gulf were represented in the litigation over this permit by the Center for Biological Diversity. Local opponents of the project have been aggressively dismissed, arrested and publicly criticized over their work to stop this project, which received huge taxpayer subsidies from the state.
“Today’s announcement is the ultimate David v. Goliath victory,” said Anne Rolfes, executive director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “We were not scared of Formosa Plastics and its $9 billion project, or the fact that our governor has been cheering for Formosa all along. St. James Parish residents are the ones who have shown leadership and wisdom. What the Corps has done today is common sense. Of course one of the biggest plastics plants in the world should require an environmental impact statement. Our state and federal officials should have demanded it from the outset. I am hopeful that this is the nail in the coffin of Formosa Plastics in St. James Parish. And don’t try to build somewhere else. Pack up and go home.”
The proposed facility would emit 13.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, the equivalent of 3.5 coal-fired power plants. It will also produce 800 tons of toxic air pollutants annually, doubling air emissions in St. James Parish, to produce plastic for single-use packaging and other products. Recent studies have linked exposure to air pollution with higher COVID-19 death rates. It’s one likely factor in the disease’s disproportionate impact on Black Americans.
The lawsuit sought to invalidate Clean Water Act permits issued by the Army Corps in 2019. It asserted that officials violated federal laws in approving the destruction and damage of wetlands, which help protect the region from hurricanes that are intensifying with climate change. The Corps also ignored the water, air, climate, and health impacts of the complex and failed to properly evaluate and protect burial sites of enslaved people discovered on the property.
“This long-overdue review will show the unacceptable harm Formosa Plastics’ massive petrochemical complex would inflict on this community, our waterways, and our climate,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center. “This terrible project shouldn’t have been rubber-stamped and it should never be built. Climate action and environmental justice mean we have to stop sacrificing communities and a healthy environment just to make throwaway plastic.”
The growing chorus of project opponents includes the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, which called the project “environmental racism” in March and urged U.S. officials to reject the project.
Formosa Plastics’ massive proposed petrochemical complex would include 10 chemical manufacturing plants and numerous support facilities, spanning 2,500 acres, just one mile from an elementary school. By turning fracked gas into the building blocks for a massive amount of single-use packaging and other wasteful plastic products, the project would worsen climate change and the ocean plastic pollution crisis.
Last year Formosa Plastics agreed to pay a record $50 million in cleanup and restoration costs to settle a civil lawsuit after its Point Comfort plant discharged billions of plastic pellets into Texas waterways over many years. That settlement included a commitment to zero future plastic discharges from the Texas plant — a standard that has not been applied to its plant in Louisiana.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
RISE St. James is a faith-based organization working to protect the land, air, water and health of the people of St. James Parish from the petrochemical industry.
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade collaborates with communities adjacent to petrochemical plants, using grassroots action to create an informed, healthy society and hasten the transition from fossil fuels.
Healthy Gulf is a regional nonprofit whose purpose is to collaborate with and serve communities who love the Gulf of Mexico by providing the research, communications, and coalition-building tools needed to reverse the long pattern of over exploitation of the Gulf’s natural resources.