New Legal Campaign Aims to Protect People and Nature From Polluters’ ‘Irreparable Damage’

New Legal Campaign Aims to Protect People and Nature From Polluters’ ‘Irreparable Damage’

Editors note: DGR recognizes that governments can not give rights, they can only take them away. They serve to legitimize the rich and powerful with the laws that they make. “The legal system protects corporations from the outage of injured citizens and ensures environmental destruction. ” –Will Falk
Knowing this we should still  use every means possible to stop the exploitation and expose their hypocrisy.

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.

“States must listen to communities’ demands to recognize the human right to a healthy environment and better regulate businesses with respect to the impacts of their operations.”


Frontline communities in Latin America and advocacy groups on Thursday announced a new global campaign that targets major polluters and aims “make the right to a healthy environment an internationally recognized human right” through court action.

Launched ahead of United Nations climate talks scheduled for next month, the campaign kicked off with a pair of lawsuits filed in Chile and Colombia by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and member organizations in each country.

#SeeYouInCourt is not just a hashtag or a publicity campaign,” FIDH said in a statement. “It launches a series of actions to hold companies accountable for their harmful practices that prevent tens of thousands of communities around the world from living in a healthy, safe, and clean environment.”

A campaign video released Thursday calls out polluters for not only disregarding human rights and the environment but also pressuring governments “to conduct business at any cost.”

“Money isn’t everything: Nature is priceless and its destruction causes lasting, irreparable damage,” said Luis Misael Socarras Ipuana, a human rights defender and leader of the Wayuu communities of Guajira in Colombia. “Defending nature means denouncing the social, economic, and spiritual harm that companies have caused by destroying it, putting the survival of our people at risk.”

In Colombia, the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR), an FIDH member, joined with communities impacted by the diversion of a waterway, the Arroyo Bruno, to expand the massive Cerrejón open-pit coal mine.

“The environmental and climate impacts of the diversion have endangered the lives of local Indigenous communities and destroyed the fragile tropical dry forest ecosystem,” explains FIDH’s webpage for the case. “All of this is taking place in the context of a water and climate crisis.”

In Chile, FIDH member Observatorio Ciudadano, the Terram Foundation, and members of the communities of Quintero and Puchuncaví, filed a constitutional protection action against the company AES Gener—recently renamed AES Andes—and the Chilean government for the impacts of coal-fired power plants.

José Aylwin, director of Observatorio Ciudadano, explained that they are taking on “the complacency of the state and the lack of even the most basic due diligence by the companies responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change with serious human rights impacts.”

The new lawsuits follow other coordinated legal actions against multinational polluters over the past year taken in the pursuit of justice and promoting the right to a healthy environment, noted FIDH’s statement.

“Protecting the planet and fighting the climate crisis are two of the greatest challenges of our time,” said FIDH president Alice Mogwe. “States must listen to communities’ demands to recognize the human right to a healthy environment and better regulate businesses with respect to the impacts of their operations.”

On the Colombian plains, a leader stands up for her people against land theft

On the Colombian plains, a leader stands up for her people against land theft

  • 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.

Fearless defender

“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.”

Claiming land

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.

This article was first published here on Mongabay’s Latam site on March 16, 2021.


by Ginna SantistebanÓscar ParraPilar Puentes on 11 August 2021 | Translated by Romina Castagnino

Army Corps Orders Full Environmental Review of Formosa Plastics’ Controversial Louisiana Plant

Army Corps Orders Full Environmental Review of Formosa Plastics’ Controversial Louisiana Plant

The Center for Biological Diversity
For Immediate Release, August 18, 2021

Julie Teel Simmonds, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 990-2999,
Sharon Lavigne, RISE St. James, (225) 206-0900,
Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909,

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 dismissedarrested 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.

Washington County’s New Rules Against Fossil Fuel Expansion Celebrated as ‘Blueprint’ for Nation

Washington County’s New Rules Against Fossil Fuel Expansion Celebrated as ‘Blueprint’ for Nation

Editor’s note: We agree that “This is a landmark victory for the local communities who have stood up and held firm for over a decade to protect the climate, the Salish Sea, and their own health and safety.” We don’t put much hope into the Paris Agreement or all the UN climate summits. The best hope we have is us, so communities that develop and nurture a culture of resistance are the way to go.

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.
Featured image: The Whatcom County Council on Tuesday night approved landmark policies regulating fossil fuel expansion at Cherry Point, home to two oil refineries. (Photo: RE Sources/Twitter)

By Jessica Corbett

In a move that comes as wildfires ravage the Western United States and could serve as a model for communities nationwide, the Whatcom County Council in Washington voted unanimously on Tuesday night to approve new policies aimed at halting local fossil fuel expansion.

“Whatcom County’s policy is a blueprint that any community, including refinery communities, can use to take action to stop fossil fuel expansion.”
—Matt Krogh,

“For too long, the fossil fuel industry has been allowed to cloak its infrastructure and expansion projects in an air of inevitability,” said Matt Krogh, director of’s SAFE Cities Campaign. “It has used this to diminish local communities’ concerns and then dismiss or ignore their voices. Whatcom County’s new, permanent policy is a clear signal that those days are over.”

“Local communities and their elected officials do have the power to decide what gets built near their homes, schools, and businesses,” Krogh continued. “Whatcom County’s policy is a blueprint that any community, including refinery communities, can use to take action to stop fossil fuel expansion.”

The county’s new land-use rules (pdf), approved in a 7-0 vote, apply to industrial land at Cherry Point, located north of the city of Bellingham. As KNKX reports:

The area has a deep-water port and two oil refineries. It’s zoned for industrial use. It sits adjacent to waterways that connect the Northwest to lucrative markets across the Pacific Rim. It’s also where what would have been the nation’s largest coal export facility—the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal—was canceled five years ago.

…Five years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers pulled the plug on Gateway Pacific proposal after the Lummi Tribe argued it would violate treaty fishing rights. The land at Cherry Point is adjacent to waters that are at the heart of the tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing area. And the state has designated that area an aquatic reserve.

Since that project’s demise, the council has enacted 11 six-month moratoriums. Tuesday’s vote permanently banned new refineries, shipping terminals, or coal-fired power plants at Cherry Point and imposed tougher regulations on any expansion of the area’s existing facilities.

The Bellingham Herald notes that while the five-year battle pitted the oil industry against environmentalists, “talks took a key step forward after the appointed county Planning Commission approved the Cherry Point amendments and a ‘stakeholder group’ of business and environmental interests began meeting to build a consensus over its final wording.”

“From the onset of the process five years ago, the County Council had set forth clear aims for new rules that would allow improvements of existing refineries while restricting facilities’ use for transshipment of fossil fuels,” Eddy Ury, a council candidate who led the stakeholders group for months while he was with the environmental group RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, told the newspaper.

“These dual purposes proved to be challenging to balance in lawmaking without overstepping authority,” Ury said. “The stakeholder group came together at the point where our respective interests were best served by cooperating.”

In a statement Wednesday, RE Sources executive director Shannon Wright welcomed the vote.

“This is a landmark victory for the local communities who have stood up and held firm for over a decade to protect the climate, the Salish Sea, and their own health and safety from risky and reckless fossil fuel expansion projects,” said Wright.

“There’s more to be done,” Wright added, “including addressing the pollution burden borne by local communities, in particular Lummi Nation, who live in close proximity to existing heavy industry and fossil fuel operations, and continuing to counter the threat of increased vessel traffic across the region.”

“When people ask local leaders to address their concerns, this is how it should be done.”
—Whatcom County Councillor Todd Donovan

Still, Whatcom County Councillor Todd Donovan celebrated that local residents “are now safer from threats like increased oil train traffic or more polluting projects at existing refineries.”

“When people ask local leaders to address their concerns, this is how it should be done—with input from all affected communities and industries, but without watering down the solutions that are most protective of public safety, the climate, and our waterways,” he said.’s statement pointed out that the development comes as residents and activists in Tacoma, Washington are pushing for similar protections.

In a tweet about the vote in Whatcom County, the Tacoma arm of the environmental group said that it is “still waiting for Tacoma City Council⁩ to find courage to do the same here.”

The fights for local regulations on fossil fuels come as communities across the West endure the impacts of the human-created climate emergency—from deadly, record-breaking heat to ferocious fires. In Washington state alone, there are currently eight large active fires that have collectively burned 136,758 acres.

Conditions in the U.S. West, along with fires in Siberia and flooding across China and Europe, have fueled demands for bolder climate policy on a global scale. Parties to the Paris agreement—which aims to keep global temperature rise this century below 2°C, and preferably limit it to 1.5°C—are set to attend a two-week United Nations climate summit in Glasgow beginning October 31.

Repeating mistakes: why the plan to protect the world’s wildlife falls short

Repeating mistakes: why the plan to protect the world’s wildlife falls short

Editor’s note: The plan to protect the world’s wildlife (as well as the Paris Agreement) falls short because 1) Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization (Premise one), 2) The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life (Premise ten), and, if you dig to the heart of it—if there were any heart left—you would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature (Premise 20). The only way to protect the world’s wildlife and the climate is to bring down the global economy.

This article originally appeared in The Conversation.

By Michelle Lim

It’s no secret the world’s wildlife is in dire straits. New data shows a heatwave in the Pacific Northwest killed more than 1 billion sea creatures in June, while Australia’s devastating bushfires of 2019-2020 killed or displaced 3 billion animals. Indeed, 1 million species face extinction worldwide.

These numbers are overwhelming, but a serious global commitment can help reverse current tragic rates of biodiversity loss.

This week the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity released a draft of its newest ten-year global plan. Often considered to be the Paris Agreement of biodiversity, the new plan aims to galvanise planetary scale action to achieve a world “living in harmony with nature” by 2050.

But if the plan goes ahead in its current form, it will fall short in safeguarding the wonder of our natural world. This is primarily because it doesn’t legally bind nations to it, risking the same mistakes made by the last ten-year plan, which didn’t stop biodiversity decline.

A lack of binding obligations

The Convention on Biological Diversity is a significant global agreement and almost all countries are parties to it. This includes Australia, which holds the unwanted record for the greatest number of mammal extinctions since European colonisation.

However, the convention is plagued by the lack of binding obligations. Self-reporting to the convention secretariat is the only thing the convention makes countries do under international law.

All other, otherwise sensible, provisions of the convention are limited by a series of get-out-of-jail clauses. Countries are only required to implement provisions “subject to national legislation” or “as far as possible and as appropriate”.

The convention has used non-binding targets since 2000 in its attempt to address global biodiversity loss. But this has not worked.

The ten-year term of the previous targets, the Aichi Targets, came to an end in 2020, and included halving habitat loss and preventing extinction. But these, alongside most other Aichi targets, were not met.

In the new draft targets, extinction is no longer specifically named — perhaps relegated to the too hard basket. Pollution appears again in the new targets, and now includes a specific mention of eliminating plastic pollution.

Is this really a Paris-style agreement?

I wish. Calling the plan a Paris-style agreement suggests it has legal weight, when it doesn’t.

The fundamental difference between the biodiversity plan and the Paris Agreement is that binding commitments are a key component of the Paris Agreement. This is because the Paris Agreement is the successor of the legally binding Kyoto Protocol.

The final Paris Agreement legally compels countries to state how much they will reduce their emissions by. Nations are then expected to commit to increasingly ambitious reductions every five years.

If they don’t fulfill these commitments, countries could be in breach of international law. This risks damage to countries’ reputation and international standing.

The door remains open for some form of binding commitment to emerge from the biodiversity convention. But negotiations to date have included almost no mention of this being a potential outcome.

So what else needs to change?

Alongside binding agreements, there are many other aspects of the convention’s plan that must change. Here are three:

First, we need truly transformative measures to tackle the underlying economic and social causes of biodiversity loss.

The plan’s first eight targets are directed at minimising the threats to biodiversity, such as the harvesting and trade of wild species, area-based conservation, climate change and pollution.

While this is important, the plan also needs to call out and tackle dominant worldviews which equate continuous economic growth with human well-being. The first eight targets cannot realistically be met unless we address the economic causes driving these threats: materialism, unsustainable production and over-consumption.

Second, the plan needs to put Indigenous peoples’ knowledge, science, governance, rights and voices front and centre.

An abundance of evidence shows lands managed by Indigenous and local communities have significantly better biodiversity outcomes. But biodiversity on Indigenous lands is decreasing and with it the knowledge for continued sustainable management of these ecosystems.

Indigenous peoples and local communities have “observer status” within the convention’s discussions, but references to Indigenous “knowledges” and “participation” in the draft plan don’t go much further than in the Aichi Targets.

Third, there must be cross-scale collaborations as global economic, social and environmental systems are connected like never before.

The unprecedented movement of people and goods and the exchange of money, information and resources means actions in one part of the globe can have significant biodiversity impacts in faraway lands. The draft framework does not sufficiently appreciate this.

For example, global demand for palm oil contributes to deforestation of orangutan habitat in Borneo. At the same time, consumer awareness and social media campaigns in countries far from palm plantations enable distant people to help make a positive difference.

The road to Kunming

The next round of preliminary negotiations of the draft framework will take place virtually from August 23 to September 3 2021. And it’s likely final in-person negotiations in Kunming, China will be postponed until 2022.

It’s not all bad news, there is still much to commend in the convention’s current draft plan.

For example, the plan facilitates connections with other global processes, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It recognises the contributions of biodiversity to, for instance, nutrition and food security, echoing Sustainable Development Goal 2 of “zero hunger”.

The plan also embraces more inclusive language, such as a shift from saying “ecosystem services” to “Nature’s Contribution to People” when discussing nature’s multiple values.

But if non-binding targets didn’t work in the past, then why does the convention think this time will be any different?

A further set of unmet biodiversity goals and targets in 2030 is an unacceptable scenario. At the same time, there’s no point aiming at targets that merely maintain the status quo.

We can change the current path of mass extinction. This requires urgent, concerted and transformative action towards a thriving planet for people and nature.

Unearthing the buried truth about green mining

Unearthing the buried truth about green mining

This article originally appeared in The Ecologist. Republished under Creative Commons 4.0.

Editor’s note: It’s very important to be clear about the destructiveness of mining and organize resistance against governments and cooperations. While this article is only very cautiously mentioning degrowth, scaling back, and recycling as “solutions”, we believe that societies have to reject and give up industrialism as a whole and immediately start ecological restoration everywhere at emergency speed and scale.

By Diego Francesco Marin

‘Green mining’ is an oxymoron that is gaining traction in the EU and pushes a risky narrative about an environmentally destructive sector.


Mining dominates, exploits and pollutes, suppressing other ways of living with the land. In low-income countries, it can be deadly. Activists, civil society and grassroots movements have been loud and clear about the dangers posed by the mining sector, yet few politicians seem to listen. In the European Union, the European Commission and mining operators are clearly aware of the issues. But unless your community has been targeted as the next mining project to supposedly meet the EU’s climate goals, you are probably not aware of how destructive mining can be.

As part of its Raw Materials Action Plan, the Commission is striving to create the conditions for more mining in Europe by convincing the public that mining can be “green.”


Last month, the Portuguese presidency of the EU organised a European conference on so-called green mining in Lisbon. Only one civil society organisation, the EEB, was invited to what had all the appearances of an industry convention rather than a green policy forum.

However, outside the venue, over a hundred activists from grassroots movements and citizens organisations protested the conference and the government-backed lithium mining projects in northern Portugal- despite COVID restrictions.
To gain thesocial license to operate, politicians and industry are challenging previous civil society backlashes against mining projects by equating mining with renewable technologies. Even raising concerns over the toxic fallout of continuous extractivism is deemed foolish.

When communities fight for their right to decide their futures, they are labelled as suffering from a case of nimbyism. Portuguese Secretary of State for Energy, João Galamba even went so far as mentioning that “those who are against mines are against life.”

This scramble to mine is about lucrative business and actually undermines the energy transition. New low-carbon infrastructure needs to be built to enable the move away from fossil fuels, which means money.

>Lithium, for example, is one of the most sought-after metals for low-carbon technologies and Europe is almost 100 percent dependent on battery-grade lithium from third countries, especially Chile.

An often-cited figure is that, by 2030, under ‘business as usual’, Europe will need around 18 times more lithium and up to 60 times more by 2050. Therefore, to make the switch to renewable technologies and be competitive, Europe wants to scale up supply to avoid bottlenecks, right in its own backyard.

But this strategy comes with serious concerns. The mountainous Barroso region, for example, sits on Western Europe’s largest lithium deposits but is also located 400 metres from the Covas do Barroso community, in the municipality of Boticas.

Even the Boticas mayor, Fernando Queiroga has spoken openly against the project over pollution, water and environmental worries. He also fears the negative impact it would have on the region’s agricultural, gastronomy and rural tourism sectors.

According to Savannah Resources, the mining operator behind the Minas Do Barroso, the mine would generate €1.3 billion of revenue over its 15-to-20-year lifetime.


In terms of helping the EU meet its demand, the project would only provide 5 to 6 percent of Europe’s projected lithium requirement in 2030.

study conducted by the University of Minho for Savannah Resources found that the lithium output of this mine would be “insufficient to meet the demand for lithium derivatives for the production of batteries in Europe”.

This region is one of only seven in Europe to make the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s  list of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. Communities here use “very few surpluses where]the level of consumption of the population is relatively low compared to other regions in the country” as the FAO’s website indicates.

In the age of overconsumption driving the ecological crisis, it is ironic that low-impact communities are targeted for green growth pursuits.

If the Mina do Barroso project is allowed to proceed, the region’s proud agricultural heritage would be undermined and would surely lose its international recognition.


With 30 million additional electric vehicles planned to hit Europe’s roads by 2030, it should come as no surprise that communities on the ground do not want their land to become the next sacrifice zone to feed the EV frenzy.

In Europe, there are three other proposed mining projects where environmental concerns have also been raised, including in Caceres, Spain.

The Iberian Peninsula is a major target for mining companies. In Spain, there are around 2,000 potential licenses for new mining projects. In the case of Portugal, 10 percent of the country’s territory is already under mining concessions.

In the northern Portuguese regions, the situation is troubling amid concerns that open-pit mines may even be allowed near protected areas, as in the case of Serra d’Arga. The Mina do Barroso project is now undergoing public consultation for the environmental impact assessment.

Despite government and industry rhetoric that public participation will be respected, and the needs of local communities will be met, local organisations and activists are not convinced. In January 2021, an NGO submitted an environmental information request to the Portuguese environment ministry, but no access was granted.


The same request was sent in March to Savannah Resources, but the company also refused.

Although the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA) issued a report stating that the environmental information that had been requested should be made immediately available, the Portuguese authorities decided to ignore the request.

Only some documents were made available during the public consultations and nearly three weeks after the consultations started.

The lack of access to information kept civil society and local communities in the dark and they lost around 3 precious months.

For the past month, they have had to scrutinise more than 6,000 documents. A formal complaint was submitted in the context of the Aarhus Convention, which protects the right of access to environmental information, over claims of deliberate denial of access to information.


The case is already before the Portuguese courts and the public prosecutor. The end of the public consultation period for the EIA was to end on June 2nd, the same day of the launch of the Yes to Life, No to Miningjoint position statement to the European Commission, but public pressure over irregularities forced the Portuguese authorities to extend the consultation period to July 16th.

target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”Green mining relates to the belief that we can decouple economic growth from environmental impacts, however, this mindset ignores a larger issue and will ultimately have irreversible consequences on the environment.

Perhaps instead of putting such emphasis on the supply of lithium or other raw materials, we can take a look at the demand. For example, by prioritising circularity over primary resource extraction, we can greatly reduce our need to mine more resources.

Political action to limit global warming is necessary and urgent. This means that we need to find the quickest paths to decarbonisation. But we must do it in less materially intensive ways. We can build cities that are less car-dependent, increase public transport, promote walking or enhance micro e-mobility.

Cycling, for example, is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities. Other solutions include urban mining initiatives that move us toward more circular societies. In an inspiring example from Antwerp, 70 creative makers gather the waste from the city and turn them into a wide variety of products: lamps from old boilers and chairs from paper and sawdust for a whole jazz club.


The solutions exist, we just need the political will.

By making the most of the resources we have, European cities can greatly reduce the impact that they create for European rural communities and in low-income countries where most of the mining projects are slated to take place.

However, broader policy measures are also needed. For starters, the EU should agree on creating a headline target to cut its material footprint and continue to promote measures on targeting energy efficiency, recycling, material substitution, use of innovative materials, and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles.

Another way to do this is to look at the energy transition through an environmental justice lens. Granting communities, the right to say no to mining projects by taking inspiration from already enshrined protocols in international law as in the case of Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous Peoples, the brunt of the energy transition will not have to be put on low-impact communities around the world.

This can address the current imbalance of power between mining companies, governments and communities and the future EU horizontal due diligence law can offer such opportunity. Banning mining projects from taking place within or near protected areas is a necessary step forward.


So can mining ever be green? Maybe that is not the right question. We should instead ask, how do we change the way our societies operate?

How can we create well-being economies? Or perhaps more ambitiously, how do we move away from the need to grow the economy?

Only then can we figure out how much we need to mine. After all, decent living does not have to, and must not, cost us the earth.

This Author– Diego Francesco Marin is a policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau.