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Pacific Ecologist

Pacific Ecologist 17 Summer 2009

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food/energy/human rights

  • Cars cost the earth, destroy human rights
    Padre Tiago Thorbly
  • FAO report: Biofuels development premature

agroenergy and alternatives

  • Agroenergy: Myths and impacts in Latin America
    Agrofuels are promoted as an answer to global warming and Latin America is considered to be a suitable region to provide the world with cheap, sustainable fossil fuel substitutes. Yet expanding agroenergy production in tropical regions to meet the rich world’s needs will increase the agricultural frontier, accelerate global warming, and increase violations of people’s basic access rights to land, food and water. Generating cheap energy for rich countries is a new phase of colonization, preventing land reform, increasing inequity, and hunger. Rich countries must reduce their consumption, car use and massively invest in public transport to reduce global warming emissions and stop growing inequity. Part one of two articles abridged from the report Agroenergy: Myths and Impacts in Latin America, published by the Pastoral Lands Commission, and Network For Social Justice And Human Rights, São Paulo, Brazil.
  • Brazil: Sugar cane plantations devastate Brazil’s vital Cerrado region [160K PDF]
    Sugar cane plantations and mills are rapidly expanding for bioethanol production and already having devastating effects in the biologically diverse area of Brazil’s Cerrado, the savannah region, which supplies Brazil’s main hydrological basins. Maria Luisa Mendonça in interviews with affected people, finds rivers are being diverted, huge amounts of water are being used by sugar mill companies, and sugar cane plantations, contrary to Brazil’s President Lula’s claims, are replacing areas of food production, and destroying forest reserves. The mills are bringing human rights abuses, poison to the land, water, people and animals and local agriculture is disappearing. Food can only become scarcer and more costly and sugar cane for biofuel use is supposed to double in the region.
  • The sugar cane holocaust: The ethanol academic road-show is in town [180K PDF]
    Brazil’s Ethanol Academic Road Show is travelling the world to encourage you to believe in myths about Brazil’s ethanol for export being clean, sustainable energy for the rich world’s cars, reports Padre Tiago Thorlby, who works in a sugar cane zone. But don’t expect them to tell you the truth when they have never been near a canefield or talked with any of the hundreds of thousands of families evicted from the land. Don’t expect the academics to tell you the Brazilian model used to produce ethanol from sugar cane is environmentally devastating, culturally genocidal, socially exclusive, politically retrograde and economically unviable.
  • Ethiopia: Biofuels bring harvest of hunger
    Ethiopia’s government has opened the country up to biofuel projects to decrease its debt burden from high oil prices, reports Aaron Maasho. Thousands of subsistence farmers in a region often hit by drought and food shortages were lured into growing biofuel crops on fertile land, instead of growing food crops. Over a million people in this region often do not have enough to eat.
  • African call for agrofuel moratorium
    African organisations from many countries call for an urgent moratorium and invite all organisations to sign to help protect Africans’ food security, forests, water, land rights, farmers and indigenous people from agrofuel developments which are increasingly devouring their land and water resources. To address climate change and reduce energy use, local, ecological agricultural methods are needed.
  • Devastated lands, displaced peoples: Agrofuel costs in Indonesia, Malaysia, PNG [290K PDF]
    Rapidly increasing demand for palm oil for biodiesel production is causing massive deforestation and displacing millions of indigenous peoples in the South-East Asian region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, India. Destruction of the region’s extraordinarily rich biological diversity in exchange for palm oil to fuel automobiles is criminal, report Dr Rachel Smolker, Brian Tokar, Anne Petermann, Eva Hernandez.

next generation agrofuels

  • Commodifying nature’s last straw? Perils of the sugar economy
    Peak oil, high fuels costs and the climate crisis are driving corporate enthusiasm for a ‘biological engineering revolution’. Advocates promise a greener future but production depends on the ‘sugar economy’ where manufacturing platforms fuelled by plant sugars and engineered microbes will catalyse a corporate grab on all plant matter with huge destruction of biodiversity. If the vision of a sugar economy advances, “next generation” agrofuels threaten to repeat the mistakes of first-generation agrofuels on a more massive scale. This article is abridged from the report published by the ETC Group in October 2008.
  • Big dangers in second (next) generation agrofuels
    There’s no evidence to support large-scale, second-generation agrofuels being either sustainable or climate-friendly, instead they are likely to accelerate biodiversity loss and reduce carbon storage in forests, amongst many other serious dangers. Yet they are funded and promoted without assessment of their many risks and at the expense of truly renewable technologies which could reduce emissions considerably. This article is abridged from a section of a report by Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trade Watch, Corporate Europe Observatory, Grupo De Reflexión Rural, Econexus and Watch Indonesia.
  • Challenging corporate power and unregulated new technologies
    Despite the current food emergency and its connection to agrofuel production, corporations are gearing up for next generation biofuels, harnessing ‘biomass’, and new unregulated technologies with the potential to affect the environment on a planetary scale. No body exists to monitor and regulate corporate global activity. ETC Group and other civil society organizations propose an intergovernmental framework to allow the monitoring and evaluation of new technologies.

book reviews

  • Soil Not Oil: Environmental justice in an age of climate crisis by Vandana Shiva
  • Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet example and American prospects by Dmitry Orlov
  • Stuffed and Starved: The hidden battle for the world food system by Raj Patel

global food crisis

  • Clinton says “We blew it”
  • UN calls for ‘food democracy’

sustainable directions

  • Food sovereignty key to resolving world’s food emergency
    A local and global paradigm-shift towards Food Sovereignty and healthy biologically diverse environments is needed to end the growing food and fuel crisis and meet climate change threats. The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty in this statement to the FAO Food Summit in 2008, declares a People’s State of Emergency to fully respond to the crisis and calls for the Human Rights Council and International Court of Justice to investigate the contribution of agribusiness, grain traders and commodity speculators, to violations of the right to food and to the food emergency. The right of governments to intervene and regulate in order to achieve food sovereignty must be reinstated and the Right to Food prevails over trade agreements.
  • ‘Cooling the earth’ with energy and food sovereignty
    Social movements in the third world propose a new paradigm for energy sovereignty, linked to food sovereignty which will reduce global warming emissions and fossil fuel use, report Camila Moreno and Annuradha Mittal.
  • A sustainable bailout with green transport
    Instead of bailing out the big three US car manufacturers now facing bankruptcy in the financial crisis, Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute, recommends learning from the history of 1942 when the auto industry was suddenly redirected away from car production and private car sales were banned. The credit crisis is a generational opportunity to reinvent public transport for sustainability and to revolutionize the car industry.