Bill McKibben: This Climate Strike Is Part of the Disruption We Need

 September 03, 2019 by YES! Magazine

“It can’t just be young people. It needs to be all of us.”

by Bill McKibben

Because we burn so much coal and gas and oil, the atmosphere of our world is changing rapidly, and that atmospheric change is producing record heat. (Photo: YES! illustration by Jennifer Luxton)

Because we burn so much coal and gas and oil, the atmosphere of our world is changing rapidly, and that atmospheric change is producing record heat. (Photo: YES! illustration by Jennifer Luxton)

Business as usual is what’s doing us in.

We live on a planet that finds itself rather suddenly in the midst of an enormous physical crisis. Because we burn so much coal and gas and oil, the atmosphere of our world is changing rapidly, and that atmospheric change is producing record heat. July was the hottest month we’ve ever recorded. Scientists predict with confidence that we stand on the edge of the sixth great extinction event of the last billion years. People are dying in large numbers and being left homeless; millions are already on the move because they have no choice.

Scientists predict with confidence that we stand on the edge of the sixth great extinction event of the last billion years. People are dying in large numbers and being left homeless; millions are already on the move because they have no choice. And yet we continue on with our usual patterns.

And yet we continue on with our usual patterns. We get up each morning and do pretty much what we did the day before. It’s not like the last time we were in an existential crisis, when Americans signed up for the Army and crossed the Atlantic to face down fascism and when the people back home signed up for new jobs and changed their daily lives.

That’s why it’s such good news that the climate movement has a new tactic. Pioneered last August by Greta Thunberg of Sweden, it involves disrupting business as usual. It began, of course, in schools: Within months, millions of young people around the world were striking for days at a time from their classes. Their logic was impeccable: If the institutions of our planet can’t be bothered to prepare for a world we can live in, why must we spend years preparing ourselves? If you break the social contract, why are we bound by it?

And now those young people have asked the rest of us to join in. After the last great school strike in May, they asked adults to take part next time. The date is Sept. 20, and the location is absolutely everywhere. Big trade unions in South Africa and Germany are telling workers to take the day off. Ben and Jerry’s is closing down its headquarters (stock up in advance), and if you want to buy Lush cosmetics, you’re going to be out of luck. The largest rally will likely be in New York City, where the U.N. General Assembly begins debating climate change that week—but there will be gatherings in every state and every country. It will almost certainly be the biggest day of climate action in the planet’s history. (If you want to be a part—and you do want to be a part—go to globalclimatestrike.net.)

It’s not a “strike” in the traditional sense, of course—no one is demanding better wages. But we are demanding better conditions. In the most literal sense, the world isn’t working as it should (studies say that increased heat and humidity have already reduced human work capacity as much as 10%, a figure that will double by midcentury). And what we’re saying is, disrupting business as usual is the way to get there.

This strike will not be the last such action. And activists are flooding into the electoral battles now underway and taking on the financial community, too. It’s starting to add up: The polling shows that for young Americans, climate change is far and away the most important issue.

But it can’t be just young people. It needs to be all of us—especially, perhaps, those of us who have been placidly operating on a business-as-usual basis for most of our lives, who have rarely faced truly serious disruptions in our careers and our plans. Our job is precisely to disrupt business as usual. When the planet leaves its comfort zone, we need to do the same. See you on the streets on Sept. 20!This article was written for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions.

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Democrats Launch New ‘Listen Up, Hayseeds’ Campaign To Connect With Rural Voters

September 2, 2019 (theonion.com)

Illustration for article titled Democrats Launch New ‘Listen Up, Hayseeds’ Campaign To Connect With Rural Voters

EMPORIA, KS—Unveiling the new nationwide messaging strategy after six months of planning and research, the Democratic Party launched its “Listen Up, Hayseeds” campaign Monday to win over rural voters. “Hey, you redneck simpletons, put down your whittling sticks, drag yourself away from the Cracker Barrel, and let us tell you how it is,” said a team of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on the debut commercial, part of a widespread advertising blitz that will be played at NASCAR races and monster truck rallies across the country. “We know you can barely read, so we’ll spell this out for you: The Republican tax plan will only benefit the rich. Don’t you dumb hicks get that? Democrats will fight inequality so you and all your inbred cousins don’t have to live in a trailer anymore. Get it?” Democratic officials have also announced a new “You Think You Can Do Better Than Us?” campaign aimed at increasing turnout among African American and Hispanic voters.

Thousands of Russians demonstrate for free elections, defying ban

Issued on: 31/08/2019

Alexander Nemenov, AFP | People take part in an opposition unauthorized rally in central Moscow on August 31, 2019.

Text by:NEWS WIRES

A few thousand Russians took to the streets of central Moscow on Saturday to demand free elections to the capital’s city legislature on Sept. 8, defying a ban which has been enforced with violent detentions during previous protests.

Weeks of demonstrations over elections for the city legislature have turned into the biggest sustained protest movement in Russia since 2011-2013, when protesters took to the streets against perceived electoral fraud.

Chanting “Russia will be free!” and “This is our city!”, protesters marched through one of Moscow’s thoroughfares. Reuters witnesses estimated their number at a few thousand, while Moscow police said only 750 attended the event, which has not been sanctioned by the government, making it illegal.

The demonstrators have been demanding that opposition candidates be allowed to stand in the election. Around 30 of them – mostly running as independents – have been dropped from the race by the election commission which said they had too many fake voter signatures.

The city council is dominated by President Vladimir Putin’s allies.

Protesters are now also calling for the release of activists detained over earlier rallies, and opposition activist Lyubov Sobol on Saturday described the arrests as “mayhem” blaming it on the city government and Putin’s office.

“Sobyanin must resign,” she said at the rally, referring to Moscow mayor and Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin.

The Kremlin has shrugged off the protests as insignificant, but supported the heavy-handed police response. Russia’s state communications watchdog this month asked Google to stop advertising “illegal mass events” on its YouTube video platform.

Although the protests have failed to achieve their main objective, those who showed up on Saturday said they were important as an expression of further civil resistance.

“If we stop going out (and protesting) there will be no hope left at all,” said protester Alexandra Rossius, 23.

“We must show the authorities we are not just going to give up and accept the fact that innocent people are being jailed and elections are being stolen.”

Artyom, a 16-year-old school student, said it was “indignation and fear” that brought him to the rally.

“I do not want … to have my legs broken, to be killed, to be thrown in prison,” he said. “The authorities are refusing to compromise, they have started dispersing people, throwing them in jail. I think this is unacceptable.”

Saturday’s protest, the last before the vote, was smaller than some of the previous ones attended by tens of thousands of people. Although police asked the protesters through loudspeakers to disperse, they made no attempt to detain them. 

(REUTERS)

Re-Reflections on the Start of World War II

September 01, 2019 by Common Dreams

It is worth our while to try to disentangle some of the realities of the war from the mythologies we so love to worship

by Robert Freeman

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (left) and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (in light jacket)

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (left) and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (in light jacket), leave their meeting at Bad Godesberg, on Sept. 23, 1938. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/cc)

Sunday, Sept 1., marks the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. On that day in 1939, German troops crossed the border into Poland, setting off the greatest war the world has ever known.

No war—and maybe no event of any kind—has been so thoroughly chronicled, both at the time it occurred and after the fact. But, like so many of the iconic events in America’s past, the rendering that endures in the culture is a stew of fact, fiction, and fairy tale.

It is worth our while to try to disentangle some of the realities of the war from the mythologies we so love to worship.

It is worth our while to try to disentangle some of the realities of the war from the mythologies we so love to worship. One episode, in particular, deserves better understanding. It is the cause of the war itself.

The conventional narrative has it that the war, at least in Europe, was the result of Adolf Hitler’s aggression, and the failed “appeasement” of that aggression by Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s prime minister.

In fact, it was the West, and especially Britain, that nurtured and encouraged Hitler, in the hope that he would use Germany’s military might to destroy the Soviet Union, much as Germany had destroyed Russia in the first World War. Time and again, the British assisted Hitler in his acquisition of military power while deterring France, its putative ally, from challenging him.

But the Rottweiler slipped its leash, and turned on its master. It was one of the greatest strategic miscalculations of all time, almost costing the West its civilization. Understanding how and why this occurred is profoundly important.

During World War I, the Russian Revolution had placed a communist government in power. The capitalist states were livid. The U.S., Britain, France, Italy, and Japan mounted an invasion of Russia to try to overthrow the Bolsheviks. But the White Counter-Revolution failed. The invasion poisoned relations between Russia and the West for the rest of the century. Its toxic residue lingers still.

Then, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, economies of the capitalist world collapsed. Worldwide industrial production fell by over one third. Agricultural prices declined by one half. International commerce dropped by 60 percent. In Germany, unemployment reached 45 percent. Over the decade between 1928 and 1938, industrial production in the U.K. grew by 18 percent.

But in Russia, the economy grew by over 600 percent. The contrast with capitalism was startling, and inescapable. The communist system was burying the West, and the West was acutely aware of it, and threatened by it. In 1932, 80 percent of the German communist party was made up of unemployed people. They were coming after the capitalists, and the capitalists had no answer for them. Enter Adolph Hitler.

Hitler was an enterprising political opportunist, the Donald Trump of his day if you will, except that he had actually authored his own book. He promised the industrialists and bankers who ran the country that he would deal with the communists.

Hitler was an enterprising political opportunist, the Donald Trump of his day if you will, except that he had actually authored his own book. He promised the industrialists and bankers who ran the country that he would deal with the communists. So, even though he had never won a popular vote, they appointed him chancellor in January 1933.

By this time, fascism already had a warm reception in the halls of British power. Winston Churchill swooned over Italy: “Their triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism renders a service to the whole world.” The effusion would continue and increase as Hitler proved his anti-communist bonafides.

In October 1933, in his first diplomatic move, Hitler quit the League of Nations and the disarmament convention Germany had signed in the Treaty of Versailles. He announced a massive expansion in the military and that a German air force, forbidden by Versailles, already existed, in Russia. It was a naked affront to the integrity of the international order and the common instrument (Versailles) that had been devised to maintain it. Britain issued bland reprovals but did nothing else.

Then, in 1935, Britain signed its own naval treaty with Germany, gutting the limitations written into Versailles. Worse, in dealing with Germany directly, Britain undercut its main ally, France, destroying the collective security regime that had given Versailles its teeth. From there, it would be every nation for itself.

In March 1936, Hitler marched 150,000 men into the Rhineland, the area quarantined by Versailles to separate Germany and France. The move directly destroyed the Versailles framework. But just as when Germany re-armed in 1935, the Western democracies did nothing. The British actually told the French that they would not back any French action to roll back the invasion. France was not strong enough to act alone, so the aggression stood.

The Rhineland invasion marked a critical turning point on the path to World War II. It was the first German territorial expansion outside the boundaries laid down at Versailles. It greatly elevated Hitler’s prestige within Germany. And it was the last time Hitler could have been stopped short of actual military hostilities. He told his generals afterwards that if France had resisted, “We would have had to withdraw with our tail between our legs.” But nobody resisted.

From that point on, Western complicity with Hitler’s aggression fed on itself.

His next aggression came in 1938, against Austria. The unification of Germany and Austria had been forbidden by Versailles. But Versailles was no longer operative. On March 11, 1938, Hitler sent 200,000 men into Austria, annexing it and making it a collaborator in his march to global power. This was the backdrop for the movie The Sound of Music.

France was torn with factionalism and could not act without British support. Britain had publicly declared before the invasion that it would defend Austrian independence. But when confronted with Hitler’s aggression, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain soothingly replied, “I understand Germany’s desire for unification.”

British facilitation of Hitler’s aggression only spurred him to demand more. His next target was Czechoslovakia. Hitler demanded that the Western part of the country, the Sudetenland, be handed over to Germany. Russia, knowing the strategic significance of Czechoslovakia, asked Britain for help in deterring German aggression. Chamberlain declined.

The French, who actually had a formal treaty to defend Czechoslovakia, said they would only help if the British would. The British wouldn’t. The French asked the U.S. for help. The U.S. was tacitly supporting the fascists against the democrats in the Spanish Civil War and declined.

In September 1938, at an infamous meeting in Munich, Britain, Italy, France, and Germany agreed to carve up Czechoslovakia, giving Hitler the part he wanted, and leaving the rest to be sorted out later. It was one of the most notorious betrayals in the history of the world. It provided Hitler the perfect launching pad for his eventual attack on the Soviet Union.

Russia, which was best situated to help defend Czechoslovakia, had been intentionally excluded from the meeting. Nor were any Czech representatives in attendance. On his return to London, Chamberlain issued one of the most deluded prophesies in diplomatic history: he declared that he had delivered, “Peace for our time.”

Before leaving for Munich, Chamberlain had written to the king, “Herr Hitler has made up his mind to attack Czechoslovakia and then proceed further east.” Further east of Czechoslovakia is Russia. The king was wholly on board with Chamberlain’s scheme, as well as his artifices that he was doing what he could to deter Hitler.

Sudetenland was far from the end of the scheme. As he was plotting the takeover of the rest of Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1939, Hitler assured his generals that there would be no need for military force. “Our enemies are worms,” he declared. “I saw them at Munich.” He went ahead and took the rest of Czechoslovakia, despite having sworn at Munich that he would not.

The Western signatories to the Munich agreement had guaranteed the independence of Slovakia, the eastern portion of Czechoslovakia. But as they had by then done repeatedly before, they did nothing. Chamberlain made one of the most slitheringly dishonest statements in the whole affair. He declared that “there’s no point going to war over a country that no longer exists.”

This was entirely in character. The year before, the foreign fecretary, Lord Halifax, had praised Germany as “a bulwark of the West against Bolshevism.” Before the meeting in Munich, Chamberlain had praised Hitler “for having carried through the renaissance of the German nation with extraordinary success. I have the greatest respect for this man.”

After Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Neville Henderson, Britain’s ambassador to Germany, finally let the cat out of the bag: “To put it quite bluntly, Eastern Europe is not a vital British interest, and the German is certainly more civilized than the Slav and less threatening to British interests.”

It was now the summer of 1939. All the world could see that Hitler, with the West’s encouragement and help, was amassing an army for the invasion of the Soviet Union. Russia was shouting from the rooftops—begging Britain and France—for a collective defense agreement, so that if Germany attacked any one of them, they would all come it that party’s defense.

Both Britain and France gave the Russians the stiff arm. They, especially Britain, had abetted German’s rise for the better part of a decade, all the while certain that once ready, Hitler would “proceed east.” At least that was the plan.

But at the last minute, Hitler offered Stalin a non-aggression pact. Both agreed not to attack the other, and effectively to divide Poland, which stood between them. Stalin, jumped at the offer, knowing that Russia was not anywhere near ready to withstand an attack by the mightiest military machine the world had ever known. He needed to buy time to bulk up for the attack that he knew would eventually come.

Hitler’s motivation was equally clear. Germany had lost World War I because it had had to fight a two-front war, against France in the West, and Russia in the East. Now, with Russia sidelined, Hitler had a one-front war to fight to conquer Europe. His generals gave a green light to the plan. The German invasion of Poland commenced on Sept. 1, 1939. World War II was under way.

In August 1939, just before the Berlin-Moscow Non-Aggression Pact was signed, Chamberlain was asked whether Russia might not be a useful ally against Germany. Chamberlain replied, “I have very deep suspicions about that country.”

The conventional theory of appeasement—that Chamberlain was a well-meaning bumbler who imagined he could propitiate Hitler by giving in to him—was concocted by British historians even before the war was over. It is childish but simplistic, which is its enduring strength. In truth, Chamberlain was as sophisticated a leader as the world knew at this time. He and the entire British elite held an abiding hatred for communism and an ingenuous fascination with fascism. The result was straightforward.

Faced with two great evils, fascism and communism, the British chose fascism. For all of its odious features, fascism was still based on capitalism. It still respected private property. Communism did away with private property in favor of collective ownership. The British elite, led by Chamberlain, imagined that if they helped fascist Germany become strong enough, it would destroy the communist menace in Russia, much as the Germans had destroyed the tsarist regime during World War I.

The British were not trying to avoid a war. They were trying to foster one—between Germany and the Soviet Union.

The British were not trying to avoid a war. They were trying to foster one—between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Rhineland, Austria, Munich and all of the other “capitulations” were but means to help Hitler to build up and “proceed east.” But never in their worst nightmares did Western leaders imagine Germany might actually ally with Russia, leaving it free to come after them instead. The miscalculation very nearly cost them their civilization.

This is important today as we can easily envision yet a third world war, where rising upstarts challenge established powers, and the established powers refuse to step aside. This is the scenario between China and the U.S. today, and it will only grow more pressing, and more threatening.

In such circumstances, lying about motives cannot but make things worse. Much worse. Common interests will get subsumed beneath hidden, private ones. We see so much of that already in our domestic affairs.

But when we’re mooting the possibility of world war, the stakes are too high to allow private interests to dictate what will surely be the fate of the civilization. There are so many potential flash points looming: Afghanistan; Iran; Ukraine; Venezuela; Kashmir; Syria/Lebanon; others. Transparency in dealings is imperative as the U.S. navigates a difficult and dangerous, but inescapable future. We don’t have that right now. We have private interests operating in their interests, and not those of the nation. That cannot work out well.

Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman is the author of The Best One Hour History series, which includes World War I, The French Revolution, The Vietnam War, and other titles.  He is the founder of One Dollar For Life, a nonprofit that builds infrastructure projects in the developing world from donations as small as one dollar.

A New Film Blows the Whistle on War

September 01, 2019 by The Progressive

If the press is the “fourth estate,” the cinema is arguably the fifth. Official Secrets indicts Blair, Bush, and other mass murderers in the court of public opinion—at a theater near you

by Ed Rampell 

Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun

Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun, a 29-year-old British whistleblower who leaked a memo about an illegal NSA-sponsored operation digging for information that might be used to blackmail U.N. Security Council members into supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (Photo: IFC Films)

Official Secrets, co-written and directed by Gavin Hood, is one of the best movies ever made about investigative reporting and whistle-blowing—a film in a league with All the President’s Men and Snowden.

Like the 1976 Watergate classic starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Oliver Stone’s 2016 drama about exposure of the National Security Agency’s clandestine mass warrantless surveillance program, the U.K.-set Secrets is based on a true story.

The film is about Martin Bright, a reporter with The Observer (played by Matt Smith), and Katharine Gun, a translator for the British government (played by Keira Knightley). Gun is responsible for what Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg called “the most important and courageous leak I have ever seen. No one else—including myself—has ever done what Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it.”

Katharine Gun is responsible for what Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg called “the most important and courageous leak I have ever seen.”

In early 2003, during the lead-up to the U.S. attack on Iraq, Gun came across an email from a shadowy National Security Agency official named Frank Koza. It revealed U.S. plans to spy on U.N. Security Council members in order to blackmail them into voting for a resolution approving a military offensive against Baghdad. The resolution was seen as key to providing the strike with a fig leaf of legitimacy from the international community for a war based largely on the dubious proposition that Saddam Hussein possessed “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

In the movie, Gun had already begun doubting President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pretext for assaulting Iraq. She is shown yelling at the television, such as when David Frost interviews Blair and she shouts “bloody liar!” at the screen. (Secrets enhances its verisimilitude by intercutting news clips with the actors’ dramatizations.)

To further complicate matters, Gun’s presumably Muslim husband Yasar (Palestinian actor Adam Bakri) is a Turk with a sketchy immigration status. The troubled translator surreptitiously prints out Koza’s message, and wrestles with her conscience as she tries, Hamlet-like, to decide what to do.

When the hard copy of Koza’s email is leaked to the The Observer, it ignites an internal fight. The British Sunday newspaper has been co-opted by the Blair government: In exchange for preferential treatment, including high level access, the liberal-leaning Observer has favored war, giving Blair “left cover” for attacking Iraq.

But journalists Bright and Ed Vulliamy (Rhys Ifans) of The Observer‘s sister newspaper, The Guardian, a daily, argue for publishing the nefarious scheme. “You’re the press, not a PR agency for Blair,” Vulliamy insists to cautious editors.

After Vulliamy tracks Koza down, The Observer‘s management relents and publishes Bright’s report in a March 2, 2003, front-page article headlined, “Revealed: U.S. Dirty Tricks to Win Vote on Iraq War.” All hell breaks loose: Gun is charged with violating the Official Secrets Act, which prohibits disclosure of confidential state information. She becomes a cause célèbre and is defended by Ben Emmerson (Ralph Fiennes), a human rights attorney in the William Kunstler/Michael Ratner tradition.

At nearly two hours long, Official Secrets raises a number of philosophical and political issues. Following a private screening, Hood agreed with my observation that the film is of a piece with his 2007 Rendition and 2015 Eye in the Sky. The South African filmmaker referred to these features as his “trilogy,” as all three focus on different disturbing aspects of the post-9/11 “war on terror.”

Rendition dramatized the U.S. intelligence community’s pernicious policy of shipping terrorism suspects off to overseas black op sites to be tortured and imprisoned, absent being found guilty of any crimes. Eye challenged the ethics, accuracy, and efficiency of drone warfare.

Although Hood has also directed such crowd-pleasing Tinseltown blockbusters as 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this trio of hard-hitting, well-made features boasting top talents including Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren has placed the Johannesburg-born director in the vanguard of filmmakers shooting thought-provoking movies about the issues of the day. Tsotsi, Hood’s 2005 film about a violent young South African thug who takes care of a baby, won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Previously known primarily for lighter entertainment, including 2003’s Love Actuallyand the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, Knightley has lately been taking on more serious roles, like her portrayal of a feminist novelist in 2018’s Colette. As Gun, she plays a truth teller who risks all for believing she “worked for the British people”—not a government lying the U.K. into a costly, completely avoidable war.

At a private screening of Secrets in Hollywood, the real-life whistleblower Katharine Gun remarked that Knightley “did a great job. It was like watching a different person’s life. She was so intense [the way she] portrayed emotions. It affected me.”

At the same screening, the real-life Matthew Bright agreed that Knightley’s performance is “very impressive,” saying she “did lots of research and was very powerful.” As for being depicted by Matt Smith (who plays Prince Philip in Netflix’s The Crown and The Doctor in the BBC TV series Doctor Who) Bright admitted, “It’s odd to watch one’s self [onscreen].”

Tony Blair and George W. Bush were never hauled into a court of law for lying us into a totally unnecessary war. But they have not escaped scot-free—now Official Secrets is holding them accountable.

Hood, meanwhile, said he recently met with Daniel Ellsberg in San Francisco and drew parallels with the subject of his film. “This story is not about a-larger-than-life person. It’s about someone like us. We all work for organizations—but most people are afraid. Until they think it’s really bad. Here’s someone [Gun] who acts, who examines her conscience. The personal story has a historical effect.”

Unlike Gun, who stood up to the state by trying to avert the needless shedding of blood, Tony Blair and George W. Bush were never hauled into a court of law for lying us into a totally unnecessary war. The P.M. and prez didn’t face a Nuremberg tribunal or International Criminal Court at The Hague. But they have not escaped scot-free—now Official Secrets is holding them accountable.

If the press is the “fourth estate,” the cinema is arguably the “fifth estate.” By combining mass entertainment, drama, and first-rate acting with a true tale of an ordinary woman who stood up to the powers-that-be, Official Secrets indicts Blair, Bush, and other mass murderers in the court of public opinion—at a theater near you.

Official Secrets opens nationwide August 30.

© 2019 The Progressive

L.A.-based film historian/reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored the third edition of “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”.

Indigenous Women of the Amazon Send a Call: The Fight for Mother Earth Is the Mother of All Fights

August 29, 2019 by Common Dreams

The lives of every future generation and our species as humans depends on the collective effort to generate new development models. Humanity has no Plan B for the Earth. Our fight is so urgent that we must all get together right now. The fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all fights.

by Osprey Orielle Lake

A fire burns trees next to grazing land in the Amazon basin in Ze Doca, Brazil. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A fire burns trees next to grazing land in the Amazon basin in Ze Doca, Brazil. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In the Amazon, the lungs of our planet are on fire—the vast inferno can be seen from space—gasping and suffocating under the regime of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and economic development models that pose an aggressive attack on Indigenous peoples and their ancestral forest territories.

The Amazon sequesters vast amounts of carbon with its trees absorbing around a quarter of the carbon dioxide released annually by fossil fuels. The Amazon is also a major source of rain and weather patterns that maintain vital ecosystems across South America and beyond, meaning further deforestation will have a major impact on a global scale and contribute disastrously to the climate crisis. 

The report found that both cattle ranching and soy industries in Brazil, which together account for 80% of Amazon deforestation, are financed through European and North American banks and investors, such as JPMorgan Chase Bank and BlackRock.

More than 74,000 fires have blazed through Brazil this year, an 84% increase over last year’s count in this same time frame. Scientists have made it clear that many of these fires are human-made and cattle ranchers and farmers in Brazil have confirmed their handiwork. This massive social and ecological destruction originates with President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental rhetoric, which falsely asserts that the protection of forests and Indigenous rights are obstacles to economic growth. In this political landscape with encouragement from Bolsonaro, farmers and ranchers are lighting fires with impunity in order to expand their enterprises.

Since his inauguration earlier this year, Bolsonaro has worked to dismantle key protections and policies that protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Amazon in Brazil. His administration’s devastating assaults on social and environmental protections has led to a surge in deforestation and violations of Indigenous Rights, culminating now in massive fires.

In response to increased threats for Indigenous people and forest protection, Indigenous women from across Brazil joined together on August 13th in the country’s capital for the first Indigenous Women’s March in Brazil. Their goal? To oppose Bolsonaro’s current attacks on their rights, and to visibilize the immense power of Indigenous women and women’s role in defending the Amazon and their communities from further harm. 

Indigenous women have been urgently speaking out for years, warning about the dangers to the Amazon due to extractive economic models and the demands of fossil fuel, mining, and agricultural companies, all of which have been further emboldened most recently by Bolsonaro’s administration. What we see in the Amazon fires are the egregious abuses that result from unchecked capitalism, colonization, racism, and patriarchy — all of which are based upon the same systems and ideologies that promote power over, and exploitation of women, Indigenous peoples, people of color and the land. These fires and Bolsonaro’s many anti-indigenous actions are just a few examples of the long-term systemic efforts of governments and corporations worldwide to enact genocidal policies that harm Indigenous peoples and their territories.

Addressing one of the root causes of the systemic issue, the organization Amazon Watch released a report this year connecting the dots between northern consumers and financiers and Bolsonaro’s attacks on the Brazilian Amazon. The report found that both cattle ranching and soy industries in Brazil, which together account for 80% of Amazon deforestation, are financed through European and North American banks and investors, such as JPMorgan Chase Bank and BlackRock. These big banks and large investment companies have a long history of financing industries that destroy forests and commit human rights violations — from slave labor in Brazil to police violence at Standing Rock. Banks and financiers must be held accountable for their decisions to value profit over people, and this fight must continue even after the recent fires in the Amazon are extinguished.

It is a heartbreaking time for all of us, for the Indigenous communities who have called the Amazon home for generations and who are the best custodians of their forests, for the thousands of unique and diverse species that inhabit the forest, and for the trees who’ve stood tall providing our entire planet with the air we need to breathe. We are in an emergency and business as usual can no longer be tolerated — within this context, one of the most important things we can do is to lift up the voices, leadership, and demands of Indigenous people.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International was able to host prominent Indigenous leader, Sônia Guajajara, former vice-presidential candidate of Brazil and National Coordinator of Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB) in New York City earlier this year for the 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues where she was already sounding the alarm on President Bolsonaro’s deleterious actions.

Watch:

This week WECAN International reconnected with Sônia Guajajara for an interview by phone from Imperatriz, Maranhão in Brazil where she shared with us the impacts of the blazing fires.

Sônia Guajajara, former vice-presidential candidate of Brazil and National Coordinator of Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB). Photo credit: WECAN International

Can you tell us more about the fires surging in the Brazilian Amazon?

Indigenous peoples have been warning the world about the violations that the whole country has been suffering for many decades under the predatory action of loggers, miners and the agribusiness that has a very powerful lobby inside of the national congress with more than 200 deputies. The Congress is under their influence and also influenced by projects related to big entrepreneurs such as hydroelectric projects that have been growing and becoming more dangerous in this government right now, which empowers violence against the environment and against us, the Indigenous peoples and our territories. One of the results of this political challenge that we have been facing is the increase of the Amazon burnings in the whole country. There are 84% more fires than at this time in 2018 last year. It has been the highest number of fires registered in seven years, as we have been told by the National Institute of Space Research that monitors satellite observations. So it is really a crime against humanity and it can result in existential tragedy.

What is the effect on Indigenous peoples?

Our peoples have been threatened by the fires more than anyone else because we live in the areas where the fires are burning. The concentration of fires is more in the states where an expressive population of our Indigenous peoples live. In these regions, there are even some isolated Indigenous peoples. The Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) has denounced publicly the threat from the fires to these isolated peoples who have never had contact with modern society.

What does the resistance movement look like for Brazilian Indigenous women right now?

With all these threats that we have faced, the Indigenous women have united in a big march that we recently organized in Brasília. We gathered 2,500 women from 130 different Indigenous peoples representing every region of the country. It was the first initiative of Indigenous women realized by the articulation of Indigenous women from Brazil and the theme was Territory: Our body, Our spirit. Throughout three days these women were the protagonists of our fight.

What is the most important thing the international community can do to support you and Indigenous peoples in Brazil and the Amazon?

The international community is helping very much because the life of Indigenous people depends on this fight that we are facing right now, but not only our lives, but the lives of every future generation and our species as humans depends on the collective effort to generate new development models. Humanity has no Plan B for the Earth. Our fight is so urgent that we must all get together right now. The fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all fights. Thank you so much, I appreciate the support I have been receiving from all the international community.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Osprey Orielle Lake

Osprey Orielle Lake is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and serves as Co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Follow on Twitter: @WECAN_INTL