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COP 20: Coping With The COP PDF Print E-mail
Posted by Joan Russow
Monday, 15 December 2014 10:33
  1. By Nnimmo Bassey

    http://nnimmo.blogspot.ca/2014/12/coping-with-cop.html

     

     

     

    Themass walkout of the 19th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Warsaw by civil society groups and movements rekindled the hope that the Voice of the Streets would find a space in the battle to save the planet from the unfolding global burning. The walkout was an expression of disgust at the way the climate negotiations have become little more than an arena for trading in hot air, a carbon stock exchange. The need for deep emissions cut has been clearly shown by science. It is also known that global warming is not a matter of speculation but a reality. The carbon budget has been calculated and the level of emissions to be cut is known. Still, negotiation arenas remain places for fiddling while Rome burns.


    It is also known that to put the planet on a course that would keep global average temperature rise at not more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels up to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground. By the way, when we speak of a global average of 2 degrees Celsius for Africa that means 3 degrees. Little wonder Africa is one continent that suffers grave climate change impacts and is still having increasing manifestation of desertification. With the knowledge that fossil fuels must be kept untapped the frenzy for extreme extraction, including by fracturing nature (also known as fracking) continue unabated.

    In addition it is known that deforestation and industrial agriculture are major culprits contributing to the literal choking of the planet. Just as citizens are having their lives snuffed out by brutality of the forces paid to defend them, the Earth is screaming: I cannot breathe! Rather than having a rethink, we are hearing of oxymoron like “sustainable intensification.”

    With all these knowledge what is happening and what are we hearing from the climate negotiations? Platitudes. Paltry voluntary pledges of money and carbon emissions offsets! The path set by the Kyoto Protocol underscored equity and justice in tackling global warming. It stipulated binding levels of emissions cut that rich, polluting countries had to make. Assigning commitments based on historical responsibility as well as common but differentiated responsibilities are sensible ways to tackle a phenomenon of quantum is scientifically computed. Earlier negotiations were clear about climate finance and transfer of technology.

    The COPs since the 15th session held in Copenhagen in 2009 have become arenas for voluntary commitments. Having countries pledging to make emissions cuts according to what is convenient to them does not indicate and understanding of the emergency situation confronting the planet and all life forms on it. This era of voluntarism does nothing to indicate that there is a carbon budget that has to be dealt with. The height of this new strategy could well be what they term the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). This should suggest to us the serious erosion of multilateralism and the enthronement of bilateralism and even an upsurge of unitary actions. This could be why voluntary pledges to a Green Climate Fund that rotates on an axis set in Copenhagen receive applause from some quarters. 

    Lest we forget, the world took a major wrong fork on the road to tackling global warming at Copenhagen. Subsequent COPs at Cancun, Durban, Doha and Warsaw have built on stipulates of the Copenhagen Accord. We remind ourselves that we cannot get to the right destination using a wrong map no matter how far we may go. It is always good sense to retrace one’s steps when we know we had missed it. Lima locks in those steps, as the Eiffel Tower appears on the horizon.

    The COP in Lima takes the cake when it comes to showing utter disdain to the urgent cries for justice and equity in the world today. For one, the host nation chose to host the world in a military facility that the locals say is tainted with blood of citizens that were tortured or disappeared there. Entering this facility reminds one that there is indeed a very thin line between freedom and repression. The setting itself is a sterile affair with meetings held under tents in the often-sweltering heat that ought to remind negotiators that global warming should not be toyed with.

    If the official negotiations are locked in on the path that treats climate change as something over which to make long speeches and then perhaps throw some money at, the mood outside the COP was different. Although before the COP began there were fears that the mobilisation of citizens would be weak, the reality proved otherwise. Waves upon waves of citizens took to the streets denouncing the inaction at the COP, destruction of territories, human rights abuses and demanding the desired seriousness. Corporate kidnapping of the COP was also strongly denounced with activists marching against a meeting of the extractive sector companies, asking that they unhinge their fangs from the veins of the Earth.

    At the Peoples’ Summit Against Climate Change (Cumbre De Los Pueblos) held in Parque de la Exposicion, miles away from the Little Pentagon, citizens from all over the world offered real solutions to climate change. They underscored the fact that the dominant global capitalist system is the major driver of the crisis and demanded “system change, not climate change.” The demands include an urgent transition from fossil fuels and the support of agro-ecological and peasant agriculture as the assured way of feeding the world and cooling the planet at the same time. At a session on Systemic Alternatives, Pablo Solon stressed the need to get to the root of the problem. “Climate change is not only about greenhouse gases. You cannot limit emissions without cutting extraction,” he said. This is exactly why environmental and social movements around the world are saying it is time to stand up and face the sober truth. It is time to say Yes to Life and No to Mining!

    At an event that saw passionate presentations by indigenous women the team of the Global Greengrants Fund, the International Network of Women’s Funds and the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network amplified the need for active resourcing of struggles for women’s rights within the climate justice context. 
     

    Citizens rose up against Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and other carbon offset mechanisms in all their manifestations. Groups like the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN), the Global Alliance Against REDD and the Indigenous Environmental Network stressed that REDD was shown to be mostly a way of giving polluters permit to pollute and to displace poor forest dependent communities. Sadly this may end up being one of the major props for the Paris COP in 2015, according to some observers.

    For Mary Louise Malig of the Global Forest Coalition, “carbon offset permits are simply permits to harm nature.” She also sees the so-called climate-smart agriculture as a backdoor way of “introducing carbon markets for soils and for using carbon accounting to direct agricultural policies.”

    Two days of sitting of the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature revealed from submissions of experts and impacted citizens that the view of Nature as an object for exploitation or merchandise and an apparent ignorance of the spiritual and cultural dimensions of nature are some of the root causes of the planetary crisis. The Tribunal admitted all cases presented and found the governments and corporations guilty as charged. 

    As we depart from Lima, after the COP’s official time slot had expired, the negotiators were still huddled in their dens piling up options for Paris in a document that lacks a soul. Three thoughts shared during these past days keep ringing in my mind and we close this piece with them.

    “Our relationship with Nature must move from exploitation to respect. We must reject the sacrifice economy where the environment, humans and other species are being sacrificed,” said Francois Houtart. And this one from Vishwas Satgar: “We need to humanise power and subject pit to the principles of life.” The third thought came from an indigenous brother from Brazil who said: “ We are a people of culture, our spirituality and nature works in line with nature.” 

    This last thought inspired me to write this poem:

    We Are A People Of Culture

    We are a people with culture 
    We do not destroy nature
    Solidarity, productivity, respect - those we nurture 
    And we are loving by nature

    We are a people of culture 
    We live at peace with nature
    Our thoughts are intergenerational in structure
    For this we detest actions that break and fracture

    Believe or not our future is born mature
    For we incubate and brood over the picture
    Of our desired, dreamed future
    Not surprising we internalize our love for nature

    We are a people of culture 
    And we live at one with nature
    We will resist your plots to box us into your strictures
    Even though we are so loving by nature

    Lima. 13 December 2014

    --

    Postscript: 
    COP20 crawled to an end on Sunday 14 December 2014 with a 5-pages Lima Call for Climate Action. At some point during the negotiations the draft text had up to 50 pages loaded with optional texts. Perhaps the greatest success of the COP could be its ability to trim that down to 5 pages. You would be excused if you think that the trimming cut off some flesh. That would be wrong. 50 pages or 5, the document did not deal with emissions cut based on science, neither did it show any real pathway to avoid catastrophic temperature rise. As Climate Justice advocates declared in a statement signed by groups, including Friends of the Earth International, at the end of the COP: No Justice in Lima Outcome.

     
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  2. In keeping with our tradition of seeking ways to build common understanding on critical issues, no matter how complex, today we are considering The Food We Want and the need to have wholesome food. It is a great honour to examine this topic with you, members of The Young Environmentalists Network (TYEN). Being children from primary and secondary schools we can rightly say that you hold out the hope for our nation to overcome her challenges, to produce healthy foods and protect our environment. 

    As we all know, food means more than merely something that we place in a pot, cook and eat. Agriculture means more to us than merely going to the farm to plant some seeds or stems. Good food makes you grow healthy and strong. Bad food can make you sick and keep you from going to school.

    Going to farm is almost like going to school. At the farm we learn about crops, trees and our culture. We learn to know which seeds have to be preserved after harvest for planting at the next season. We see our parents share seeds with neighbours and also share food. Agriculture and food help to build and unite us in our communities.

    On a global scale, food is so important that when the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals were prepared the first goal was the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. It was hoped that between 1990 and 2015 the number of people suffering from hunger would be reduced by fifty per cent.

    Although some progress has been made in this direction, over 800 million people do not have enough food to live healthy lives. The death of 3.1 million children (or nearly half the number of deaths among children) between ages 1-3 years has been linked to not having wholesome or nutritious food. And many children still go to school hungry everyday.

    Global hunger and malnutrition are still key issues in the world as of today.

    Overcoming Hunger

    You will agree with me that people are not hungry because there is no food in the market or at the farms. There are many factors that keep people hungry. In fact most of the hungry people in the world today are farmers. They sell their harvests so as to use the money to pay school fees for their children, pay house rent, pay medical bills and also for transport and other costs.

    Farming has become big business and the support for farmers that community life used to provide is being reduced by what we now term as modern life.

    To overcome hunger we need to look at the root causes and tackle them rather than seeing hunger as an opportunity to manipulate the system and make more profits from the misery of the poor.

    Are GMOs the answer?

    In 1996 the world saw the commercialisation of genetically modified organisms popularly known as GMOs. These are plants, animals and other living organisms genetically modified by scientists in the laboratory. The scientists cut desirable genetic materials from one organism and insert or paste them into another organism to produce totally new organisms that would otherwise not exist in nature. These are often done across species boundaries. For example, a gene can be taken from a pig and inserted in rice or corn or banana.

    Most crops are modified to do either of two things or both:
    1. To withstand chemicals that would kills every other plant
    2. To kills particular pests that are known to usually attack a plant 

    So far the major crops that have been genetically modified and are planted in large commercial quantities are: soybeans, corn, cotton and canola or rapeseed. There are few countries that plant GMOs in the world today. These include: USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Spain.

    Problems with GMOs in Agriculture

    Many people think that any fruit that is bigger than the usual ones are GMOs. This is not true. The biggest advantage of GMOs is that they make big farming easier for the farmer. The problems with this are many. 
    1. They do not support mixed cropping but support monocultures
    2. They are not good for our agriculture, as the system requires that farmers must buy seeds and not save and reuse or share them.
    3. Some of the crops are engineered to produce infertile seeds
    4. They contaminate other natural varieties of crops and animals/fish
    5. They reduce the varieties of particular crops available and this creates more problems as unexpected diseases can wipe out vast quantities of crops
    6. They require the use of large quantities of toxic chemicals some of which are manufactured by the companies that genetically modify the seeds
    7. Those engineered to kill particular pests also kill other organisms that were not a threat to the crops
    8. They sometimes look like normal crops and can pass undetected making it difficult to control or withdraw it once released into the environment
    9. There is no scientific certainty about the safety of these crops. 

    The major global convention governing the production, movement and use of GMOs is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This convention has a particular protocol known as the Cartagena Protocol that has an important principle known as the Precautionary Principle. This principle requires that nations should exercise precaution whenever there is doubt about the safety of any new organism to be introduced into the environment. 

    The CBD also requires that countries must put in place measures to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the release or use of GMOs that are likely to affect natural biodiversity and human health. It particularly Article 8(j) of the CBD requires that nations put in place measures to “respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation of biological diversity…”

    As we said earlier, once GMOs are released into an environment the contamination cannot be controlled and the only persons that gain is the company that makes the crop or organism. In fact in many cases where there are no laws to regulate the introduction of such organisms what the companies do is to ensure the contamination of the environment and then the government would be forced to make weak laws to protect their activities and allow for more contamination and possible take over of the agricultural sector.

    GMOs are useful in production of drugs and in certain other manufacturing processes. Here we are concerned with GMOs in agriculture and food.

    What is happening in Nigeria?

    There has been a very serious desire by companies that make GMOs to open up the Nigerian environment for their control and business. Working with their local and international agents they are making effort to have a weak law in place that would allow introduction of GMOs without any provision for holding them liable if there are accidents or contaminations. 

    We believe that Nigeria does not need GMOs. And that what we need is to adequately support our farmers who have been feeding us and keeping our environment healthy. We also need to make farming attractive to young people, provide rural infrastructure, and create food processing/preservation facilities. We need more agricultural extension officers and agriculture should not be used as a means of punishment in schools. 

    Only wholesome, natural foods can ensure adequate nourishment for you children. GMOs have been fed to farm animals since 1996 and some food products for humans contain GMO products. If anyone tells you they are safe, ask them for the proof. There is no scientific evidence to show that GMOs are safe. The makers of GMOs and their agents want to turn Nigeria, Africa and the world into their laboratory for experiments. Will you accept to be used for experiments?

    Last word

    This Sustainability Academy has been organised to share information with you so that you can know what is happening around the world and in our nation. Although only few items on the market shelves that have GMOs are so labelled, it is important to check the labels – especially for products that contain soybeans and corn. The future belongs to you. Shine your eyes.

    ----
    Talking points by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at the 5th Sustainability Academy of HOMEF held at Eghosa Grammar School, Benin City, Nigeria on 25 November 2014 in collaboration with TYEN.


     
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  3. Today is a great day for every one who believes that we all have a right to a safe environment in which to live our lives in dignity. For the Etche people this is a singularly important day as we join you to mark the infamous day in 1990 when your demand for life was met with death and destruction. Your resilience and sustained peaceful struggles under intense provocation is widely acknowledged and today we assure you that we will stand with you, our people, until victory!

    We will not claim any victory based on mere promises. We will not claim victory when scraps of food or pieces of silver (money) are thrown at us. We will only claim victory when our respect and honour are restored. We will claim victory when our lands bleed no more. We will claim victory when our land is devoid of pollution and the water we drink does not kill us. We will claim victory when what is ours returns to us and we can carry on with our livelihood activities in peace and with our human and environmental are rights fully respected. We will claim victory only when our rights as citizens of Nigeria are actively recognised and the gruesome slaughter of our peoples in the 1990 massacre is duly acknowledged and fully dealt with.

    Let me say here that my revulsion at the Umuechem massacre was the major reason why I decided to devote my life to the struggle for environmental and human rights for our peoples. Next to your gallant peaceful stand against criminal provocation, my course in life has ben greatly inspired by the Ogoni martyr, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who fought for social and economic justice but was brutally murdered by the Nigerian State on 10 November 1995. The blood of the murdered Umuechem as well as Ogoni patriots continue to remind us that there must be no rest until our land and rivers are allowed to rest and support our lives as they ought to do. 

    We salute you, great Etche people. We look forward to working with you to overturn the logic where military might and terrors are used to push corporate interests to the detriment of our peoples and our environment. 

    In 1990 your fathers, mothers, sons and daughters were killed because they demanded for dialogue over the state of your environment wickedly poisoned by oil extraction activities of the oil company Shell. Today we stand with your to affirm that you can no longer be ignored. Today we stand with you to insist that the environment is our life and must be defended. We look forward to working together with you and forging ahead with determination and courage to ensure that we recover not only our memories, but also our dignity and full rights to live in a decent environment devoid of oppression and all manners of ecological wickedness.

    Our national anthem declares that the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain. Today, be assured fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, that your labour, as you mark this day, will not be in vain. I salute your courage. I salute your determination. Onward we go, until victory!

    --
    Our Lands Must Bleed No More
    Solidarity Message to the Etche People by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) on 31 October 2014
     
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  4. United for A Sustainable Future

    Outline for Keynote Address by Nnimmo Bassey at the Inauguration of the UWC Robert Bosch College at Freiburg, Germany, 23 September 2014.

    It is an honour for me to speak to us today at this epochal event of the inauguration of the UWC Robert Bosch College in the beautiful and green city of Freiburg. I salute the Students, Staff and Board of this unique college. I salute all guests and partners present.

    The streets and community actions are my natural forts, and I had a huge struggle deciding whether to join the great Climate March in New York City or to be with us here in Freiburg. The march was a great sign of solidarity with the victims of climate crimes around the world; it was also an expression of indignation towards the do-nothing-false-solutions-loving policy makers in the halls of climate negotiations. I consciously chose to be here knowing that there were already a great number of comrades in New York and because I see in the young persons from 70 countries gathered in this college a strong reason to hope for a sane future where mankind would be humble enough to accept that we are part of a galaxy of other species, that we do not know it all and that techno-fixes will not fix everything. 

    I see UWC Robert Bosch College as indeed a unique college by the very reason of your aim of making education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. 

    Education for Sustainable future

    Education is key to building world peace and to promoting a sustainable future. We see needless conflicts around us and most of them rise from the basis of ignorance. People fight when they cease to reason; when they cease to be reasonable and because they are afraid of others and are not ready to learn from each other. These are the very blots that education can erase. I always remind my children, and I want to say to you today, never allow your schooling to subvert your education.

    In my more than two decades of work as an environmental justice and human rights advocate I always knew that the best campaign for justice must be predicated on knowledge. This knowledge goes beyond what you learn in the formal classroom and includes the things we learn in the laboratories of life. From last year I determined to invest much energy working with other sift, obtain and share knowledge. I run a mobile Sustainability Academy with key instigators invited to speak on major issues to groupings of citizens. 

    I have also been particularly privileged with be in the Right Livelihood Family and to be deeply involved in its Right Livelihood College endeavour. Every laureate of the Right Livelihood Award is a fellow of the college and is expected to share the knowledge that helped them make significant contributions to humanity with college students. Currently there are 7 campuses spread across the continents – two in Africa, two in Europe, one each in Asia, South And North America.

    Currently constructed future 

    • Economics of greed – under the guise of free markets; exploitation of peoples and nations; manipulations by international financial institutions
    • Disaster opportunism and the end of compassion
    • Disaster extractivism without a sense of responsibility
    • Might as right, rather than right as might

    An alternative future: love + solidarity

    Will not be built on might, but on love and solidarity
    A sustainable future will be built on justice

    Expenditures will be focused on the securing harmony between peoples and between species

    Technology will work with nature, not just mimic nature and not against her. A good example is in the area of renewable and truly green energy and production modes.

    The era of conquering nature is over!

    Sustainability versus Vulnerability

    The matter of sustainability of any environment is multi-dimensional, but at its most basic it speaks of the ownership, use and enjoyment of its resources in such a way that the utilization and enjoyment of the resources is equally assured for future generations. The implication of this is that the local people must primarily own resources and local communities must have the prime of place in determining who does what in their backyard. 

    A quote from an article by Juan Lopez for a forthcoming editing of Eco-Instigator is useful to reflect on here:

    While everybody is familiar with the death toll during the genocide in Rwanda, estimated between 500, 000 and 800, 000 people, much less awareness has been provided to the situation in Congo in the past years of conflicts. The International Rescue Committee has estimated that the Conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo has taken a death toll of 5.4 million people from 1998 to 2007. A CNN correspondent in trying to give an illustration of the heavy toll, made the following comparative analysis: “The wars in that country have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- all combined and then doubled”. 

    Sustainability cannot be built on the continuous exploitation of non-renewable resources. Corporations must recognise the vulnerability of both peoples and the environment in which they operate. 

    Non-renewables are wasting resources. As the saying goes, what would you do when your well runs dry?

    • The Collective path: when you walk alone you may go fast. But when you walk together you do go far
    • Wisdom is not a complicated thing otherwise it would not be connected to common sense
    • No matter how far you go in the wrong direction you are still wrong

    Tomorrow starts now

    What must we do? Divest from fossil fuel companies. Note the Rockefeller example. Imagine Rockefeller that started from oil now divesting from oil. That is a great statement. It should be heeded.

    This tomorrow must be built on the confluence of ideas, of peoples from all cultures, backgrounds and callings in life. It is time for the people to arise and exert their political rights and demand their right to live and to dignity and respect. A great time for political leaders to understand that when they get elected to lead, they are called to serve and that sovereignty remains with the people. This is the tomorrow that must start today. 

    Let us end this with a recalling of the Haida proverb that says: We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. That is the essence of sustainability.

    A sustainable future keeps an eye on tomorrow and respects the environment, cultures and peoples. We cannot deprive our children of enjoying the gifts of nature simply because we got here before them!

     
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  5. Press Release: Social Movements representing more than 200 million people around the world denounce corporate take-over of Ban Ki-Moon Climate Summit

    Social movements such as La Via Campesina, Oilwatch International, Migrants Rights International, Global Forest Coalition, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, ATTAC France and more than 330 organizations (1), representing more than 200 million members around the world, including peasants and small farmers, indigenous peoples, migrants, workers, women, people of color, environmental and climate justice activists and water warriors, have publicly denounced the corporate take-over of the upcoming Ban Ki-Moon Climate Summit. In a joint statement published on September 16, they call for systemic change rather than the voluntary pledges and market-based and destructive public-private partnership initiatives that currently feature on the Summit’s agenda, like REDD+ Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. 

    The statement calls for 10 concrete actions to be taken to prevent climate chaos including immediate binding commitments to keep the temperature rise to no more than 1.5degrees Centigrade. The social movements go on to warn against what they call the “false solutions” and harmful actions that the big corporations that have been invited by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to play the lead role at the upcoming Climate Summit in New York are pushing for.

    “Climate change negotiations are being dominated by irresponsible states, polluters and corporations that only care about current operations and the furtherance of profits through more fossil fuel exploitation, new carbon markets and other false solutions like industrial bioenergy that are destroying forests, soils, wetlands, rivers, mangroves and oceans,” states Genevieve Azam, Spokesperson of ATTAC France.

    Carlos Marentes Director of Border Agricultural Workers and Member of La Via Campesina International adds, “Ban Ki Moon’s New York Climate Summit has been surrounded by a lot of fanfare but does not call for genuine systemic actions. It instead proposes several of the false solutions of the green economy, including dangerous techno-fixes and market-based solutions that will do more harm than good. It fails to recognize that climate change is the result of an unjust economic system that is in the business of pursuing endless growth, concentrating wealth in the hands of a few and over-exploiting nature to the point of collapse.”

    The social movements point out halting climate change calls for an end to the neoliberal free trade regime that promotes this pursuit of endless growth and endless profit for transnational corporations. They call for an end to the often secret negotiations on the corporate trade and investment regime of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the proposed TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) and other bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements that seek to commodify all aspects of life and nature. Nnimmo Bassey of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nigeria points out, “These agreements undercut domestic labor, destroy nature, and substantially reduce the capacity of nations to define their own economic, social and environmental priorities.” 

    The New York Summit is said to be a key milestone in the road to the 21st Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in 2015, but the social movements supporting the statement point out that this requires firm legally binding commitments and transformative change rather than the business as usual currently proposed. ““Of course, we need real and concrete actions. But not any kind of action. No more voluntary pledges and empty promises. There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments’ policy-making being taken over by polluting corporations. It is crucial for us to all strengthen our concrete struggles on the ground and focus our energies on changing the capitalist system.,” concludes Cindy Wiesner of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. 

    (1) The statement and the full list of organizations can be found here: http://climatespace2013.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/mobilize-and-organize-to-stop-and-prevent-planet-fever/ 

    To arrange for interviews with any of the spokespersons, please contact any of the following: 

    Annelies Schorpion This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (French, English and Spanish)
    Maxime Combes This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (French, English and Spanish)
    Alberto Zoratti This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (Italian and English)
    Sha Grogan-Brown This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (English and Spanish) mobile number:+1-917-586-9044





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    Mobilize and organize to Stop and Prevent Planet Fever!


    September 16, 2014 

    [September 19 – 23, New York] When we, as human beings, get a fever, we immediately get worried and take action. After all, we know that if our body temperature rises to 1.5ºC, let alone 2ºC [3.6 ºF] above the normal average, there can be severe damage, while an increase of 4-6ºC [7.2-10.8 ºF] or more can cause a comatose situation and even death.

    So it is, when planet Earth gets a fever. For the past 11,000 years, the average temperature of the Earth has been around 14ºC [57.2ºF]. It is now about to reach an increase of 1ºC. And, if we do not take appropriate measures now to stop this fever from spreading, the forecast is that our planet will be well on its way to anywhere between 2ºC to 6ºC rise in temperature before the end of this century. Under such feverish conditions, life as we know it will dramatically change on planet Earth.

    We have no other recourse but to take action now. Not just any action but the right action and at the right time. When, for example, a human person has a fever, we urge them to rest their body, give them a lot of liquids, prescribe the right medicine, and if the fever goes up we bring them to the hospital and try to find the underlying cause of the fever, which can range from a simple infection to life-threatening diseases like cancer.

    Right Prescriptions

    In the case of a planetary fever, the right prescription requires at least 10 actions to be undertaken and applied.

    Make immediate binding commitments — not voluntary pledges — to control planetary temperature rise to no more than 1.5ºC [2.7 ºF] this century by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions per year to 38 Gigatons by 2020.
    Let the Earth rest by making binding commitments to leave more than 80% of known fossil fuel reserves under the soil and beneath the ocean floor.
    Move away from resource extractivism by placing bans on all new exploration and exploitation of oil, bitumen sands, oil shale, coal, uranium, and natural gas including pipeline infrastructure like Keystone XL.
    Accelerate the development and transition to renewable energy alternatives such as wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power with more public and community ownership and control.
    Promote local production and consumption of durable goods to satisfy the fundamental needs of the people and avoid the transport of goods that can be produced locally.
    Stimulate the transition from industrialized, export-oriented agriculture for the global supermarket to community-based production to meet local food needs based on food sovereignty.
    Adopt and apply Zero Waste strategies for the recycling and disposal of trash and the retrofitting of buildings to conserve energy for heating and cooling.
    Improve and expand public transportation for moving people and freight within urban centres and between cities within urban regions through efficient trains.
    Develop new sectors of the economy designed to create new jobs that restore the balance and equilibrium of the Earth system such as climate jobs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Earth restoration jobs.
    Dismantle the war industry and military infrastructure in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by warfare, and divert war budgets to promote genuine peace.

    Wrong Prescriptions

    At the same time, we must also be aware that all actions are not appropriate actions and that some initiatives can worsen the situation. Perhaps our most pressing challenge is the fact that big corporations are capturing the climate agenda to make new businesses designed to take advantage of the crises. In response, we need to send a message, loud and clear, to corporations: ‘Stop Exploiting the Tragedy of Climate Change!’

    More specifically, we need to resist the ‘greening of capital’ as the solution by rejecting the following policies, strategies and measures:

    The commodification, financialization and privatization of the functions of nature through the promotion of a false “green economy” agenda which places a price on nature and creates new derivative markets that will only increase inequality and expedite the destruction of nature.
    This means saying No to REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) … No to Climate Smart Agriculture, Blue Carbon and Biodiversity offsetting — all of which are designed to create new for-profit business for corporations.
    Techno-fix “solutions” like geo-engineering, genetically modified organisms, agrofuels, industrial bioenergy, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, hydraulic fracking, nuclear projects, waste-to-energy generation based on incineration, and others.
    Mega and unnecessary infrastructure projects that do not benefit the population and are net contributors to greenhouse gasses like, mega dams, excessively huge highways, stadiums for world cups, etc.
    Free trade and investment regimes that promote trade for profit and undercut domestic labor, destroy nature, and substantially reduce the capacity of nations to define their own economic, social and environmental priorities.

    Preventative Cure

    Finally, we also need to go beyond identifying right and wrong prescriptions to naming the disease that constantly causes and drives this planetary fever. If we don’t take this step, the fever will keep coming back again and again in a much more aggressive way. We need to take stock of the roots of the disease in order to weather the storm.

    Scientists have clearly traced the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions back to the industrial revolution 250 years ago while tracking the spurt that has taken place during the past century. From this analysis, it is clear that the industrial model of increased extraction and productivism for the profit of a few is the prime cause of the problem. We need to replace capitalism with a new system that seeks harmony between humans and nature and not an endless growth model that the capitalist system promotes in order to make more and more profit. We need a system that links climate change and human rights and provides for the protection of most vulnerable communities like migrants, and recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    Mother Earth and her natural resources cannot sustain the consumption and production needs of this globalized modern industrialized society. We require a new system that addresses the needs of the majority and not of the few. To move in this direction, we need a redistribution of the wealth that is now controlled by the 1%. In turn, this requires a new definition of wellbeing and prosperity for all life on the planet under the limits and in recognition of the rights of our Mother Earth and Nature.

    We urgently need to organize and mobilize in September in New York and the world to push for a process of transformation that can address the structural causes that are driving the climate crisis.

    INITIATORS

    Alternatives International
    ATTAC – France
    Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo – La Via Campesina (CLOC-LVC)
    Corporate Europe Observatory
    Ecologistas en Acción
    ETC Group
    Fairwatch – Italy
    Focus on the Global South
    Fundación Solón – Bolivia
    Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and end TNCs’ impunity
    Global Forest Coalition 
    Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
    Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) – Nigeria
    Indigenous Environmental Network
    La Via Campesina
    Migrants Rights International
    No-REDD Africa Network
    OilWatch International
    Polaris Institute – Canada
    SENTRO – Philippines
    Thai Climate Justice Working Group (TCJ)
    Transnational Institute

    ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS

    Acção Académica para o Desenvolvimento das Comunidades Rurais (ADECRU), Mozambique
    Action Jeunesse pour le Développement (AJED-Congo)
    ActionAid
    Adéquations, France
    ADENY, France
    AFRICANDO, Gran Canaria, España
    Aitec-IPAM, France
    Alianza politica sector de mujeres, Guatemala
    Alliance for Democracy, US
    Alofa, Tuvalu
    Alter Equo
    Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), South Africa
    Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance Against Mining) – Philippines
    Amigos da Terra Brasil – FoE Brazil
    Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe (ATALC)
    Amigos de la Tierra – FoE Spain
    Amigu di Tera – FoE Curaçao
    Amis de la Confédération Paysanne Alsace
    Amis de la Terre France
    Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA) – Pilipinas
    Aprilia in Movimento
    Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales, México
    Asamblea Permanente del Comahue por el Agua (A.P.C.A.) de Neuquén, Argentina
    Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
    Asian Pacific Environmental Network
    Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
    Asociación Argentina de Abogados Ambientalistas (AAdeAA)
    Asociación aurora vivar, Peru
    Asociación Catalana para el Agua y el Ambiente (ASCA), Catalunya, Spain
    Asociación Civil Árbol de Pie, Bariloche – Argentina
    Asociación de Pobladores del Departamento de La Paz (ASPODEPAZ)
    Asociación humanidad libre, Peru
    Asociación Indígena Ambiental – AIA
    Asociación Regional Centroamericana para el Agua y el Ambiente (ARCA), Costa Rica
    Association For Promotion Sustainable Development Hisar India
    Association pour la Protection de l’Environnement et le Développement Durable de Bizerte – APEDDUB
    Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP)
    Association pour la défense des droits de l’eau et de l’assainissement, Sénégal
    Associazione Marco Mascagna
    Athens SAVEGREEKWATER, Greece
    ATTAC Argentina
    ATTAC Austria
    ATTAC/CADTM Maroc
    ATTAC Germany
    ATTAC Hellas
    ATTAC Ireland
    ATTAC Italia
    ATTAC Japan
    ATTAC Poland
    ATTAC Spain
    ATTAC Togo
    Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation (BAFLF)
    Beyond Copenhagen Collective, India
    Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (India peoples science campaign), India
    Biofuelwatch, UK/US
    Biowatch South Africa
    Bizi! – Pays Basque
    Border Agricultural Workers Project
    Brigada Cimarrona Sebastian Lemba, Republica Dominicana
    Campaign for a Life of Dignity for All (KAMP)
    Campaign for Peace and Democracy
    Campaña de Afectados por Repsol- Repsolmata, Catalunya
    CEEweb for Biodiversity
    CENSAT agua viva – FoE Colombia
    Centro de Estudios para la Gobernabilidad y Democracia – CEGODEM
    Centre for alternative technology, UK
    Centre for Civil Society, Durban, South Africa
    Center for Earth Energy & Democracy, US
    Center for Encounter and active Non-Violence, Austria
    Centre for National-Democracy Studies, Indonesia
    Centre for 21st Century Issues (C21st), Nigeria
    Cercle Modesto Cugnolio, Italia
    CESTA – FoE El Salvador
    CETRI – Centre tricontinental
    Climate and Capitalism, Canada
    Climate Justice Alliance (US)
    Coal-free central luzon movement, Philippines
    Coalition nationale Malgache pour l’Education Pour Tous – CONAMEPT
    Coalition pour la Protection du Patrimoine Génétique Africain (COPAGEN)
    COECOCEIBA – FoE Costa Rica
    Col·lectiu RETS, Catalunya, Spain
    Colectivo VientoSur, Chile
    Collectif 07 Stop aux Gaz et Huiles de Schiste, France
    Collectif citoyen les Engraineurs, France
    Collectif pour le triangle de Gonesse, France
    Collectif Stop aux Hydrocarbures extrêmes (38), France
    Comitato Abruzzese per la Difesa dei Beni Comuni, Italie
    Comité de Derechos Humanos de Base de Chiapas Digna Ochoa, Chiapas, México
    Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine, Canada
    Common Frontiers
    Confédération paysanne, France
    Conseil pour la Terre des Ancêtres, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia, Chile
    Cooperativa de Producción, Trabajo y Servicios Múltiples La Union Integral (COOPUNINTE), República Dominicana
    Coordination Climat et Justice Sociale de Genève, Suisse
    Critical Information Collective
    Culture and Ecology (ICE)-Kenya
    Democracy Center, Bolivia
    DIÁLOGO 2000 – JUBILEO SUR ARGENTINA
    Dichiariamo Illegale la Povertà’ (DIP), Italy
    Dimensioni Diverse – Milano
    Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji
    Earth Law Center, US
    East Africa Climate Change Network
    ECA Watch – Austria
    Echoes of Silence, United Kingdom
    Ecohermanas
    EcoNexus
    Ecos del Silencio Nicaragua
    Ecomujer Germany, Germany
    Ecuador decide
    Ecumenical Advocacy Network, Philippines
    Effet de serre toi-même, France
    Emmaüs International
    End Ecocide on Earth
    Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, US
    Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
    Earth in Brackets
    Farmworker Association of Florida, US
    Fédération Artisans du Monde, France
    Federación de Estudiantes del Perú
    Federación nacional de Trabajadores del Agua Potable y Alcantarillado del Perú – FENTAP
    Finance & Trade Watch
    FÍS NUA, Ireland
    Foro Ciudadano de Participación – FOCO, Argentina
    Fondation Sciences Citoyennes, France
    Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
    Foreste per Sempre, Italia
    Fórum Mudanças Climáticas e Justiça Social, Brasil
    Forum per i bieni comuni e l’economia solidale del Friuli Venezia Giulia – Italy
    Forum Solidarida Peru
    France Libertés – la Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, France
    Franciscans International
    Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular de Honduras
    Frente nacional por la vida y soberanía (FRENVIDAS), Peru
    Freshwater Action Network (FAN)
    Freshwater Action Network America del Sur (FANAS)
    Freshwater Action Network – Central America (FANCA)
    Freshwater Action Network – Mexico (FANMex)
    Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA)
    Fresh Eyes – People to People Travel, UK
    Friche En Ville, France
    Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
    Friends of the Earth Malta
    Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone
    Friends of the Earth Sweden
    Fundación Mundubat, España
    Garjan.org, Nepal
    Générations Futur, France
    Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
    Global Exchange
    Globalization Watch Hiroshima, Japan
    Global Justice Ecology Project, US
    Global Social Justice – Belgium
    GRAIN
    Green Cross France et Territoires
    GroundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa
    Grupo Carta de Belém – Brasil
    Gruppo d’Acquisto Solidale Il Melograno Associazione di Siena (GAS)
    Grupo de Estudios Ambientales (GEA), Mexique
    Grupo de Solidaridad-Arenal (GRUDESA) – NICARAGUA
    Grupo de Trabajo de Cambio Climático y Justicia (GTCCJ) de Bolivia
    Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK
    Humanitarian Group for Social Development (HGSD), Lebanon
    ICCA Consortium
    IDEASforus Togo
    ILLA centro de educación y comunicación, Peru
    Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
    Institut Européen de Recherche sur la Politique de l’Eau (IERPE)
    Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
    Institute for Policy Studies, Climate Policy Program, US
    Instituto de Estudios sobre Desarrollo y Cooperación Internacional del País Vasco
    Insurrectas Autónomas, Honduras
    International Institute of Climate Action and Theory
    International Network on Migration and Development
    IRPAD/Afrique, Bamako (MALI)
    Jóvenes Ante la Emergencia Nacional, México
    Jubileo Sur/Américas
    Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD)
    Justiça Ambiental – FoE Mozambique
    Justicia Climatica, Republica Dominicana
    Kalpavriksh – Environment Action Group, India
    Keep Ireland Fracking Free, Ireland
    KFEM (Korea Federation for Environmental Movement) – FoE Korea
    Kilusang Maralita sa Kanayunan (KILOS KA), Philippines
    KRuHA (people’s coalition for the right to water), Indonesia
    La Belle Cause
    La Nature en Ville, France
    Landless Peoples Movement South Africa
    Ligue Internationale des Femmes pour la Paix et la Liberté
    LILAK – Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights, Philippines
    Maison de la Nature et de l’Environnement “la Porcherie” (MNE.P), Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Marcha mundial de las mujeres, Peru
    Marcha mundial de las mujeres macro region norte
    Maudesco – FoE Mauritius
    Medical Mission Sisters, US
    Medio Ambiente y Sociedad, Mexico
    MELCA, Ethiopia
    Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM), Philippines
    Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW), Philippines
    Migrant Rights Council of Nepal
    Mother Earth Action Co-operative Ltd, Canada
    Mouvement de la Paix, France
    Mouvement pour une Alternative Non-violente
    Mouvement Utopia, France
    Movement Generation, US
    Movement no coke high lazio
    Movimiento de Liberación Nacional, México
    Movimiento Madre Tierra – Amigos de la Tierra Honduras
    Movimiento Migrante Mesoameriano
    Movimiento por il lavoro i diritti l’ambiente
    MST-Italia
    Mujeres de negro contra la guerra, Spain
    Mujeres para el dialogo, Mexico
    Natural Bonder, South Africa
    Nepalese youth for Climate Action (NYCA)
    NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark
    Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, US
    Noviciado franciscano de la provincia de San Pabl Apostol, Colombia
    No Vox International
    Nuclear-free bataan movement, Philippines
    Observatorio de Multinacionales en América Latina – Asociación Paz con Dignidad
    Oceanium Togo
    Oltre La Crescita, Italy
    Oregina di Genova, Italy
    Osmonde XXI, France
    Otros Mundos Chiapas – Amigos de la Tierra México
    Pachamama Alliance, US
    Pakistan rural workers social welfare organization (PRWSWO)
    Pambasang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan – National Rural Women Coalition – Philippines
    PAPDA – Haiti
    Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)
    Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)
    Plataforma Boliviana Frente al Cambio Climatico
    Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)
    Plataforma Rural, Spain
    Policy Alert, Nigeria
    Programa de Extensión “Por una nueva economía, humana y sustentable” de la carrera de Comunicación Social de la UNER, Argentina
    Programa FEES del CLAI
    Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) Philippines
    Quaker Earthcare Witness, US
    Rebrip, Brasil
    Red de Cooperacion Amazonica – REDCAM
    Red de Coordinación en Biodiversidad, Costa Rica
    Red educacion popular entre mujeres (REPEM)
    Red Latinoamericana de Mujeres Transformando la Economía (REMTE)
    Redes – Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay
    Red nacional genero y economia, Mexico
    Réseau international CADTM
    Réseau Femmes Rurales
    Réseau Féministe « Ruptures »
    Réseau International Enda Tiers Monde
    Rete Clima
    Rettet den Regenwald, Germany
    RIM Youth Climate Movement
    Robin des Toits, France
    Rural Coalition, US
    Sanctuary Asia, India
    Serve – Net (Service Education Research Volunteers and pro-Environment Network)
    SERR – Servicios Ecumenicos para Reconcilacion y Reconstruccion
    Share The World’s Resources, UK
    Siembra, Mexico
    Sobrevivencia/Friends of the Earth-Paraguay
    Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA)
    Sociedad Civil Amigos del Viento Meteorología Ambiente Desarrollo, Uruguay
    Sociedade Sinhá Laurinha – Slau, Brazil
    SOLdePaz.Pachakuti, Asturias, Spain
    Solidaires – France
    South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Durban, South Africa
    Stop Fessenheim, France
    Stop nucléaire Besançon, France
    Stop gaz de schiste Anduze (30), France
    SUMPAY Mindanao, Philippines
    Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN), Uganda
    Syndicat Autonome des Travailleurs de la Sénégalaise des Eaux (SAT-SDE)
    Swarna Hansa Foundation, Sri Lanka
    System Change not Climate Change, Canada & US
    Taca Agir pour le climat
    Terra Nuova
    Thai Poor Act, Thailand
    The Corner House
    The International Grail Movement
    The Woodlandleague, Ireland
    Third World Health Aid, Belgium
    Timberwatch Coalition
    Touche pas à mon schiste, France
    TripleA Marbella, Spain
    Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development
    Umphilo waManzi, South Africa
    Union des associations pour la création d’un PARC NATUREL RÉGIONAL La BRIE et les deux MORIN
    Université Nomade, France
    Urgenci Community Supported Agriculture network Europe
    Virage-énergie Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
    VOICE, Bangladesh
    Vrouwenraad, Belgium
    WARBE, Bangladesh
    WomanHealth Philippines
    World March of Women
    World March of Women – Philippines
    World Rural Forum
    Youth Action, Nepal
    Young Environment Leaders League (YELL), Philippines
    Young Leaders Initiative – CAR, Philippines
    Young People We Care – YPWC, Ghana
    Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – WILPF US
    World Rainforest Movement

    ADHERING POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS

    Mouvement des objecteurs de croissance MOC

    EELV Les Jalles 33160 Saint Médard en Jalles

    Europe Ecologie les Verts des Landes

    l’Altra Europa con Tsipras – Comitato di Padova

    Comitato saronnese “L’Altra Europa con Tsipras”

    Jeunes Verts Togo

    The Brooklyn Greens/Green Party of NY

    Labor Party-Philippines
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  6. I'm leaving Bamako this morning. The flight plan is Bamako to Ouagadougou, to Lome and then to Lagos. My days here were beautiful and I met many good people who loaded me with lessons in West African history and then on the struggles of family farmers to secure their right to land and an agriculture devoid of genetically modified organisms. My best meals there past few days have been fonio and vegetable sauce. The grains are smaller than those of millet and I can't stop imagining the labour it must take to harvest, clean and cook the sumptuous meals.

    In my bag is a prized possession, a parchment from Timbuktu that fittingly celebrates that ancient centre of African culture. The inscription on it is in Arabic, and my friend, Seydou, offered a loose interpretation that I capture this way:

    Salt is from the North
    Gold is from the South
    Silver is from the West
    But if you want to hear the word of God
    And nice stories you must go to Timbuktu 

    These words sum up the resource disposition of this lovely country. But do I have to go to Timbuktu for nice stories and to hear God? I must visit Timbuktu on my next trip. But not just to hear God. You can hear God everywhere and anywhere. I would like to hear nice stories at Timbuktu because all the ones I heard while in Bamako were tales of violence and destruction that accompanied the recent rebellion that raged in those parts. And then there are snippets of nice stories of heroism, organized communities and a keen sense of preserving knowledge, wisdom and culture.

    As I got set to head for the airport this morning I was ready for some nice stories and did not expect surprises. First, another close friend here urged me not to leave my hotel earlier than 7 O'clock this morning for my 8:40 am flight. Dashing for departure gates at airports never been my travel style, so I ignored this advise and left the hotel thirty minutes earlier. The hotel had promised to drop me at the airport but as I was checking out I was told that the driver had gone to Togo. Gone to Togo? Sounded like a song to my ears. In a moment I was in a cab and the silent drive to the airport was without any incident and I arrived just before 7:00 am. 

    ASKY airlines? Yes. I am flagged on to the boarding and immigration hall. Check-in is announced at about 7:15am and guess who was the first to reach the counter.

    After exchanging greetings in French, one lady grabbed my passport and a second one took my ticket. Two counters attending to me alone. And a queue was forming behind me. Is this the beginning of the nice story?

    "Lagos? Are you going to Lagos, Nigeria?"
    "Yes, that is my destination."
    "We cannot check you in?"
    "Why is that? My ticket is valid. My travel documents are all valid."
    "No problem with your documents."
    "What is the problem, then?"
    "ASKY has suspended all flights to Lagos and Abuja."
    "You must be joking! I never received any notice about this."
    "I am sorry, but we cannot check you in."
    "What do I do?"
    "You can call your agent to find a way out for you."
    "You have got to be kidding me. Where is your ticketing office? What alternative plans do you have for your passengers?"
    "Our ticketing office is Down Town."
    "Can you check me in so I fly to Lome and then sort this out there?"
    "Yes, but you have to sign an undertaking that we can stop you at Lome today."

    I was determined to be calm through this. I need to fly to an East African country from Lagos tomorrow and I couldn't afford to hang around Bamako or even make a detour to Timbuktu for some nice stories. And soon I was checked in to fly to Lome. Flying to Lome would take me a whiff away from Lagos, I thought. I could possibly make it home by road or by boat from there. Yes?

    Why would ASKY not fly to Nigeria? Would it be because their flights are often combined with their Douala, Cameroun and N'djamena, Chad flights? Could the closure of borders by Cameroun, for fear of Ebola, inform such a decision? Would they now be flying over Nigeria from Lome or Cotonou to Douala? The cheek of Cameroun, after grabbing Bakassi! That would be cheeky of ASKY too - after all they conveyed Ebola into Nigeria in the first instance. 

    A look at my boarding pass and it dawns on me that the departure time had been moved from 8:40am to 9:50 am. 

    Meanwhile I have spoken with my wife about the situation. This reminds me of the days of the jackboots in Nigeria when it was always a prime duty to notify her as quickly as possible whenever I got arrested. She always knew what to do. Thank God for good wives! Married 27 years now and it is all like yesterday. Wink.

    She has activated plans and I will likely fly ASKY to Accra from Lome and then hop on a Nigerian airline to jet home. As I write this line, I am not sure whether I will spend the night in Lome, Accra or Lagos.

    Perhaps I should just have gone to Timbuktu for some nice stories. And what if I had gone with the hotel's driver to Togo?

    8:30 am. No ASKY plane in sight. Only two aircrafts have pulled up at the arrivals since I got to the departure hall/gate. One had an United Nations inscription on it and the other had a World Food Programme label. I see a couple of light aircrafts landing and taking off. And my mind went to the many private jets zipping through the Nigerian skies.

    Except for sounds from a television set the departure hall is quiet. A look at the arrival screen indicates that the plane that would fly us out would be coming from Conakry. That is Guinea! Would ASKY fly to Guinea but not to Nigeria? If the problem is over Ebola, then their argument would be untenable. It would be good to figure out what is going on. That plane, I now see, would arrive Bamako at 9:00am. 

    By this time I have information that ASKY flew into Lagos earlier today. This means the lady at the check-in counter may have given me false information and could have stopped me from flying out with this flight. I recall that boarding passes for connecting flights are often handed out at the Transit Hall at Lome. I hope this will be the case today. Glad I have not lost my cool. Your cool is one of anyone's most prized possessions. Believe me.

    The plane touched down by 8:50am. A small propeller affair. Now I fear my hand luggage may not fit into the bin. We will see. As we board the aircraft guess who is at the foot of the steps? The lady who had informed me that ASKY flights to Lagos had been suspended. She maintains that she is correct. I hope she is not.

    As expected, my luggage wouldn't fit the overhead compartment. But I could shove it under the seat in front of me. 9:40 am and we are into the sky. Not a word of the flight being routed through Ouagadougou. We are flying straight to Lome. Will I fly east to Lagos or west to Accra from there? We will soon know. 

    35 minutes into the flight, the pilot announces that we had left the Malian airspace and had just entered the airspace of Burkina Faso. We would also traverse that of Ghana and go on to touch down in Lome. No touching down in Thomas Sankara's country. Well!

    The descent into Lome commenced 25 minutes to touch down. A full 25 minutes ahead of the original schedule. At the Transit Hall and we are all on the usual long queue. Names called and boarding passes handed out. Everyone that came with me on the flight got a boarding pass to fly on to their next destinations. Except me. 

    "Are you flying to Lagos?" I asked one of the ASKY officials.
    "Wait" was the response.

    Wait? This was getting interesting.

    Soon I was showed into another room where passengers whose boarding passes for connecting flights were not ready waited. A lady was working away at a computer, and churning out boarding passes for passengers on newly arriving flights. Occasionally someone among those already waiting in the hall gets called and handed a boarding pass. The queue I was on was not moving and the folks couldn't be bothered. But I was. I whispered to a lady whose voice as she read out names was barely more than a whisper. 

    "I'm heading to Lagos and I need a boarding pass"
    " Where did you fly in from?"
    " Bamako. "
    " Follow me."

    What did this mean? In a moment I was ushered to another space where another lady manned a computer and beamed a smile from behind a face mask. I could tell by the twinkles in her eyes. This reminded me that there had been no Ebola temperature gauges at departure at Bamako. None here too. In a minute I got a boarding pass to fly to Lagos. And I am writing this at one of the boarding gates. You never knew which gate you would board from until boarding is announced. 

    Baring any dramatic turn of events, the flight to Lagos and arrival procedures there should be a breeze. 

    But there was more drama to come. ASKY was not flying to Lagos. Unless we agree that even though they put us all on Ethiopian Airways flight we were still flying ASKY. 

    Now I start to think that the ASKY official at Bamako was not really wrong. But I could not help but keep wondering what would have been the case had I been detained in Bamako because of this apparent lack of clarity. Perhaps I would have ended up going to Timbuktu to hear some nice stories.






     
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  7. Traveling in West Africa is an expensive affair. These days, with the outbreak of Ebola, you don't want to even tell anyone you are going anywhere in the region. But here was I heading to Bamako, Mali, on assignment for the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. And to add to the tension, I was flying on ASKY airline. As you well know, it was these guys that ferried an Ebola patient into Nigeria and placed the nation on medical emergency. The trip was long set and no virus would deflect it. 

    Check in started a mere 2 hours to departure time. That was the first surprise, considering that this was an international flight. Many airport workers wore gloves and masked their mouths and noses. Fear is in the air. Should I buy a plastic sheet to cover my seat on the plane? Would anyone make contact once we are seated?

    Security checks were preceded by having our temperature gauged with a laser thermometer. That was no problem. I tried to have the laser aimed at my hand, but I kept gesticulating while striking a conversation with the health officer and, since my hand wouldn't keep steady, she decided to aim the laser gun at my head instead. I wasn't shaking my head too much, so that worked.

    Boarding the ASKY aircraft at the airport in Lagos was uneventful except for the fact that the flight was delayed by one hour - with no apologies given. Or perhaps I was too preoccupied with looking at the silent folks to hear one. Everyone was silent. It was eerie. What happened to the boisterous Nigerians? It was a short 30 minutes affair to Lome, Togo. Once in the transit hall, ground staff were on hand to hand out boarding passes for our flight to Bamako. 

    Getting through security checks at Lome was easier than in Lagos where you have to kick off your shoes, belts etc and remove your laptop and other electronic gear from your bag. At Lome there was no need for taking off your shoes or belts or even laptops from your bag. Guys with jackets had to peel those off, by the way. At Lagos I placed my wallet in a tray along with my phone, passport and newspaper. As soon as I got through the body pat I dashed for my wallet and that caught the security guy's attention. Why was I so quick to pick my wallet from the tray? Today was Friday, would I not help him have a good weekend? Talk of security of the pocket!

    No such drama at Lome. But wait. The queue through to security was hydra-headed but somehow we managed to squeeze through the narrow door one traveller at a time. Boarding was announced on time. We happily jumped unto the bus. Then the waiting began. The bus moved a few metres and stopped. The wait was long, mostly because we did not expect it. After about ten minutes on the spot some passengers began to grumble. Since I don't speak more than a few words of French, I was content to hold my peace. 

    We moved to the aircraft and waited again for a few minutes. Then it became clear to me why all the delay. Some technical crew were changing one of the rear tyres of the aircraft. They turned the screws first with gloved hands, then with some mechanical device. We watched this from inside the bus in silent bemusement. Twenty minutes after we had boarded I could see the team, led by a young lady, still kicking, shaking and doing other things to ascertain that the tyre was properly fitted. All this time sweat dripped from my face, not because of fear or fever, but because the air conditioning system of the aircraft was either not switched yet or was simply not working. And to think that one of the precautionary measures against the spread of Ebola is to avoid a touch of another person's bodily fluids including sweat!

    As we prepared to take off for the one hour, forty-five minutes flight, my mind stayed on the tyre.

    Take off was smooth and after all the drama we were a mere 20 minutes off the mark. As I write this, the aircraft has began to cool, but a few hands are still poking at the vents.

    Bamako used to be a mere 2 hours direct trip from Lagos when a Nigerian airline plied the route. These days you have to fly to Lome or Accra to catch a connecting flight. Going with my itinerary is still somewhat manageable because the actual flight time adds up to just two hours fifteen minutes. On return, however, we will have to fly from Bamako to Ouagadougou and from there to Lome and to Lagos. We will depart Bamako at 8:45 am and get to Lagos at 4:30 pm! With the Ebola scare some travelers consider flying to Paris and jetting down to Bamako from there. What a life! 

    Well, as you could guess, the seat belt sign has been switched off by now and refreshments may soon be served. I am hunched in a standard window seat after failing to secure an exit row seat and typing these words keeps me from thinking of the cramped position. Except for the lady in front of me deciding to recline her seat to catch a snooze.

    Here comes the cabin crew wearing an adorable smile. What has she got to offer? She has a sanitizer in hand and happily dispenses droplets of the soothing fluid on our palms. The fear of Ebola has taught everyone to avoid handshakes, embraces and even patting on the back. At the Lagos airport and everywhere you turn people are sanitizing their palms. Business must be brisk for sellers of this product. Yes, I bought one before boarding at Lagos. Shake my hand? No problem. I would just have to turn somewhere and discretely get the 'sanity' balm into my palms.

    Here comes the cabin crew with lunch. What would I have, they asked in French? Chicken, I answered in English. Well, I got a fish dish. I must learn this language, I told myself. The lunch was good. My confession.


    Later, as we pierced through the brilliant clouds in our descent into Bamako I beheld the simmering waters of River Niger. I couldn't help thinking of how bastardized the Delta at which this beautiful water empties into the Atlantic has become, no thanks to crude oil exploitation. Then my mind went back to the back tyre as it would be the first to hit the tarmac. Soon. Did it go well?

    Happily. The landing was so smooth some passengers yelped and clapped. At the arrival hall, the queue to the medical health screening point starts right at the entrance door. We get to place our feet on marked spots on the floor, facing two guys manning laser temperature gauges. Computer monitors facing us declares whether our body temperature is acceptable. All this before we get to the immigration desk. 

    Hopefully I will get to tell you how the return trip will be.




     
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  8. Memories

    My oldest memories of Ogoni are those of pain, despoliation and neglect. They are memories of the military absolutely unable to understand why citizens could dare to demand for any modicum of justice and dignity. They are memories of the many Ogoni exiles flung across the globe from nearby Benin Republic to the furthest places you could imagine. The memories are stuff that many wish to never experience. Yet in these memories we derive deep inspiration to never be silent in the face of tyranny. 

    Ogoniland has undeniably suffered peculiar ecological damage, yet the people remain resilient, organised and hopeful. They remain forward looking despite the many dark moments that history will never ignore. 

    My recent memories of Ogoniland are not as dramatic as of the events and personae of the early 1990s. These memories may not fond memories but they have etched indelible marks on my conscience. One memory is of a little boy one early morning at the banks of the creek at Goi. He had just waded from to where we stood from a crude oil ravaged stumps of what were once mangroves. He had in his hand a crude oil coated broken plastic bucket. In the bucket were crude oil coated crayfish. When we asked what he would do with the crayfish, the boy told us that he would wash them and then sell them. He needed some cash for school fees, you see. And how much would the crayfish fetch? Five hundred naira!

    The next mark on my memory was during a visit with the Environment Committee of the Senate. After visiting the emblematic Ebubu Ejama at Eleme and the Bomu flow station, we went up to the spot where the little lad had emerged with his catch. This time our attention was captured by an old lady who was processing cassava in the same oil coated creek. Why was she doing that? She was fermenting cassava in the creek the way she had been doing from when she was a youth. The memory, the knowledge and the food processing method had been developed over the ages and had served her well. But the creek was no longer what it used to be.

    More recently, I was again at this same location. About a dozen teenagers were frolicking in the creek. I was aghast. A debate with the lads on why they should not swim in the polluted water dragged on for minutes before they eventually stepped out of the water. A conversation ensued. My guide on this visit was one of their teachers in a nearby secondary school. We asked them what dreams they had for the future. What did they hope to become in life. Except for one boy who said he would like to be a civil servant, the rest want to be politicians. I will not be tired of relating this story. Why would a bunch of kids think of being nothing but politicians? 

    These stories could be replicated in various forms across the oil field communities of the Niger Delta. 

    Validated by UNEP Report 

    Three years have gone by since the report of the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland was submitted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The report clearly stated some emergency steps and other long term steps that needed to be taken based on the findings of the assessment. 

    Some of the recommended emergency measures could be seen as low hanging fruits that the government and Shell could have quickly embarked as an indication that the lives of the people matter, that the Ogoni environment matters. The measures include:

    • Providing adequate sources of drinking water to those households whose drinking water supply is impacted
    • People in Nsisioken Ogale should be recorded in a medical registry and have their health status assessed and followed up as they have been drinking water laced with benzene, a known carcinogen, at 900 times above WHO standards.
    • Initiate a survey of all drinking water wells in areas where hydrocarbon pollution had been observed.

    Related measures included posting signs at polluted locations warning the people not to swim, bathe or fish in the contaminated waters. They were also to be warned not to drink such waters and not to walk in contaminated sites.

    The signposts have been put up at some locations, but how would people not walk in their communities when the signposts warn them to keep off? 

    The report shows that many of the flow stations and manifolds are located within communities and have residential buildings and schools just a few metres away. The report also warned that at places where the surface of the ground appears not to be impacted a little digging beneath the surface revealed hydrocarbon pollutions. At some locations the pollutants went as deep as 5 metres.

    At the third anniversary of the UNEP report, the people are justifiably scandalised that they have been left to fate as though nothing was wrong with their environment. No one believed that this much time could elapse with no real action taken.

    Today we not merely examine how women have coped with living in such a deadly environment, we will also examine what measures can be taken to literally reverse the tide and what are the obstacles that have made it possible for government and Shell to carry on as though nothing was amiss. 

    We will also look at the other pollutants in the land that are less spoken of and also see whether there are loopholes in the UNEP report that has been or can be exploited to the detriment of the people. 

    Inaction: No excuses

    Commentators have pointed out that a location like Goi was studiously avoided by the study. We have also noted that undue emphasis has been placed on the ecological damage caused by artisanal refining – almost as though to suggest that the new phenomenon was responsible for decades old pollution piled up by Shell. While the report is the most definitive official and public document that we have on the environmental damage of any part of the Niger Delta, we also note that there appears to be a subtle reliance on scientific neutrality or caution to pass on the idea that dangerous situations may not really be so dangerous after all. The report did not draw any conclusions that the pollutions caused any serious health problems. They data collected from 5000 records were said to be insufficient and that the information was not adequately segregated to allow for a judgement to be made.

    Even the fact that untreated produced water with normally occurring radioactive elements are discharged “into neighbouring trenches, wetlands or burrow pits” is nothing to worry about. See page 45 of the report. The reduction in fish stocks in Ogoni water is attributed to over fishing and not to the extreme hydrocarbon pollution (Page 178). 

    Hope

    What can women do to ensure a clean up of Ogoniland? Can we build hope on the scaffolding of memory? Can we indeed assert our right to a clean environment and the way we relate to Mother Earth on the platform of Re-Source Democracy?
    Can we overcome the mistrust between communities that provides the wedges for divisions and go ahead to build peace, solidarity and cooperation across the Niger Delta? 

    Here we are. Let the conversations begin. In one of his last poems, Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote that Silence Would be Treason. There is a sense in the resilience of the Ogoni people that shows that neither silence nor inaction will be an acceptable option. 

    ----
    Opening words by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at a Workshop hosted by HOMEF and Federal Ministry of Environment on "Memories and Hope – Ogoni Women as Ecological Defenders" Held at Suanu Finimale Hall, Bori-Ogoni 6-7 August 2014
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  9. GMOs are not Silver Bullets

    Statement by Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at a media chat in Lagos, 31 July 2014


    The technology by which living organisms are genetically modified for agricultural purposes has been presented as a cure all for African agricultural and food problems. The promoters of modern agricultural biotechnology are no longer able to hide their desperate need to open up the Nigerian and African environment for their products. This desperation is driven by the profit motive and not benevolence. Africa is the last frontier for the biotech businesses and Nigeria is their biggest single untapped market on the continent.

    The road towards making a Nigerian Biosafety law has been one bedevilled by hide-and-seek tactics. It has not been a transparent road. The notice of the Public Hearing of 2009 was so short that one could not expect critical participants like farmers and community groups to adequately prepare and submit their memoranda. At the public hearing itself farmers, civil society and community groups were given about a minute apiece to present their views while pro-biotech agencies had all the time to lecture the gathering on the benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It is worrisome that leaders who should protect our environment, agriculture and general patrimony are at the forefront of promoting and plotting to ambush Nigerians into accepting a technology that portends more harm than good.

    Scaremongering?

    Opponents of the technology have been characterised variously as ignorant, scaremongers, or wishing to keep poor farmers poor. The picture being painted at times is that those who demand caution in the introduction of irreversible genetic and ecological tinkering with our environment are presented as anti-science or anti-innovation. All these, just like the promises of modern biotechnology, are simply false. Opponents are not averse to science or to technology; we are averse to the hijacking of the scientific agenda by a small-clique of extremely powerful corporate actors. We demand that science and technology must be taken back for the service of humanity, support our peoples and must not be anti-people.

    Promoters of the technology have tried many tactics in their effort to sell their suspect products. First they claimed that Africa had a burgeoning population of starving people. Now the argument is that we are not only starving, but that our children are malnourished, stunted and are going blind. And is the solution for all these GMOs?

    The starvation kite was to be solved with food aid made up of GM products. The nutrition kite is to be solved by making GM crops with enhanced levels of vitamin A and others. We are also told that only genetic engineering can give us crops that will withstand the coming climate catastrophe. Assuming that the diagnoses were right, we must be humble enough to agree that there are verifiable and safe solutions other than modern biotechnology.

    Modern biotechnology thrives on myths. One of the commonly sold myths is that GM crops yield much higher than normal crops. Hans Herren who worked for 27 years in Africa as Director General of International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and Director of the Plant Health Division at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), attests that local research and development has “developed and disseminated successful sustainable technologies that have not only increased the yields by 200 to 300 per cent (dwarfing the expected 25 per cent) - as proven in the case of maize using the Push-Pull, or SRI for rice technologies in Eastern Africa, or permanently controlled pest such as the cassava mealy bug with natural methods across the continent  - but also continuously adapted them to new local challenges, including climate change.” 

    Herren, a winner of the Right Livelihood Award in 2013 for his work in promoting agro-ecological agriculture notes that the challenge in Africa is that “public agricultural research continues to be stifled by low funding.” Our government and our scientists have the task of charting a path for, and investing in, sustainable agro-ecological agriculture that builds on local knowledge and crop varieties and not persist in what present themselves as shortcuts simply because philanthropic capitalists and the biotech industry are happy to fund such endeavours. 

    We urge those who think that modern biotechnology is the solution to the food challenges in Nigeria and elsewhere to take a look at the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report(s) of 2008. The report titled Agriculture at a Crossroads written by about 400 scientists and experts and endorsed by 58 countries on the day of its adoption clearly show that the place of modern biotechnology in future food delivery is indeed very slim. 

    GM Myths go burst

    We have already noted that these crops do not necessarily yield as much as normal crops and neither do the yield more than those bred conventionally. 

    Most genetically modified crops are either modified to resist certain herbicides produced by the seed companies or they are modified to kill target pests – the crops becoming pesticides themselves. The myths by which crops with these traits have been promoted are that they will require less herbicides and pesticides. But nature has responded to these traits in the form of superweeds that have become resistant to these herbicides, and what may be termed superbugs, which have become resistant to GM insecticide producing crops. 

    The problem of superweeds has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, where the US Department of Agriculture says over 28 million ha of farmland is now infested. The biotechnology industry’s ‘solution’ to this is the creation of GM crops resistant to toxic cocktails of multiple herbicides, many of which are banned in several countries or regions around the world. The idea of herbicide resistant crops is fallout of experiences some of the companies have had in defoliating chemicals they made for biological warfare in Vietnam, for example. The scars of those atrocities remain to this day.

    In South Africa, Monsanto has been forced to remove its first GM insect resistant maize variety, MON810, after massive outbreaks of superbugs rendered the technology obsolete. Under the ruse of its ‘drought tolerant’ GM maize varieties being developed for Africa, Monsanto now plans to force this failed insect resistant technology on small-scale farmers across the continent. 

    The drive for lax biosafety law

    A technology that thrives on lax and often illogical laws cannot be trusted. We use this opportunity to once more call on the National Assembly and our President not to yield to pressure to foist a week biosafety law on Nigeria. The bill that policy makers present as key to opening our environment for invasion by GMOs does not have the teeth to protect our biodiversity and environmental health. The bill has no provisions for strict liability and does not have a mechanism for redress once contamination has occurred. 

    The fact that some genetically modified products have entered our market shelves illegally should elicit a different response than to open up the market to be flooded with more of such products.

    Finally, we, together with nearly 300 global scientists who signed a statement to the effect, believe that since there is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods this in itself should be enough reason to evoke the precautionary principle. We will not stand idly by and see Nigerians turned into guinea pigs without their consent. Our nation is wracked by violence of various varieties including those that come through bombs and environmental degradation. We certainly do not wish to open another battlefield through our stomachs.

    Notes: 
    1. Super weeds in the USA: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL2N0PY1G520140723 
    Pest resistance to Bt crops:
http://www.testbiotech.org/sites/default/files/bt_resistance_2014_0.jpg 

    2. Farmers say GM Corn No longer Resistant to Pests (Brazil):
    www.scientificamerican.com/article/farmers-say-gmo-corn-no-longer-resistant-to-pests 

    3. GE insect resistant crop failures in South Africa:
http://acbio.org.za/images/stories/dmdocuments/BT-Maize-Report-Oct2013.pdf 

    4. IAASTD Report:
    http://www.unep.org/dewa/agassessment/reports/IAASTD/EN/Agriculture%20at%20a%20Crossroads_Synthesis%20Report%20%28English%29.pdf 
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  10. GM promoters promote poverty and dependency in Africa

    By Nnimmo Bassey (HOMEF), Million Belay (AFSA) and Mariam Mayet (ACBIO) 

    The recent article, GM scaremongering in Africa is disarming the fight against poverty, published in the Guardian’s (London) PovertyMatters Blog on 21 July 2014, is a thinly veiled attack on those of us in Africa and elsewhere who are deeply skeptical of the supposed benefits that genetically modified (GM) crops will bring to the continent. Based on a report by London-based think-tank Chatham House, it represents paternalism of the worst kind, advancing the interests of the biotechnology industry behind a barely constructed façade of philanthropy. 

    The report itself, compiled from an ‘expert roundtable’ and interviews with donors, policy-makers, scientists, farmers and NGOs (none of whom are identified), makes several erroneous and contradictory arguments concerning the lack of uptake or impact of GM crops in Africa. Firstly, with breathtaking arrogance, it dismisses the massive groundswell of opposition to GM crops emerging across the globe (including here in Africa) as a European-led phenomenon. It further credits lack of uptake to a concerted campaign of ‘misinformation’ by opponents of GM crops and onerous biosafety regulation, resulting in negative political judgments and a ‘treadmill of continuous field trials’.

    To take each in turn, perhaps the report’s authors were simply unaware of global opposition to GM crops, or missed the recent Malawian civil society response to Monsanto’s application to commercialise Bt cotton on the country? Or dismissed the recent mass community protestors in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda as merely puppets of European NGOs? That Mexico, the centre of origin of maize, has banned the cultivation of GM maize within its borders was similarly overlooked, as was Peru’s 10-year moratorium on GM crops, enacted in 2012. In 2013 India’s Supreme Court declared an indefinite moratorium on all GM food crops, citing major gaps in the country’s regulatory system, while protests led by farmer groups in the Philippines have curtailed field trials of GM Brinjal (aubergine). 

    Even in the United States public opposition to GM crops has been growing for some time. Over 500,000 people have written to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for the rejection of Dow Chemical’s application for several GM crops tolerant to 2,4-D based herbicides. Unperturbed by the prospect of legal action from the biotechnology industry, several States are pressing ahead with laws for the labeling of GM food.

    To argue that onerous laws and political expediency has created a situation of ‘continual field trials’, as the Chatham House report does, misunderstands or misrepresents several key issues at play. For example, the report cites ‘stringent’ liability laws across the continent as major hindrance to the research process. 

    Moreover, the vast majority of GM crops grown worldwide are either tolerant to the application of herbicides, produce their own pesticides (Bt crops) or are a combination of the two. There is good reason that the ‘pipeline’ of new GM crops and traits, such as drought tolerant or nutritionally enhanced African ‘orphan’ crops, has not materialized; they are all profoundly more complex process than what has so far been commercialized. The fabled ‘Golden Rice’ (engineered with extra vitamin A) has been in development since the early 1990s. While this has been going on, the government of the Philippines (one the target countries) has been remarkably successful in lowering vitamin A deficiency using cheap, low-tech solutions.

    And here we get to the crux of the matter as citizens of Africa and the global south. The obsession in promoting GM crops in Africa, exemplified in this instance by the new Chatham House report, diverts attention and resources away from a plurality of genuine and localized solutions and flies in the face of the recommendations of independent science. 

    The landmark IAASTD report of 2008 (resulting from the input of over 400 global scientific and agricultural experts) was highly dismissive of the potential of GM crops to benefit the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, and called for a shift towards agro-ecological practices. These sentiments have since been echoed by numerous individuals and organisations, from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to the United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report of 2013, titled ‘wake up before it is too late’. 

    Research by the ETC group has shown that small-holder farmers produce 75% of the world’s food, but only use about 25% of the world’s agricultural resources. The industrial agriculture chain only produces about 25% of the world’s food but uses 75% of the planet’s agricultural resources. Imagine the gains that could be made if even a fraction of the resources propping up the industrial food system were channeled into alternative systems.

    Africans reject GMOs because the technology has not delivered on any of its promises and poses significant long-term threats to our environment and peoples. Though the issue of risk is given little attention in the report, lest we forget that in late 2013 nearly 300 scientists and legal experts from around the world signed a statement affirming that there is “no scientific consensus on GMO safety”. That GM’s proponents can claim to the contrary merely reflects the undue influence the biotechnology industry has on the scientific process.

    Further, are the philanthropists who are supporting GM development and pressuring Africa to open up also heavy investors in the biotech sector? For example, the relationship between Monsanto and the Gates Foundation is well documented. Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta are all heavily involved in the G8 New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition, the sharp end of the Green Revolution push in Africa. No matter how much these forces maneuver to seem altruistic rather than predatory, the smoking gun always seems to be visible. The combined forces of Big Agribusiness and Big Philanthropy have been so effective at pressuring our governments that some of them see biosafety laws as mere instruments to opening up our nations to the biotech industry and their local surrogates.

    The bottom line is that this is a fight for food sovereignty – for the rights of people to grow food that suits their environment, protects their biodiversity and serves their ability to eat foods that are wholesome and culturally acceptable. Policies must support systems of agriculture and food production that does not distort or damage local economies. 

    We must not blindly or willfully promote policies that build neocolonial structures that lock in poverty by upturning tested local agricultural knowledge, promoting land grabs through large-scale industrial farming and create dependency on artificial seeds and chemicals. True food security can only be assured by food sovereignty. 

    -------------------------
    Co-authors: 
    1. Nnimmo Bassey is Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nigeria. He chaired Friends of the Earth International 2008-2012. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
    2. Million Bellay is Coordinator of African Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA), Ethiopia. E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
    3. Mariam Mayet is Director of African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  





     
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