From climate denialism to activist alliances in memory of Seattle

Tord Björk | Climate,Propaganda,Stora Enso | Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

November, 30 2009

By Patrick Bond

Preparations for the December 7-18 Copenhagen climate summit are going
as expected, including a rare sighting of African elites’ stiffened
spines. That’s a great development (maybe decisive), more about which below.

While activists help raise the temperature on the streets outside the
Bella Centre on December 12, 13 and 16, inside we will see Northern
elites defensively armed with pathetic non-binding emissions cuts (Obama
at merely 4% below 1990 levels), with carbon trading, and without the
money to repay their ecological debt to the South.

The first and third are lamentable enough, but the second is the most
serious diversion from the crucial work of cutting emissions. A
nine-minute film launched on the internet on Tuesday, December 1 – ‘The
Story of Cap and Trade’ (www.storyofstuff.org/capandtrade) – gives all
the ammunition you need to understand and critique emissions trading,
and to seek genuine solutions.

Another important diversion emerged on November 20, when hackers
published embarrassing emails from the University of East Anglia’s
(UEA’s) Climate Research Unit. What I’ve understood from
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/nov/25/monbiot-climate-leak-crisis-response
and
http://enviroknow.com/2009/11/25/climategate-the-swifthack-scandal-what-you-need-to-know
is roughly as follows:

* the UEA researchers were silly egocentric ultracompetitive academics
who were at times sloppy – an occupational hazard true of most of us,
only in this case there is a huge amount at stake so their silliness is
massively amplified,

* but a few academics who are silly about their work ethos do not
reverse the universal understanding that scientists have regarding
climate change, and

* people who want to distract the world from getting to the root of the
climate crisis may well be empowered and have a field day with the UEA
emails scandal, which should in turn compel the rest of us to redouble
our efforts.

The unapologetic UEA researcher Phil Jones seems to think that because
climate denialists have been a pain in the ass (since 2001), it was ok
to hide scientific data (paid for by taxpayers), and to avoid wasting
valuable time addressing the loonies’ arguments: “Initially at the
beginning I did try to respond to them in the hope I might convince them
but I soon realised it was a forlorn hope and broke off communication.”

Look, where I live, in Durban, we’ve had dreadful experiences with two
kinds of life-threatening denialisms: apartheid and AIDS:

* dating back many decades, apartheid-denialists insisted that black
South Africans had it better than anywhere else in Africa, that
anti-apartheid sanctions would only hurt blacks and not foster change,
and that if blacks took over the government it would be the ruination of
SA, with whites having all their wealth expropriated; and

* from around 1999-2003, AIDS denialists very vocally insisted that HIV
and AIDS were not related, that AIDS medicines were toxic and would do
no good, and that the activists’ lobby for the medicines was merely a
front for the CIA and Big Pharma (denialist-in-chief Thabo Mbeki is now
being widely cited for genocide involving 350 000 unnecessary deaths due
to his presidency’s withholding of AIDS medicines).

In both cases, as with the climate, the denialists’ role was to entrench
the status quo forces of state and capital. They were, simply, hucksters
for vested interests. In both cases they were defeated, thanks to
vigorous social activism:

* fighting against apartheid-denialism, during the 1980s, the United
Democratic Front, African National Congress and other liberation forces
found that the denialists’ main damage was opposing
sanctions/disinvestment pressure. So we intensified our efforts and by
August 1985 won the necessary breakthrough when NY banks withdrew lines
of credit to Pretoria, thus forcing a split between Afrikaner state
rulers and white english-speaking capitalists. Within a few days, the
latter traveled to Lusaka to meet the exiled ANC leadership, and then
over the next eight years helped shake loose Afrikaner nationalism’s
hold on the state, and indeed today in SA you will search long and hard
to find a white person who admits they ever defended apartheid;

* as for AIDS, the Treatment Action Campaign found that a mix of local
and internationalist activism was sufficiently strong to pry open Big
Pharma’s monopoly on intellectual property rights and also overthrow
opposition by the US and South African governments, a story worth
revisiting in more detail in below. In short, by 2003, the coterie of
AIDS denialists surrounding Mbeki lost to street heat, ridicule and
legal critique, so today nearly 800,000 South Africans and millions more
elsewhere have access to the medicines.

I hope we’ll look back at the climate denialists and judge them as
merely a momentary quirk in human rationality, ultimately not in the
least influential. The real danger comes from fossil fuel firms which,
like Big Tobacco decades ago, know full well the lethal potential of
their product. Their objective is to place a grain of doubt in our
minds, and climate denialists are rather useful.

The fossil fuel firms – especially BP, Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil –
not only fund denialist thinktanks and astroturf advocacy (such as the
Global Climate Coalition). They support members of the US Congress –
such as Rick Boucher from Virginia – who energetically sabotage
legislation aimed at capping emissions (Congress’ offsets, carbon
trading and other distraction gimmicks mean there will be no net US cuts
after all until the late 2030s). They also work with mainstream ‘green’
groups – WWF comes to mind – to halt environmental progress.

These corporations are far more insidious than the email hackers. I hope
we aren’t further distracted by the UEA affair and that this is a
quickly-forgotten little episode of dirty academic laundry meant for the
dustbin of our sloppy movement where it belongs, so we can make the
movement stronger, more transparent, more rigorous, more democratic and
much more militant in trying to defeat the fossil fuel industry.

One way to do so is to flash back to Seattle exactly a decade ago, when
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) fiasco on November 30, 1999 taught
civil society activists and African leaders two powerful lessons.
Turning 85 years old on Saturday, our comrade Dennis Brutus reminded us
of two lessons from one of the most eventful weeks in his amazing life.

First, working together, African leaders and activists have the power to
disrupt a system of global governance that meets the Global North’s
short-term interests against both the Global South and the longer-term
interests of the world’s people and the planet. Second, in the very act
of disrupting global malgovernance, major concessions can be won.

Spectacular protest against the WTO summit’s opening ceremony is what
most  recall about Seattle: activists ‘locking down’ to prevent entrance
to the conference centre, a barrage of tear gas and pepper spray, a sea
of broken windows and a municipal police force later prosecuted for
violating US citizens’ most basic civil liberties. (See David and
Rebecca Solnit’s excellent new book The Battle of the Story of the
Battle of Seattle  – www.akpress.org/2008/items/battleofseattleakpres
for the spin on the spin)

That was outside. Inside the convention centre, negotiations belatedly
got underway, and African leaders quickly grew worried that further
trade liberalization would damage their tiny industrial sectors.

The damage was well recognized, as even establishment research revealed
Africa would be the continent to suffer the worst net losses from
corporate-dominated free trade. The US trade representative, Charlene
Barchefsky, repeatedly insulted African elites who raised this point.

With the exception of South African trade minister Alec Erwin, who
enjoyed an insider ‘Green Room’ role to promote SA’s self-interest,
delegations from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, since renamed
the African Union) were soon furious.

As OAU deputy director general V.J.McKeen recalled: “They went out to a
dinner in a bus, and then were left out in the cold to walk back. To
tell you to the extent that when we went into the room for our African
group meeting, I mean, there was no interpretation provided… so one
had to improvise. And then even the microphone facilities were switched
off.”

Tetteh Hormeku, from the African Trade Network of progressive civil
society groups, picks up the story: “By the second day of the formal
negotiations, the African and other developing-country delegates had
found themselves totally marginalised… [and threatened] to withdraw
the consensus required to reach a conclusion of the conference. By this
time, even the Americans and their supporters in the WTO secretariat
must have woken up to the futility of their ‘rough tactics’.”

By walking out, the Africans’ strong willpower earned major concessions
in the next WTO summit, in Doha, in November 2001. At the same time as
the global justice movement began widening into an anti-imperialist
movement in the wake of the USA’s post-9/11 remilitarization, African
activists delved deeper into extreme local challenges, such as combating
AIDS. In Doha, African elites joined forces with activists again.

On this occasion, the positive catalyst was a South African government
law – the 1997 Medicines Act – which permitted the state’s compulsory
licensing of patented drugs. In 1998, the Treatment Action Campaign
(http://www.tac.org.za) was launched to lobby for AIDS drugs, which a
decade ago were prohibitively expensive – $15,000 per person per year –
for nearly all South Africa’s HIV-positive people (roughly 10% of the
population).

That campaign was immediately confronted by the US State Department’s
attack on the SA Medicines Act, a “full court press”, as bureaucrats
testified to the US Congress. The US elites’ aim was to protect
intellectual property rights and halt the emergence of a parallel
inexpensive supply of AIDS medicines that would undermine lucrative
Western markets.

US vice president Al Gore directly intervened with SA government leaders
in 1998-99, aiming to revoke the Medicines Act. Then in mid-1999, Gore
launched his presidential election bid, a campaign generously funded by
big pharmaceutical corporations, which that year provided $2.3 million
to the Democratic Party.

In solidarity with the South Africans, the US AIDS Coalition to Unleash
Power began protesting at Gore’s campaign events, in New Hampshire,
Pennsylvania and Tennessee. The demos soon threatened to cost Gore far
more in adverse publicity than he was raising in Big Pharma
contributions, so he changed sides.

As pressure built, even during the reign of president George W. Bush and
his repressive trade representative Robert Zoellick (now World Bank
president), the WTO’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights system was amended at Doha in late 2001 to permit generic drugs
to be used in medical emergencies.

This was a huge victory for Africa, removing any rationale to continue
to deny life-saving medicines to the world’s poorest people.

In 2003, with another dreadful WTO deal on the table in Cancun and
30,000 protesters outside, once again the African leadership withdrew
consensus, wrecking the plans of the US and Europe for further
liberalization. The WTO has still not recovered.

These are the precedents required to overcome the three huge challenges
the North faces in Copenhagen: 2020 emissions cuts of at least 45% (from
1990 levels) through a binding international agreement; the
decommissioning of carbon markets and offset gimmicks; and payment on
the vast ecological debt owed to victims of climate change.

Realistically, the adverse balance of forces currently prevailing will
not permit victories on even one, much less all three. What response is
logical?

In Barcelona, in early November, African negotiators boycotted the
pre-Copenhagen talks, making good on AU leader Meles Zenawi’s September
threat, given that the North put so little on the negotiating table.

Indeed, that is the main lesson from Seattle: by walking out – alongside
civil society protesters – and halting a bad deal in Copenhagen on
December 18, we can together pave the way for subsequent progress.

Two years after Seattle’s failure, progress was won through African
access to life-saving medicines. We must ensure it doesn’t take two
years after Copenhagen’s failure for Africa to get access to life-saving
emissions cuts and to climate debt repayment, alongside the demise of
carbon trading – but those are surely the battles just ahead.
From: http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/commentaries/4060

Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society:
http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs

G20 Pittsburgh demonstration and climate justice camp

Protesting against G20 failure in addressing climate change

Some 4000 to 10000 protesters gathered at the G20 Summit and 4900 policemen. The G20 failed in addressing the issue of how to solve the crisis for those most severly hit in the South and focused mostly on moralistic superficial goals as actions against bonuses for bosses, an issue that looks good in the mass media in rich countries.

The main demonstration People’s March was initiated by the peace organization Thomas Merton Center. The issues raised by protesters had a wide range from supporting workers hit by the crisis to peace and climate change. Camps were organized as Three Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC), pink code for women’s peace activism and others.

3RCC reports as many other groups harassments by the police from refusal to allow demonstrations to walk according to the permit given to the use of new anti-demonstration weapons. The Police unleashed tear gas and sound cannon. Alternative media reports almost 200 arrested, the police 83. 19 businessmen had their windows smashed.

It seems as the G20 protests were more a testing ground for technology than a place were politics was developed. The new police weapon against demonstrators  was in use as well as pepper spray, extra long sticks etc. The demonstrators used Twitter to communicate. The puppets that once was a favourite in antiglobalization demonstrations is no gone according to one report. Instead masks with politicians are as popular as ever.

Workshops were puppets were built before demonstrations was popular for the police in implementing a new police strategy after Seattle built on lies and knowledge of psychology. In April 2000 and later the police claimed that molotov cocktail or similar weapons were inside the buildings were the puppets were made. Then they stormed the workshop with predictable result. Protesters came to the place in solidarity, there were clashes with the police and the proactive strategy had been successful. The police could both arrest those that had strong solidariet feelings and present an image to the media of violent demonstrators. Of course the molotov cocktails never existed. This proactive US police tactic to escalate violence at Summits were in June 2001 brought to Europe by Håkan Jaldung, head of the police operation during the EU Summit in Gothenburg and partcipant in education for police offciers 40 times in the US. The difference was that while the US police had used the tactic against puppet workshops with some 75 people inside the Swedish police used against the mina convergence center, counter summit and sleeping quarters of 700 people. Jaldung made the action in close connection with US intelligence against the advice from Swedish national security police who had many infiltrators inside and saw no reason to storm the convergence center. The result was chaos during three days initiatied by the police, shooting against demonstrators with live ammunition and 90 per cent of the population supporting the police. 50 demonstrators were sentenced in total 50 years to prison and the left split blaiming each other for the riots instead of defending those on trial. So watch out for US police tactics.

The article below that have received very many responses and started a debate is: Are We Addicted to Rioting?

Tord Björk

From Gipfelsoli Newsletter – Globalized Solidarity:

G20 Protests Rock Pittsburgh

News, updates and analysis on the G20 summit in Pittsburgh and associated
protests.

See http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2009092501263020#comments

———————————————————————-
Protests at Group of 20 Conference [Photos]

More: http://www.gipfelsoli.org/Home/G20_2009_Pittsburgh_Pictures

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G20 riots in Pittsburgh – How I organized them via Twitter

During the recent G20 protests in Pittsburgh a group of on-the-ground
participants, residents from Pittsburgh, mainstream and alternative media
writers, left-wing activists and regular folks came together to form a virtual
community on Twitter. We shared info, were collectively shocked at police
violence and plugged important gaps in mainstream coverage of the protests.
Here, Mike Gogulski responds to the charge that he was responsible for rioting
protesters.

by Mike Gogulski
from NoState.com

More:
http://socialistwebzine.blogspot.com/2009/10/g20-riots-in-pittsburgh-how-i-organized.html

———————————————————————-
Are We Addicted to Rioting?

The G20 is upon us, and though BBC world news featured some of “the troubles” in
Pittsburgh, on the ground reports hardly match up with the media-inflation,
police-inflation, and activist-inflation of the actual thing. As one who was
not present in Pittsburgh, I cannot give a first-hand account. Phone calls with
friends on the ground and various independent and corporate-media accounts are
my window to the events. But as one who has participated in countless similar
events, who didn’t attend the G20 due to feelings of disconnection/confusion
with my own people, I felt strongly enough to write this.

More: http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2009092714272755#comments

———————————————————————-
Robocops Come to Pittsburgh…and Bring the Latest Weaponry with Them

By mike ferner

No longer the stuff of disturbing futuristic fantasies, an arsenal of “crowd
control munitions,” including one that reportedly made its debut in the U.S.,
was deployed with a massive, overpowering police presence in Pittsburgh during
last week’s G-20 protests.

Nearly 200 arrests were made and civil liberties groups charged the many
thousands of police (most transported on Port Authority buses displaying
“PITTSBURGH WELCOMES THE WORLD”), from as far away as Arizona and Florida with
overreacting”and they had plenty of weaponry with which to do it.

Bean bags fired from shotguns, CS (tear) gas, OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray,
flash-bang grenades, batons and, according to local news reports, for the first
time on the streets of America, the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

Mounted in the turret of an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), I saw the LRAD in
action twice in the area of 25th, Penn and Liberty Streets of Lawrenceville, an
old Pittsburgh neighborhood. Blasting a shrill, piercing noise like a
high-pitched police siren on steroids, it quickly swept streets and sidewalks
of pedestrians, merchants and journalists and drove residents into their homes,
but in neither case were any demonstrators present. The APC, oversized and
sinister for a city street, together with lines of police in full riot gear
looking like darkly threatening Michelin Men, made for a scene out of a movie
you didn’t want to be in.

More:
http://www.opednews.com/articles/2/Robocops-Come-to-Pittsburg-by-mike-ferner-090928-713.html

———————————————————————-
Groggy but not subdued, anarchists hail protest success with little damage

They weren’t stockpiling human waste to throw at police.

They didn’t set cars ablaze or chain themselves together in “sleeping dragons”
with PVC pipe.

The anarchists who police and media had warned for months could wreak havoc on
the city during the G-20 summit didn’t exactly fulfill that expectation.
Instead, they smashed some windows and turned over a few Dumpsters, flooded the
streets of Lawrenceville and staged sporadic uprisings for hours elsewhere, met
by a large contingent of riot police at almost every turn.

Some were sprayed with OC gas, others pelted with rubber bullets. Still others
were arrested in the demonstrations, which they had spent their summers
planning.

More: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09269/1000990-482.stm

————————————————-

Pittsburgh police use sub-lethal weapons against protestors

Mega-events are often the time for some surveillance / control / security innovation and experimentation by states. In what seems to be a rather unwelcome first, the Pittsburgh police have used a military sonic canon to clear protestors off the streets at the G20 summit. These devices are among many so-called ’sub-lethal weapons’ (see the article by Steve Wright here) that have been gradually migrating from military to civilian use for a number of years – see for example the ongoing debate over the use in the UK of the ultrasonic ‘Mosquito’ device, which is supposed to target young people; its makers rather cynically advertise it as ’so effective that they tried to ban it’.

The particular weapon used by the Pittsburgh police is the Long Range Accoustic Device (LRAD) made by the American Technology Corporation, which generates a piercing noise that is not only extremely unpleasant, it can damage eardrums and cause heart problems. It was rather eeriely appropriate to see them being used (as you can on The Guardian’s website) on the same day that TNI / Statewatch released their report on the security-industrial complex and a reminder that this is a global phenomenon.

More: http://ubisurv.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/pittsburgh-police-use-sub-lethal-weapons-against-protestors/

———————————————————————-
G-20 opponents, police clash on Pittsburgh streets

PITTSBURGH — Police threw canisters of pepper spray and smoke at marchers protesting the Group of 20 summit Thursday after anarchists responded to calls to disperse by rolling trash bins and throwing rocks.

The march turned chaotic at just about the same time that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived for a meeting with leaders of the world’s major economies.

The clashes began after hundreds of protesters, many advocating against capitalism, tried to march from an outlying neighborhood toward the convention center where the summit is being held.

Police in riot gear stood guard near the protesters, who banged on drums and chanted “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop.”

The hundreds of marchers included small groups of self-described anarchists, some wearing dark clothes and bandanas and carrying black flags. Others wore helmets and safety goggles.

More: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5izJGY1GNeNYgNG6q1N0bsXCVfBeAD9ATUDIG1

———————————————————————-
66 arrested in Pittsburgh G20 protests

POLICE in Pittsburgh have arrested 66 people after a night of battles with protesters who tried to march on a summit of the world’s top leaders, the FBI says.
Twenty-four people were arrested yesterday when groups of diehard youths refused to disperse when police used pepper spray and fired bean bag rounds to break up an unauthorised demonstration of around 1000 protesters.

Anarchists had attempted to march on the conference centre hosting the Group of 20 summit of the world’s leading economies, which anti-capitalist activists regard as an unaccountable group that ignores the world’s poor.

A further 42 people were arrested when protests erupted in Schenley Plaza near the University of Pittsburgh in the evening, the FBI said in a statement today.

More: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26126665-12377,00.html

You find more similar material at www.gipfelsoli.org

Stora Enso lies and prosecution of MST activists

The image of Via Campesina and MST as violent is wide-spread and recurrent in Brazilian media. Often activists are described as armed and violent, even when the official police reports and witness statements after the event proves the opposite.

Recently the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Samonat was sucked into this gossip carousel when they told that MST, at a meeting with Stora Enso, had threatened the company with violence and murder unless the eucalyptus plantation ceased. This was simply a lie. I who had attended the meeting (and have it all taped) can confirm that MST not to said anything close to this. After having contacted the newspaper and sent the recording to them they were forced  to publish a correction.

But the damage is already done and it is this media logic that strikes against the social movements in Brazil right now. The steady stream of accusations and charges against activists of the MST and Via Campesina attaches itself to the public retina and the social movements gest increasingly isolated.

When I talked to one of the MST’s lawyers a few weeks ago, I realized how few of the criminal investigation brought against MST activists led to any convictions. Activists acquitted almost always. The MST-lawyer did not believe that the Via Campesina women would be sentenced when the evidence provided in this case was weak. I’m no lawyer and can not really judge that. Anyway, one might wonder why so much time and resources are spent on these investigations as they almost never lead to any convictions? Why prosecute if you do not have proof?

My own explanation is that it works in the media. Every time the MST, or Via Campesina mentioned can reporters say “The women, who were charged with burglary and attempted murder” or “MST, which is currently investigated for embezzlement” and so on.

The allegations raised often takes several years to examine and is a simple way to link the movements with illegal and violent activities. And in the long run MST and Via Campesina becomes more and more isolated because of this. Even if newspapers occasionally publish a correction.

from email by Max da Rocha, Friends of MST Sweden

One of the 69 injured female activists during the occupation of Stora Enso plantation

Stora Enso lied blaiming falsely MST to be violent

Tord Björk | Action,MST,Propaganda,Stora Enso,Uncategorized | Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Stora Enso is a Finnish-Swedish forest company involved in land conflicts with movements in the third world. It has a strong Finnish state ownership. on August 30 the biggest daily in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat published an article on three pages which for the first time broadly criticized the company for its actvitiy on Brasil. The title was: Stora Enso earns a lot of money and causes much pain.  It was denouncing the companies operations Rio Grande do Sul and Bahia.
But it had an error, the reporter wrote it as a quote from Joao Paulo speaking at reunion July 8 as he had threatened with violence and death if Stora Enso did not leave the country. This was the claim of the communications director Lauri Peltola, who said that Stora Enso had a recording that confirms this. The reporter accepted it as truth and wrote it as a quotation.

This was false. There were other recordings of the same meeting showing that Stora Enso misinterpreted what had been said. The newspaper was informed by Friends of MST in Finland that the article was wrong. After that the recordings has been translated by the magazine Voima and published on the net and some other translations were done Helsingin Sanomat made a correction. The title now was: Stora Enso distorted (lied) about threats of violence.

The police pointing their gun at MST activist during an occupation of Stora Enso plantation in Rio Grande do Sul. Many female activists were injured during the police action against the occupation. For more information read this blog: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=263

This article corrects the error. In fact there has been in total 5 insertions in the newspaper on the subject, Stora Enso had its reputation tarnished. Some of the developments can be followed here:

The first article published 30.8.2009 in Helsingin Sanomat English:
http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Stora+Enso’s+jackpot/1135248979552

After that article, Stora Enso CEO claims Finnish Friends of the Landless to be aggressive and spreading wrong information from Stora Enso. CEO explains also the claims from the public prosecutor of the city of Eunápolis accusing Stora Enso for their activites, Mr. João Alves da Silva Neto, to be ” a single individual made” and without any proof. In English:
http://www.storaenso.com/about-us/Pages/open-letter-to-helsingin-sanomat.aspx

Friends of the landless replied to these blames, concerning MST to be violent and Friends of the Landless Finland to be aggressive and misleading, with two published responses. Published 10.9.2009 and 13.9.2009 in Helsingin Sanomat
In Finnish: http://maattomienliike.wordpress.com/

Fighting continued in the media between translations that has been made from the speech made by MST leader Joao Paolo Rodriguez. MST leaders and Stora Enso had a meeting in Sao Paulo recently, it looks like both, MST and Stora Enso has recorded the meeting. Finnish indymedia

newspaper Voima got the tape recorded by MST and it published the tape in its web-news called fifi (http://www.fifi.voima.fi). Fifi published the tape in Hanna Nikkanen’s blog. published 18.09.2009 In Finnish:
http://fifi.voima.fi/blogikirjoitus/Brasilian-maattomat-julkistivat-Stora-Enso-nauhan/527

Women raise their voices against tree plantations

Tord Björk | Environmental movements,Friends of the Earth,monoculture,Stora Enso,Women | Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Quote from email:

Brazilian women protesting against plantations March 8 2009

“I would like to draw your attention to following video produced by World Rainforest Movement – an international network involved in efforts to  defend the world’s rainforest and forests peoples.

Over the last years World Rainforest Movement has been carrying out a
campaign against the expansion of large scale tree monocrops. And within that campaign we have been working on and documenting the differentiated
impacts that monoculture plantations have on women.

World Rainforest Movement has recently produced a 12 minute video called “Women raise their voices against tree plantations. Testimonies from Brazil, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea” (available at http://www.wrm.org.uy/Videos/Women_Voices.html) which was announced on  March 8: International Women’s Day.
The video is the result of three workshops conducted in PNG, Nigeria and Brazil within the framework of a project on the Role of the European Union in disempowering women in the South through the conversion of local ecosystems into tree plantations. The video is accompanied by a written report containing further information on the findings of the workshops. (summary report at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/subjects/women/summaryreport.pdf // full report at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/subjects/women/fullreport.pdf )

In the case of Papua New Guinea the workshop refers to oil palm plantations that are being mainly promoted to feed the European market with palm oil (used in products such as cosmetics, soap, vegetable oil and foodstuffs)  as well as for the production of agrofuels.

The second case is that of Nigeria which is about rubber plantations established on the lands of a local community by the France-based Michelin company for producing rubber used in the manufacture of tyres.

And finally the Brazilian case is about eucalyptus plantations set up by three companies -the Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso, Aracruz Celulose and Votorantim- for producing pulp for export to Europe for converting it there into paper.

World Rainforest Movement hopes with this tool to raise awareness on how European policies, consumption levels and corporations  are impacting on women’s lives in Southern countries.

Best regards
Barbara
Barbara Specht
Advocacy Officer, WIDE”

Footnote. It can be added that Friends of the Earth International also have co-produced the video together with WRM.

The Lilac Bloc

You see them everywhere now. At the MST 25th anniversary, the lilac scarves. Hanging around the neck of women or put in front of the mouth on pictures of activists with sharpened agricultural tools in their hands.

The development seems to have been quick. On the first photos of determined actvists on the way to occupy and even cut down eucalupty trees seen as a threat against a sustainable future the scarves are multicolor. But now in short time they are all lilac. Some with prints on them in black promoting Via Campesina, the global organisation for peasants. The lilac block which is quite different and better organised than the masked blocs in rich countries. A lilac block that carefully carries out both resistance and constructive actions building wider and wider solidarity between oppressed groups using direct actions.


The militant actions on Womens international day March 8 have strengthened the unity among rural women in Brazil struggling for common interests against domestic land owners but more and more mainly against transnational corporations.

Lats year actions took place in 17 different states. The largest was an action against Finnish-Swedish forest company Stora Enso. Here is how the action developed. It started early in the morning:

Female activist chopping eucalyptu at Stora Enso plantation

Around 900 women of the movements belonging to Via Campesina occupied the Tarumã Farm, 2,100 hectares big, in the municipality of Rosário do Sul, at about 400 km from the state capital Porto Alegre. They arrived at the area at about 6 am and started immediately to cut down eucalyptus trees and to plant native trees seedlings.

The Swedish Finnish company Stora Enso had illegally bought land close to the border in the hope that they later could influence the legislators and get the laws changed.

“Our action is legitimate. It is Stora Enso that is acting illegally. Planting this green desert in the border region is a crime against the legislation of our country, against the ‘pampa’ (type of grassland) biome and against the food sovereignty of our state that stays with every time less land to produce food crops. We are cutting what is bad and planting what is good for the environment and for the people of Rio Grande do Sul”.

900 female rural workers occupation declaration against Stora Enso

Planting for the future

Time for men to arrive with their boss, the head of the military police as you can see in the middle

The first import thing to do is to get rid of mass media.

Now the real action can start

Police aiming at female activist with a gun

Destroying the milk for the children

Arresting the women

Many hundred arrested women

How the police were beating the women

We are not afraid!

Paula Acampada expain why i is necessary to struggle against the corporations.

So watch out for the lilac bloc if you see the future only in corporate rule

Stora Enso occupied and workers on strike at factory

Tord Björk | Environmental movements,Repression,Stora Enso | Saturday, March 7th, 2009

While pressure is growing against the landless movement in Brazil so is the pressure against Stora Enso. In the same day the news arrived about the occupation of the Stora Enso headquarter in Helsinki and the strike at the 50 percent Stora Enso owned Veracel Celulose factory. The occupation of the headquarter is organised by Greenpeace. It is a protest against Stora Enso cutting old forests in indigenpousareas in Nothern Finland. Greenpeace is the first organisation sentenced by the new terrorist laws in the Nordic countries introduced after EU decisions. The organisation was sentenced for a similar action at a corporate headquarter in Coipenhagen for a banner drop again gene manipulation which the company carried out.

Link to Greenpeace action against Stora Enso In Helsinki: http://translate.google.fi/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.greenpeace.org%2Ffinland%2Ffi%2Fmediakeskus%2Flehdistotiedotteet%2Fgreenpeace-ennustaa-tulosvaroi&sl=fi&tl=en&hl=fi&ie=UTF-8

Material about the strike, first in english, than in portuguese:

Mechanized cutting machine workers and tree nursery workers from Veracel Celulose on strike

Workers active in the cutting of eucalyptus trees and in the tree nursery of Veracel Celulose [owned by Stora-Enso ˆ 50% and Aracruz ˆ 50%]. stopped activities this morning after 11 negotiations with the company They demand for better salaries and better working conditions. The working day of a worker of a cutting machine is 12 hours and this has caused many occupational diseases.  58% of the workers suffer from repetitive strain injuries. Many are scared of asking for a leave to treat their disease, once, after they return, the company dismisses the ill worker, without giving any support. Only in the mechanized harvest, several workers have been dismissed and 4 returned to work because of a legal order from the Labor Court.

These diseases are a consequence of the high productivity that is demanded from the workers. The productivity of a Veracel Celulose worker is 34% higher than of any other company in the sector. A worker of Aracruz Celulose, one of Veracel´s shareholders, Votorantim and Suzano Bahia Sul, cut 18 m3 of wood per hour, while a Veracel worker in the harvesting activities cuts 34 m3 of wood per hour.

Even with this high productivity, the Veracel workers receive the lowest salaries compared with other companies of the sector. Almost 50% less than the salaries of the Aracruz Celulose workers who, besides of the salary receive other benefits like a holiday grant, health plan and free dental support, different from Veracel that charges these services from their workers. The salaries are 34% out of step. In 2004, they received the equivalent of 4 minimum salaries and now they receive the equivalent of 2,5 minimum salaries.

In spite of the world crisis, Veracel is producing beyond its capacity and it is investing in technology. Recently, it bought 2 cutting machines worth R$ 2 million each. It invested about R$ 16 million in the tree nursery. Now, the tree nursery of the Veracel company is one of the most modern ones in Latin America. Moreover, Veracel is investing in duplicating its pulp mill and already requested the license for the construction of one more mill and the planting of another 108 thousand hectares of eucalyptus, through which, according to the company, it will create 3,000 jobs.

Association of Mechanized Cutting Machine workers from the state of Bahia and the Trade Union of Workers in the Pulp and Paper Industry.
6 March 2009

In Portuguese

Trabalhadores da colheita e do viveiro da Veracel paralisam as atividades.

Trabalhadores da colheita de eucalipto e do viveiro da Veracel paralisaram as atividades, nesta madrugada depois de 11 rodadas de negociação com a empresa. Eles reivindicam melhores salários e melhores condições de trabalho. A jornada de um trabalhador da colheita mecanizada é de 12 horas e tem causado muitas doenças ocupacionais. 58% dos trabalhadores estão com LER/DORT. Muitos tem medo de pedir licença para o tratamento, pois, quando retornam a empresa despede o trabalhador doente, sem nenhum tipo de apoio. Somente na colheita mecanizada diversos trabalhadores foram demitidos e 4 retornaram através de reintegração de posse da Justiça do Trabalho.

Estas doenças, é conseqüência da alta produtividade cobrada aos trabalhadores. A produtividade de um trabalhador da Veracel Celulose é 34% maior que qualquer outra empresa do setor. Um trabalhador da Aracruz Celulose, uma das acionistas da Veracel, Votorantim e Suzano Bahia Sul corta por hora 18m3 de madeira, enquanto que um trabalhador na colheita da Veracel, corta 34m3 de madeira por hora.

Mesmo com a alta produtividade, os trabalhadores da Veracel, tem os salários menores em relação às outras empresas do setor. Quase 50% menor do que os salários dos trabalhadores da Aracruz Celulose que além do salário ainda recebem outros benefícios como prêmio de férias, plano de saúde e odontológico gratuito ao contrário da Veracel que cobra dos trabalhadores estes serviços.  Os salários estão defasados em 34%. Em 2004, eles recebiam o equivalente a 4 salários mínimos e agora, eles recebem o equivalente a 2 salários e meio.

Apesar da crise mundial, a Veracel está produzindo bem acima da sua capacidade e está investindo em tecnologia. Recentemente comprou 2 máquinas colheitadeiras no valor de 2 milhões cada uma. Investiu cerca de 16 milhões no viveiro. Hoje, o viveiro da empresa Veracel é um dos mais modernos da América Latina. E ainda, está investindo na duplicação da fábrica e já pediu licenciamento para construir mais uma fábrica e plantar mais 108 mil hectares de eucalipto onde, segundo a empresa deve criar mais cerca de 3000 postos de trabalho.

Associação dos Operadores de Máquina Mecanizadas do Estado da Bahia e Sindicato dos Trabalhadores na Indústria de Papel e Celulose.

Stop closing schools for the landless and support MST and WSF

Tord Björk | education,International action,MST,Repression,Stora Enso,WSF | Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

International call of action:
Sign a protest and support MST and WSF in Brazil 9.3 and 17.4

Today the 3rd of March 2009 the authorities in Rio Grande do Sul closes all the schools for landless in accampments set up by Movimento SemTerra (MST). Join the international protests! Sign the petition and take action!

School for landless at MST camp. Photo by Pertti Simula

Stop closing schools for the landless and official attacks in Brazil against World Social Forum:

We, the undersigned,

1. Strongly protest the closure of schools for the landless and the attack on World Social Forum alliances by politicians and authorities in Rio Grande do Sul, the birth place of both the landless movement MST’s schools and the World Social Forum (WSF), which are bringing hope to rural education and to the democratisation of the world.

2. Demand that the schools in MST encampments and settlements on the countryside be enabled to continue with public funds and support.

3. Demand that the authorities in Rio Grande del Sul withdraw the description made by its superior public ministry council member Thums of the World Social Forum as a gathering place for “terrorists and marginals”. Thums is also among the responsible for the closing of the schools and attempts to make MST illegal. To use a public office for making such an offence against WSF is not in the interests of the state of Rio Grande do Sul or the integrity of any public service.

4. Protest against the interference by transnational corporations such as Stora Enso in domestic politics, since this gives those who are rich means to undemocratically influence politics.

We also support the MST’s statement as follows :

Ever since the start of the struggle for the land, the care for good education for children and teenagers in MST/RS has been very important for the movement. There has been a lot of fight to make the right for a formal education in the acampments reality. Because of that we express our total support to the schools of the acampments of MST, which are under attack of the government of Rio Grande do Sul and sectors of the Ministério Público, which in the beginning of 2009 declared them closed.

MST is a social and legitimate movement and therefore has the right to an education of quality.that takes in consideration the conditions of the struggle and education at the countryside, where the childern and teenagers live together with their families and their community

We demand the the schools of the acampments of MST shall have the rights to continue

Signatures (name of individual, name of organisation if any, country) :

Send your protests to

Public authorities:

Yeda Crusius
Governadora do Estado do RS
E.mail  agenda (at) gg.rs.gov.br

Ivar Pavan
Presidente da Assembléia Legislativa do Estado do RS
E.mail  ivar.pavan (at) al.rs.gov.br

Mariza Abreu
Secretaria de Estado da Educação
E.mail  gabinetese (at) seduc.rs.gov.br

Mauro Renner
Procurador Geral de Justiça do Estado do RS (via website only)
http://www.mp.rs.gov.br/diversos/correio.pt

Send also copies to MST and support groups

MST General secretariat:  sgeral (at) mst.org.br

MST Rio Grande do Sul; Elizabete Witcel: betieduc (at) yahoo.com.br

Friends of the Earth Sweden: MSTsupport (at) mjv.se

Sign the petition and contact others

We call upon educational, environmental, human rights, peace, peasant, rural, social welfare, trade unions, UN associations, women’s and any other organisation concerned about social justice, social forums, environmental and rural concerns to sign the statement and send your protests to the email addresses above. We also urge you to contact other organisations and inform them about the signiture campaign.

Sign the international petition in english at: http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/25767.html

When possible we also hope you can translate the protest and spread it among other organisations in your countries and collect signitures in different languages.

Go to the Brazilian embassy 9.3 and 17.4

We also appeal for joint action in two steps. Fiirst to react quickly in countries were it is possible on such a short notice. We propose you to hand over in as creative way as possible your protest already on Monday 9th of March to the Brazilian embassy and take photos or video and share with others via Flickr and You tube. Tag with MST and ”schools for landless”. We also call for a joint day of protest at Brazilian embassies or consulates on the International Peasant Struggles Day established by Via Campesina in memory of the massacre of MST activists 17th of April. You find addresses to Brazilian embassies at http://www.mre.gov.br/ingles/endereco/embaixadas.asp and consulates at: http://www.mre.gov.br/ingles/endereco/consulados.asp

Attac Hungary
CACIM India
Friends of the Earth Brazil
Friends of the Earth Finland
Friends of the Earth Sweden
Friends of MST Finland
Friends of MST Sweden

You can follow updates on the action to support MST at www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Stop closing schools for the landless and official attacks in Brazil against World Social Forum:

Authorities controlled by politicians in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil that have received support from the Finnish-Swedish transnational company Stora Enso are now closing schools for landless claiming they must do this according to federal law. The sudden decision to close the schools that have been started in encampments by the MST has come after a growing conflict between Stora Enso and the MST, a movement that defends food sovereignity, ecological agriculture as a sustainable form of agriculture and biological diversity against the monoculture plantations promoted by the transnational cellulose corporation.

A representative of the same authorities that are now closing the schools have simultaneously attacked the World Social Forum (WSF) that started in the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, and for many years have been held there. The WSF is widely respected in Brazil and globally as a strong inspiration for global democracy, including showing how the South can democratise the world. But it is now accused by officials in Rio Grande do Sul of being a gathering place for terrorists and forces of no interest to the majority.

In early 2009, Gilberto Thums, a member of the Superior Council at the ministry in the state of Rio Grande do Sul responsible for education simultaneously attacked both the WSF and the landless movement MST. In a statement in the journal Expansão, he described the WSF as a meeting place for ”terrorists and marginals”. A year or so earlier, in December 2007, Thums was behind a plan where a group of prosecutors would put MST on trial with the aim to “dissolve MST and declare it as illegal”. That plan was unveiled but the authorities are now making new attempts to attack the movement. In February 2009, Thums and the governor of the state Yeda Crusius were behind the closure of seven schools in MST encampments. A five-year-old article in the magazine Veja is cited in a report that has now been used as argument for the closure. The article accused schools in MST encampments and settlements for “defending socialism”, ”developing a revolutionary ideology”, and “supporting intolerance”. The “aggressive ideology” of the MST is now being used as an official argument for closing the schools.

The MST in Rio Grande do Sul was a pioneer twelve years ago in implementing a Brazilian law that supported schools in the countryside, and has become a model for the rest of the country. UNICEF Brazil have awarded the educational work which has developed due to MST as a model for education among children in vulnerable socio-economic conditions. The teacher’s union in Rio Grande do Sul has also awarded a prize to these schools. Almost 200,000 pupils attend the schools in the MST encampments and settlements. Slightly more than half of the schools are run on public money, and the rest voluntarily by MST.

MST is not only struggling for implementing agrarian reform and education in the countryside but is also engaged in work of importance to the survival of the planet. The 1.5 million participants in the movement are aiming at ecological agriculture. This work of theirs is a direct threat to transnational companies who wish to make profit from gene-manipulated plants and monoculture plantations for the cellulose and agrofuel industries. One of the main opponents of MST is Stora Enso. To strengthen its political influence, Stora Enso has given financial support in the election to those political forces that are now trying to stop the landless movement and to make it impossible for MST to continue its struggle for agrarian reform. Governor Yeda, who has been directly supported by Stora Enso, has now declared –  immediately after closing the schools of the landless – that everything should be done to help Stora Enso forest industry to get established in the state – ”that is the road to development and we will not abdicate from that”.

We oppose this politics in the interest of Northern transnational corporations and the accusation that the WSF is an illegitimate, undemocratic force.

Undersigned organisations thus request that all who want to defend both the WSF and schools for landless in Brazil support –
•    The four demands above
•    The statement issued by the MST in Rio Grande do Sul against the closure of schools in MST encampments in the state

Sources:

Expansão: http://www.revistaexpansao.com.br (only latest issue)
Expansão, quotes from January 2009 issue: http://www.mst.org.br/mst/pagina.php?cd=6312

Material on the attempts at criminalising MST:
In english: http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article10938
In french: http://www.cgas.ch/SPIP/spip.php?article923
In portuguese: http://www.mst.org.br/mst/especiais.php?ed=71
Information about the documents on the attempt at dissolving MST: http://www.mst.org.br/mst/pagina.php?cd=5588
Official ministerial Rio Grande do Sul web page with a clipping from a newspaper stating the role of Thums in attempting at dissolving MST: http://www.mp.rs.gov.br/imprensa/clipping/id68513.htm
Manifestations against criminalisation of MST 20 minutes video: http://br.truveo.com/Criminaliza%C3%A7%C3%A3o-do-MST-no-RS-junho-de-2008/id/1739375251

Material on closing schools at all MST acampements in Rio Grande do Sul:
Fundamentalismo d direita fecha escolas inierantes do MST e deixa 310 criancas sem educacao, Leandro Scalabrin, membro da comissão de direitos humanos OAB – Passo Fundo – RS, Longer text with quotes from official documents and reference to Veja article: http://www.mst.org.br/mst/pagina.php?cd=6308
Madraçais do MST: http://veja.abril.com.br/080904/p_046.html
Comissão Pastoral da Terra; Terrorismo cultural no Rio Grande do Sul: fechamento de escolas em Acampamentos http://www.mst.org.br/mst/pagina.php?cd=6309
Escolas itinerantes do MST. Um crime é fechá-las. Entrevista especial com Altair Morback e Isabela Braga, Do Instituto Humanitas Unisinos: http://www.mst.org.br/mst/pagina.php?cd=6311
Opinion: Por que Yeda acabou com a Escola Itinerante? http://www.correiodobrasil.com.br/noticia.asp?c=149947
Câmara dos Deputados manifesta repúdio ao fechamento de escolas no RS; Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Minorias Brasília, 19 de fevereiro de 2009, http://www.agenciabrasil.gov.br/noticias/2009/02/19/materia.2009-02-19.1741729769/view

Material on Stora Enso support of Yeda:
Official report on contributions in elections at: http://www.tse.gov.br

Material on corrupcion accusations against Yeda:
Ex-assessor de Yeda Crusius é encontrado morto no lago Paranoá, em Brasília, Folha de S. Paulo, http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/folha/brasil/ult96u505227.shtml

General on MST:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landless_Workers%27_Movement
Branford, Sue and Rocha, Jan. Cutting the Wire: The story of the landless movement in Brazil. 2002. Latin American Bureau, London.
Harnecker, Marta; Landless people: building a social movement, Editora Expressão Popular
Kjörling, Lennart, Så länge det finns hunger, Ordfront, review of book: http://dagensbok.com/index.php?s=+&mf_key=dbc_legacy_id&mfvalue=1037
Linton, Magnus, Americanos, Atlas, review of book: http://dagensbok.com/2006/01/09/magnus-linton-americanos/
Review of video: “Cutting the Wire” http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2005/12/brazil_cutting.html#
Review of Video in spanish/portuguese with english subtitles: Landless Workers’ Movement: History did not end. http://www.visualab.org/index.php/history
MST: Los Sin Tierra por los caminos de America, video by AbyaYalaUnida: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=AbyaYalaUnida&view=videos&start=340
Landreform i Brasilien och Movimento dos Sem Terra – MST, Sveriges ambassad Brasilien,  PM, 2007-07-03,  1(10)  Brasilia, Karin Wallensteen (Report on MST by Swedish embassy in Brasilia)
Friends of MST, US with english material: http://www.mstbrazil.org/

Official MST web site: http://www.mst.org.br

Official UDR web site, opponent to MST: http://www.udr.org.br

Information on Stora Enso and plantations (in Spanish):
“Dossier Stora Enso” en REDES – Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay: www.redes.org.uy

Information on MST mobilisation against Stora Enso
(in portuguese):
Agencia de Noticias Chasque: www.agenciachasque.com.br
Jornal Brasil de Fato: www.brasildefato.com.br
Radio Mundo Real (RMR): www.radiomundoreal.fm