Indigenous Tribes on Front Line of Amazon Rainforest Fires Vow to Resist Bolsonaro’s “Destruction of Mother Nature”

“We’re putting our bodies and our lives on the line to try to save our territories.”

Aerial view of a large burned area in the city of Candeiras do Jamari in the Brazilian state of Rondônia. (Photo: Victor Moriyama/Greenpeace)

Indigenous tribes whose land and livelihoods are being directly harmed by the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest vowed Tuesday to do everything in their power to resist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s “destruction of Mother Nature” and called on the rest of the world to join them.

“We’re putting our bodies and our lives on the line to try to save our territories,” Brazilian indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara, who was born in a village in the Amazon rainforest, said in a statement. “We’ve been warning for decades about the violations we have suffered across Brazil.”

“If we don’t stop this destruction of Mother Nature, future generations will live in a completely different world to the one we live in today.” —Huni Kuin tribe

“The predatory behavior of loggers, miners, and ranchers, who have a powerful lobby in the [Brazilian] National Congress with more than 200 deputies under their influence,” said Guajajara, “has been getting much worse under the anti-indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro, who normalizes, incites, and empowers violence against the environment and against us.”

According to satellite data analyzed by Weather Source, there are over 2,000 fires raging in the Brazilian Amazon. The blazes sparked outrage from world leaders and dire warnings from environmentalists, who say the fires could accelerate the climate crisis by irreversibly damaging the “lungs of the world.”

In a statement, a group of leaders with the indigenous tribe Huni Kuin said the fires are “Mother Nature’s cry, asking us to help her.”

“If we don’t stop this destruction of Mother Nature, future generations will live in a completely different world to the one we live in today,” the tribe said. “And we are working today so that humanity has a future. But if we don’t stop this destruction, we will be the ones that will be extinguished, burned and the sky will descend upon us, which has already begun to happen.”

The Xingu peoples echoed that message in a video posted online Monday. Speaking to the people of the world as the wealthiest nations on the planet gathered in France for the G7 summit, a Xingu representative said indigenous tribes “are going to resist for the forest, for our way of living… for the future of our children and grandchildren.”

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Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, writing in the Boston Globe Monday, said listening to indigenous peoples and respecting their rights is key to solving the global climate crisis with justice at the forefront.

“Colonialism is setting the world on fire,” wrote Klein. “Taking leadership from the people who have been resisting its violence for centuries, while protecting non-extractive ways of life, is our best hope of putting out the flames.” MORE

Greta Thunberg ‘wants a concrete plan, not just nice words’ to fight climate crisis

Young activists will pressure world leaders to address crisis, says 16-year-old Swedish activist in Guardian interview

 Greta Thunburg: ‘It’s insane that a 16-year-old has to cross the Atlantic in order to take a stand, but that’s how it is.’ Photograph: Vanessa Carvalho/REX/Shutterstock

Unprecedented pressure exerted by young activists will push world leaders to address the unfolding climate crisis, even with a recalcitrant US under Donald Trump, Greta Thunberg has told the Guardian.

Thunberg, the teenager whose school climate strikes have ignited a global youth-led movement, said that her journey to New York on a solar-powered yacht was symbolic of the lengths young people will take to confront the climate crisis.

She said: “It’s insane that a 16-year-old has to cross the Atlantic in order to take a stand, but that’s how it is. It feels like we are at a breaking point. Leaders know that more eyes on them, much more pressure is on them, that they have to do something, they have to come up with some sort of solution. I want a concrete plan, not just nice words.”

Thunberg’s vessel emerged from the mist of an unseasonably drizzly day to be met by a throng of supporters and media at a marina near the southern tip of Manhattan on Wednesday. Her arrival was heralded by a flotilla of 17 sailboats, charted by the UN, that intercepted her vessel near the Statue of Liberty.

Supporters chanted “welcome Greta” as the Swedish teenager stepped off the yacht, shook some outstretched hands and said that it felt like the ground was shaking beneath her feet.

Thunberg told the Guardian: “It’s so overwhelming. I’ve gone from nothing but me and the ocean to this.”

Despite the adulation from the crowds, Thunberg said she didn’t relish being cast as the global figurehead of the climate movement.

She said: “My role is to be one of many, many activists who are pushing for climate action. I don’t see myself as a leader, or icon or the face of a movement.” SOURCE

Welcome to the US, Greta. With your help we can save the planet and ourselves

Even in such a divided and troubled country, there is hope. Between us we can beat the climate destroyers

 Greta Thunberg arrives in New York after a 15-day journey crossing the Atlantic. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Dear Greta, Thank you for travelling across the Atlantic to north America to help us do the most important work in the world. There are those of us who welcome you and those who do not because you have landed in two places, a place being born and a place dying, noisily, violently, with as much damage as possible.

It has always been two places, since the earliest Europeans arrived in places where Native people already lived, and pretended they were new and gave them the wrong names. You can tell the history of the United States – which are not very united now – as the history of Sojourner Truth, the heroine who helped liberate the enslaved, as that of the slaveowners and defenders of slavery, as a place of visionary environmental voices such as Rachel Carson and the corporate powers and profiteers she fought and exposed.

Right now the US is the country of Donald Trump and of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of climate destroyers and climate protectors. Sometimes the Truths and the Carsons have won. I believe it is more than possible for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal to win, for the spirit of generosity and inclusion and the protection of nature to win – but that depends on what we do now. Which is why I’m so grateful that you have arrived to galvanize us with your clarity of vision and passionate commitment. 

Not long ago I talked to a powerful climate organizer who began her work when she was only a little older than you, and she told me that her hope right now is that people recognize that this is a moment of great possibility, of openings and momentum, and a growing alarm and commitment to what the changing climate requires of us. Something has changed, thanks to you and to the young people who have brought new urgency and vision to the climate movement. Many people have become concerned and awake for the first time, and the conversation we need to have is opening up. People are ready for change, or some of us are. This is what’s being born in the US and around the world: not only new energy systems, but new social systems with more room for the voices of those who are not white or male or straight or neurotypical.

The old energy system was about centralized control and the malevolent power of Gazprom and BP, Shell and Chevron, and the governments warped into serving them rather than humanity. The new system must not only be about localized energy, but democratized decision-making, about the rights of nature and the rights of the vulnerable and the future, over profit. MORE

Countdown to Global #WeekForFuture #ClimateStrike!

It’s been a torrid summer and it will be a hot September for climate activists as we move towards the global #WeekForFuture involving mobilizations in the vast majority of countries around the world.  

In over 2400 events taking place from September 20th through 27th, millions of us will walk out of our classrooms, workplaces and homes to join together in the streets and demand climate action and climate justice. We’re calling for massive participation on the part of adults —  alongside young people — to show that adults too are concerned and want to join forces in this global effort to raise awareness and prod recalcitrant leaders to act. 

The week’s crescendo of events will bracket the UN Climate Action Summit taking place in New York on September 23rd. We’ll be sending global leaders the message that our #houseisonfire and that we’re calling on them to do what the science clearly tells us must be done. 


Over 115 countries and 1000 cities have already registered events and, as we’ve seen on previous occasions, the number will continue growing rapidly as we move towards the strikes. 

All eyes are on the United States which already has 145 cities signed up, with participation that is expected to be tenfold with respect with the first two global strikes in March and May of this year. 

New York is expecting a huge turnout, as is Montreal (Canada) which saw 150,000 take to the streets to demand climate action is the largest strike so far without the presence of Greta Thunberg. MORE

Should the Rome Statute Include the Crime of Ecocide?

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Helicopter spraying agent orange in Vietnam – Source:­Huey- helicopter­spraying­Agent­Orange­in­Vietnam.jpg

by ARI BILOTTAAUG 28 2019,

What is Ecocide?

The origin of ecocide as a concept is relatively modern. It stemmed from the use of the term by scientists during the Vietnam War to describe and denounce the environmental destruction and potential human health catastrophe arising from the herbicidal warfare waged by the United States military during the war.[1] The term’s very first use is attributed to Professor Arthur W. Galston speaking at the Conference on War and National Responsibility.[2]

Despite its use over the last four decades, ecocide is yet to be given a concrete legal definition.[3] Thus for the purposes of this essay, the definition, or rather approximation of ecocide is best taken from Professor Galston, who stated; “it denotes various measures of devastation and destruction which have in common that they aim at damaging or destroying the ecology of geographic areas to the detriment of human life, animal life, and plant life.”[4] It should be noted, however, that there is no consensus on the definition of ecocide.[5] Part of the difficulty in defining the term comes from how reasonable it would be to make trying the crime a reality. Another definition given of ecocide is “a planned effort to eliminate all or part of an ecosystem.”[6] This definition clearly draws from the definition of genocide, involving the “destruction of a group, in whole or in part.”[7] Though ambitious, this definition is too broad in its scope. Destroying an ecosystem, be it in whole or in part, is a definition irreconcilable with the free reign humans have over the planet and our tendencies towards altering our environments. Furthermore, ecocide is not limited to the actions of states. Corporations are equally capable of perpetrating ecocide. This is in part due to the fact that the current parameters that businesses operate in internationally has allowed for the destruction of the planet.[8]

Ecocide and the Rome Statute

The Rome Statute is the international treaty setting out the main functions of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The goal of the ICC is to investigate and try individuals who have perpetrated, or are responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern.[9] Currently, the ICC can hear cases involving four categories of crimes. Those are Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, and the recently added Crime of Aggression.[10] A permanent court set up to hear the most grave crimes imaginable is no mean feat. Nevertheless, as the planet faces environmental calamity, and the Earth sees the greatest ever extinction event, the need for ecocide to fall within the ambit of the ICC is increasingly vital. Still, it is clear that the idea of ecocide as a crime predates the ICC by several decades. Ecocide’s omission from the Rome Statute was not a simple oversight. However, reasons as to why it was not included into the Rome Statute are unclear. In the early drafting of the Rome Statute, ecocide appeared as a Crime Against Peace, and was supported by all participants bar the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Strangely, ecocide was removed from the draft convention without any record of why.[11]

However, there is one reference to environmental crime in the Rome statute, appearing in Article 8(2)(b)(iv).[12] This is a very limited crime against the environment, and thus does not encapsulate the crime of ecocide, making it redundant. Article 8(2)(b)(iv) is largely inadequate to prosecute ecological crimes for two reasons. First, all Article 8 crimes relate to war crimes.[13] This means that only crimes committed against the environment in the context of an international armed conflict could be prosecuted at the ICC. The other main limitation of the article is in the wording. “Widespread, long-term and severe” is a cumulative definition that requires all elements to be met in order to ensure successful prosecution. This is a high threshold not likely met by most environmental damage, even that which occurs in war.[14]

The ICC does still serve a function in preventing environmental destruction. The ICC operates in a complimentary fashion. This means that it mostly hears cases referred to it by states related to the crime in need of investigation or the United Nations Security Council. To this end, the Court also offers resources to states looking to investigate and prosecute crimes relating to the illegal exploitation of natural resources or land grabs domestically.[15] So clearly there is an impetus amongst parts of the Court to combat environmental degradation.

One of the biggest problems conceptually with adding ecocide to the Rome Statute is how the International Criminal Court operates. The Court serves to prosecute individuals. With an emphasis on individual criminal responsibility, crimes of ecocide will need to be attributed to individual persons (or joint criminal enterprises) in order to go to trial.[16]Though this is not outside the realm of possibility, it is still a major obstacle. For example, the Court, as it stands is yet to prosecute the director of any corporation for a crime. This is because the ICC mostly lacks the means to prosecute individual members of corporations due to a diffusion of responsibility that exists in corporations.[17] Therefore, in order for ecocide to become an operative part of international criminal law, substantial changes would need to be made to other aspects of the Court’s functions.

Why Ecocide Should Be Added to the Rome Statute

The main reason why ecocide should be added to the Rome Statute is that it could help curtail the progression of climate change. As it currently stands, the Paris Agreement sets out that the planet needs to reduce global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels in order to reduce the risks of climate change.[18]Despite the urgency of the issue, this aim is a long way off being met. Current predictions forecast a global temperature rise of 5 degrees, nowhere near the targets of the Paris Agreement. MORE

For activists, CSIS-spying revelations were cold comfort

Idle No More protesters march through Victoria on Dec. 21, 2012. Photo by R.A. Paterson via Wikimedia Commons

“We’d say things like, ‘Blow me, CSIS,’” she recalled with a laugh recently.

The thought that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) may be bugging her calls did not seem far-fetched to Cress, who is from Beausoleil First Nation, on the south shore of Georgian Bay. She saw RCMP and CSIS members regularly at marches and events. She accepted surveillance was part of her everyday life.

“I don’t think anybody I knew was under any illusion that they weren’t being monitored,” she said.

In 2013, a Vancouver Observer investigation found evidence CSIS and the RCMP had monitored Idle No More and environmental groups — including Leadnow, Sierra Club, Dogwood Initiative and ForestEthics (now called — that opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline, a project that was quashed in 2016.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) launched a complaint against CSIS in 2014 based on this investigation. On July 6, they released more than 8,000 pages of documents from hearings about whether the agency illegally spied on Indigenous Peoples and environmental groups.

Indigenous Peoples and activists say that, regardless of how much of what’s in the Protest Papers is ultimately made available to the public, they’ve long accepted government spying as a day-to-day reality — and they don’t expect it to change/

These documents, called the Protest Papers, include testimony from CSIS employees responding to the BCCLA’s complaint, which the association lodged with the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), CSIS’s watchdog. The committee dismissed the BCCLA’s complaint in 2017.

Six years after the allegations first came to light, and faced with a pile of redacted documents that raise more questions than answers about CSIS surveillance, Cress said she’s still not surprised. She said that, for people in her community, “it’s a given” they are under CSIS surveillance.

“For the majority of Indigenous people, our interactions with the police state have not been positive,” she said. “And we know it, we feel it, because we live it. So… it’s no different.”

Tori Cress, pictured on June 23, 2018, in Chimnissing, Ont., says she has always taken for granted she was watched by CSIS as an Idle No More organizer. Photo by Tori Cress ​​​​​​ ​​​​​ 

Zach Ruiter is a former environmentalist who was personally named in the Protest Papers and in emails obtained through the investigation by Vancouver Observer. They also said the surveillance alluded to in these documents is “nothing new” for activists.

And though the BCCLA’s complaint focuses on the Harper years, both Cress and Ruiter said CSIS is likely monitoring people who are against the oil industry to the same degree today, and since the case was dismissed by SIRC, there’s no reason to believe CSIS has changed practices. MORE

Canada pushing for Amazon protections in free-trade talks with Brazil

A fire burns along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil’s Amazon, on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Photo by The Associated Press/Eraldo Peres

Canada is forging ahead with trade talks with the South American Mercosur trading bloc, hoping to push Brazil to better protect the critical Amazon rainforest, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

The talks are continuing despite Brazil’s rejection of international funding to help fight fires in the Amazon, apparently over a personal spat with France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

Canada began trade negotiations last year with the four full members of the Mercosur group — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. There have been six rounds of talks, most recently in June.

Environment groups last week asked the federal government to abandon those talks in a bid to force Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to end the rapid deforestation experts say is partly to blame for the record number of fires burning in the Amazon this year.

Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh echoed them, saying in a statement that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “is putting the interests of rich corporations ahead of the fight against climate change by continuing free-trade negotiations with President Bolsonaro.”

A spokesman for International Trade Minister Jim Carr said the talks will continue “because we are committed to diversifying our trading partners” but that trade is not the only thing on the agenda.

“As part of negotiations, Canada is seeking environmental provisions that would be more ambitious than the current (World Trade Organization) guidelines, and include sustainable forest management and combating illegal logging and related trade,” said Michael Jones. MORE