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Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part II

The Art of Annihilation

May 7, 2014

An investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

[This report references both REDD[1] and the REDD+[2] mechanism. REDD refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation while REDD+ was updated to reflect: “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries; and the role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks.”] For the sake of continuity, the authors of this investigative series will use the original acronym REDD in this series unless REDD+ appears in references or quotes.]

 

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Image: No REDD in Rio

REDDy for Hypocrisy

“[REDD is] a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred…. It is time to defend Mother Earth and Father Sky. Your future depends on it.” — Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, October 22, 2013

Industrial capitalists, employing those in the non-profit industrial complex as their personal soft-power sycophants, have every intention of controlling what remain of Indigenous People’s natural resources. Adding to centuries of colonialism, slavery, and genocide, native peoples now face a 21st century corporatocracy that seeks full privatization and commodification of the Earth’s remaining commons. As an example, the creation of ecological reserves on Indigenous land is rampant yet proceeds relatively unnoticed. The theft of biological wealth under the guise of conservation is stealth and must be acknowledged as such – nothing less than a brilliant coup.

In the final frontier of Earth’s last remaining natural resources, with capitalism on its knees with nowhere else to go, a silent war has begun that few yet notice. It can be summarized in two words: environmental markets.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is one such key market. [“REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that many initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, are currently developing and supporting. Other multilateral REDD+ initiatives include the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), hosted by The World Bank. Source] This scheme (creating / obtaining permits to pollute via corporate capture of Earth’s last remaining forests) will not mitigate the escalating climate and ecological crises in any way. Rather, it simply allows polluters to continue polluting. REDD allows, and even encourages, our multiple ecological crises to further accelerate while ensuring the seizure / commodification and further exploitation of Earth’s remaining natural resources. Tina Vahenen, from the UN REDD Secretariat, addressed an auditorium of timber executives and foresters at the World Forestry Congress in 2009 and stated, “REDD would be very beneficial for forestry.” Not forests – forestry. Ms Vahenen explained to the room that REDD would be worth $45 billion for the timber industry and insisted that “the forestry sector cannot afford to lose this opportunity.” [Key Arguments Against REDD, 2011- Source]

At first glance it appears that Pachamama Alliance (and Pachamama Foundation by extension) are “more legitimate” than most big greens – and they may very well be, to some extent. Their progressive language is demonstrated in the positions put forward on REDD by Pachamama Foundation that appear on their website and in the mainstream.

August 8, 2011: Pachamama Foundation Website (translated from the Spanish by Google Translate):

“Aware of the urgent need to reduce deforestation in the country, Fundación Pachamama’s participation at international level in the Accra Caucus and national level in the monitoring group UN-REDD and the National Standards Committee Socio-environmental REDD +, aims to participate in advocacy spaces to ensure the inclusion of human and collective rights, self-determination, land rights, and full and effective participation of the subjects of law, and monitoring the construction of political national government for the conservation and the importance of forests. In domestic spaces acts as delegate CEDENMA, representing a sector of environmental civil society organizations to advocate for getting the highest standards of conservation and the guarantee of human and collective rights and the rights of nature. Pachamama Foundation disagrees with any attempt of the Government of Ecuador to participate in carbon markets, is in a stage of preparation and implementation stages. Markets do not do more than consider nature as a commodity and encourage perverse and inequitable business that promotes a model of capitalist development and unsustainable. Pachamama Foundation does not promote any REDD mechanism. Rather, it maintains a very critical position, this being insufficient and incomplete to combat climate change mechanism, whose origin is in a biased account of the forest that does not include the Indigenous world, does not recognize rights for nature and the commodification and intended to be inserted into the woods in the perverse world market.”

This sounds like an honourable, even radical, position. And it is. But consider the following text exactly three months later on November 8, 2011, also from the Pachamama Foundation website:

María Belén Páez, director of Pachamama Foundation, spoke about the REDD mechanism during the plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). In her speech, she addressed the following topics [translated from the Spanish]:

Financing: The REDD finance mechanism should be transparent, reliable, and accessible.

Additionality: The reductions under the REDD mechanism must be in addition to emission reductions required under the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries, ie, [REDD credits providing carbon offsets] should not replace these reductions.

Integrity: It is important that the parties agree that funding for REDD ensures social and environmental integrity, in addition to sustainable development and good governance.

Innovation: Funding for REDD should focus on a variety of innovative sources.

Carbon markets: Carbon trading has been declared as merchandise with the worst performance in the world. Its growth has stagnated and declined. Forests are not within this market due to concerns about leakage and impermanence of the forest.

Offset credits: It has been shown that these loans are prone to fraud and market manipulation. They should not be part of any package of funding for REDD.

Multi-functionality: It is important to recognize that forests have multiple functions in addition to their ability to store carbon. Payments resulting from REDD have to compensate more than the amount of reduced tonnes of carbon, for example, their spiritual and other environmental services. [Emphasis added to the word spiritual.]

Effectiveness: To improve the effectiveness of REDD and the ultimate goal of reducing pressures on deforestation and forest degradation, countries should be compensated not only for reducing emissions, but also for the implementation of measures to improve governance, respect for human and collective rights, and conservation of biodiversity.

Although Páez, executive director of Pachamama Foundation, publicly voices opposition to both carbon markets and offsets, she speaks as though financing/payments for REDD, from sources outside of environmental markets, are a realistic option. The intent of REDD by capitalists is to turn the services provided by Earth’s forests into globally tradable commodities. Sources of REDD finance are intentionally presented as hazy and vague while simultaneously espousing half promises that non-market finance will miraculously materialize from nowhere. The simplistic notion that altruistic REDD finance funds from “innovative sources” will come raining down from the sky is a sugar-coated Venus flytrap that easily lures those that are greedy, extraordinarily naïve or cloaked in denial,particularly those dependent upon the non-profit industrial complex.

Note the phrase “spiritual services” as cited by Páez. One must ask how “payments results in REDD” would/could compensate for the loss of spiritual services. Can an exemplary amount of money compensate for spiritual services? If you are a spiritual capitalist, the answer appears to be yes.

At COP17, Páez “represented civil society” (even though unelected to do so) and Accra Caucus (of which Pachamama Foundation is a member). [1] Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change is a network of southern and northern NGOs representing around 100 civil society and Indigenous Peoples organizations from 38 countries, formed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2008. The Caucus works to place the rights of Indigenous and forest communities at the centre of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation promote good governance and are not a substitute for emission reductions in industrialized countries. [“A full list of members of the Accra Caucus is available on request.” Source. Note that requests were made to acquire this full list, with no success.] Incidentally, Accra Caucus is also partner to the UN REDD Desk. [2] For further information it provides a link to the partner, Rainforest Foundation. At this link we find that Pachamama Alliance is also an “actor” within the UN for implementing REDD, as is Fundación Pachamama. [3]

As mentioned prior, Pachamama Foundation is also partner with the Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Defensa de la Naturaleza y el Ambiente (CEDENMA) (Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment). At COP17, Natalia Greene, program coordinator of “Political Plurinationality and Rights of Nature” at Pachamama Foundation was also responsible for chairing CEDENMA, of which she is president.

“Nationally we have participated as a representative of the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) in building REDD spaces and policies with a MAE (Ministerio del Ambiente) mechanism to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples. — Pachamama Foundation [Source]

The Spanish website of CEDENMA (an “Agency Partnership and political representation of Ecuadorian civil nonprofit organizations”), which represents the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, “a network of organizations and individuals committed to the adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce the rights of nature individuals” (to be discussed further in this report) is registered to an address in West Jacksonville, Florida, US. Under the link “I am Nature,” the website redirects you to Pachamama Foundation’s YouTube channel. The vast majority of the members are of US/foreign origin with masses of tentacles to hegemony. In one instance, the “collaborators” cited are World Bank, USAID, US Fish and Wildlife Service, WWF, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and many other hegemonic institutions.

Theatre

 “Political rhetoric and sophistries do not exist, after all, in order that they be believed; rather, they have to serve as a common and agreed upon alibi.” Milan Kundera

The matrix of alliances and the repertoire of concerned/attentive language as briefly touched upon above is a brief overview and screenplay of exquisite theatre – theatre also performed for the benefit of the actors and extras themselves, carefully ensuring that all involved can bear to face themselves each morning when they must wake and look in the mirror. As defined by Kundera, it’s an “agreed upon alibi” to alleviate the conscience.

It is a spectacular feat to continually walk the fence wearing Prada heels. The script dictates that corporations, foundations, governments, organizations/NGOs (hierarchal/top down) must unequivocally demonstrate that “civil” society and Indigenous peoples, in particular, have been absolutely involved in the entire process of decision-making. Again, language is instrumental: safeguards; Free, Prior and Informed Consent; transparency; social and environmental integrity; self-determination; sustainable development; cultural integrity; good governance; respect for human and collective rights; rights-based forestry;and conservation of biodiversity, etc. etc. The list of ethical, beautiful and soothing turns of phrase that both ease and suppress well-founded anxieties flows like the River Nile. The i’s will be dotted and the t’s must be crossed. There will be nothing left undone that allows for litigation, that allows for any groups to claim they were not consulted. The capitalists will claim that civil society was not only consulted, they were invited to come to the table, with a heavy emphasis on outreach to Indigenous peoples. It’s all theatre, ladies and gentleman. And everyone in the production knows how the show ends. The ending was written long before anyone was assigned to their roles or studied their lines.

This is not activism. This is corporatized environmentalism – the ultimate oxymoron. A thriving industry for hegemony cloaked under the thin guise of ethics and human rights.

No big greens intend to actually stop REDD. In fact, many NGOs are planning to profit from the scheme just as they have from forestry, for example, Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF: “Probus is retained by the Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF, to advise on non-conflict of interest global funding mechanisms for environmental stewardship councils and NGO development of global sustainable timber and aquaculture standards. In tandem with the financial aspects of environmental stewardship, Probus develops corporate structuring to enable large NGOs to gain independent revenues via ‘for-profit’ sister companies without impinging upon the impartiality and not-for-profit or charitable status of the NGO.” In the end, “important concessions” will have been made to “protect the Indigenous” and these special considerations will be celebrated as “win win!” victories. Yet, the considerations for concessions were also written into the script with many undoubtedly pre-determined from inception. The predacious capitalist gives nothing he does not wish to give. [Further reading on WWF’s certificationschemes and green washing can be found here, here, and here.]

Via the financial institutions, the media and the non-profit industrial complex, the capitalists perform the most malevolent activities that inflict further pain and destruction onto Earth’s most vulnerable societies, sentient beings and living ecosystems. Yet as long as they appear to be polite, conciliatory, and attentively listening to grievances, feigning concern for the associated plight and risks, alongside the pie in the sky “benefits,” of course, the majority of people will acquiesce to the predetermined, “politically feasible” reformist “solution.” Behind closed doors, the ménage of human drones defending capital do not waver. Tenacious as hell, they quietly shuffle forward – impassive, undeterred, absolutely focused on their strategic objectives. This may take years. It may take decades. It matters little. Time is of no essence. The end justifies the means. Call it Machiavellian. Or call it what it is: steady state pathology.

One simply has to look at The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to see how such conventions are essentially worthless. Our children today are unlikely to live to old age due to cataclysmic ecological collapse, yet each waking day, the global economic system that ensures our annihilation continues unabated. Which begs the question: Why would anyone in sound mind believe that Indigenous Rights will be respected in the final scramble for the Earth’s last remaining natural resources?

Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions. — Aristotle, Poetics, VI 1449b 2–3

“[A]nd through pity and fear it effects relief to such [and similar] emotions.”

The embracing of deception (deception that must be swallowed whole, and willingly, if one is to protect their privilege) is warm and consoling. Not unlike a tightly spun cocoon. A metamorphosis into the same pathology we claimed to oppose.

Lying to oneself is easy for those within the non-profit industrial complex. They profess to oppose it – knowing full well that their funding (meaning their privilege and very identities) is fully dependent on what they claim to contest coming to fruition. In many cases, concern and voiced opposition are sincere. It makes no difference. Everyone understands the rules of the game. They understand from the onset that what they object to (at least publicly), which almost always falls under the expansion of capital, is going to be realized. They will voice their distrust and unease and demonstrate just how incredibly noble and ethical they are (with great concern for the natives, of course – natives in faraway exotic places, that is) prior to the proposed policy/scheme being realized. It’s theatre for the audience. Theatre for our conscience. Theatre for the absurd.

Feeding at the REDD Trough

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Image: Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

It’s easy to talk smack against REDD when one (in this case, Pachamama Foundation) is partnered with UN REDD Desk and funded by Norway Rainforest Foundation (RFN), et al. All it takes is a heightened level of hypocrisy and superiority.[“RFN’s finances are to a significant degree based on multiyear contracts with Norwegian public authorities regarding long-term financial assistance. The organization derives additional funding from individuals and bequests (including from regular private donors designated ‘Rainforest Guardians’); contributions from members of the business community such as Nordic Choice Hotels; and international funds and foundations such as the Ford Foundation and the Rainforest Foundation Fund…. In Indonesia, RFN and its partners have made use of the opportunity presented by the international attention which followed the country becoming a target of many REDD initiatives, including a USD 1 billion bilateral agreement between Norway and Indonesia, in order to provide advice, criticism and input in dialogue with the government and in the media…. As stated by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), ‘the Rainforest Foundation Norway support to the Civil Society National Climate and REDD working group in DRC has brought full Congolese civil society participation and involvement in developing the national REDD+ strategy and all of its components.'”] Norad is a key funder promoting REDD. [4]

“Norway continues to be UN-REDD’s first and largest donor, committing US$52.2million for 2008-2009, US$31 million for 2010, and at least US$40 million for 2011-2012.” [Source: June, 2011]

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Image: The WWF, REDD and Tanzania

The current/previous Board of Directors on the Rainforest Foundation (US division) include representatives of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AMG Wealth Partners, George Soros Open Society Foundations, Kingdon Capital Managementamong others. After the billion dollar deal was announced between Norway and Indonesia, it was revealed that Norway’s Government Pension Fund – Global had millions invested in many of the predatory corporations circling in on vulnerable Indigenous land owners in Papua and West Papua. This included a corporation that forced a four year old boy to sign land release contracts (PT Henrison Inti Persada, a subsidiary of the Noble Group, which it purchased from Kayu Lapis Indonesia Group, and Medco International and LG International – which sought 1 million hectares of Papua for industrial timber plantations).

Pachamama Alliance and Foundation may (and do) go far further in their criticisms against REDD and other market mechanisms, but at the end of the day they will fulfill the needs/interests of the foundations (fed by corporate profits). Just like every other NGO whose entire existence is dependent upon those profits.

The necessity for healthy dissent is critical. No one understands this more than the foundation. The oligarchy acknowledges there must be space for dissent and venting. To not ensure these needs are met is to invite elements that could lead to economic sabotage and revolutionary revolt. To have a handful of groups publicly objecting to the implementation of policies/schemes when one funds hundreds/thousands of groups to ensure their success is not threatening to the oligarchy whatsoever – rather, it ensures the populace will continue to believe (the falsehood) that they remain part of a true and healthy democracy. Who cares if a handful of groups highlight dangers of REDD – when the cat is already in the bag and the so-called “opposition” is addicted to and reliant on the foundation dole?

If the UN had a program called UN Climate Colonialism Desk (and that is what the UN REDD Desk essentially is), would we all join as “partners” to ensure we had “our say”? It is common knowledge that partners are sought after to 1) increase credibility, legitimacy and brand, and 2) accelerate the original intent/purpose. [5] Some organizations may attempt to justify such partnerships, but at the end of the day, they have lent much needed credibility and legitimacy to yet another instrument of colonialism that should have been isolated, exposed and scorned.

One can be absolutely certain that a key goal of the oligarchy, which has finally overcome most all obstacles in the indefatigable goal to implement REDD (two decades in the making, sought by Rockefeller, Ford, etc. [6], is to now expand REDD throughout Ecuador, Latin America and the rest of the world now that REDD+ framework has been achieved at COP19/Warsaw. [December 13, 2013: “WWF has worked towards realizing REDD+ for many years, engaging both on the ground in the key tropical forest nations of Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Colombia, the Guyanas and Brazil, as well as at the global policy and finance levels.”]

It is essential to note that none of the NGOs (over 100 at this point) participating in the Pachamama “solidarity” campaign disclose the fact that the Pachamama Foundation is financed by US interests. As an example, on December 5, 2013, The REDD-Monitor, demonstrating solidarity with Pachamama Foundation, voices its criticisms of the Ecuador Government, writing:

“As in other countries, REDD in Ecuador takes place in parallel to business as usual, including the suppression of the right to dissent. On its website, the UN-REDD programme reports that, ‘In order to reverse forest loss, Ecuador is implementing a series of initiatives to reduce deforestation in the country as part of good governance of forest resources and to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing GHG emissions related to this activity.'”

The REDD Monitor goes further, correctly spelling out why REDD is a false solution to climate change. Yet the REDD Monitor never mentions that both Pachamama Alliance and Pachamama Foundation are UN REDD “actors,” and financed by the very oligarchs (via foundations) that are heavily invested in REDD. For a poverty stricken state such as Ecuador, the support and pursuance of REDD is, without doubt, misguided and regrettable. For multi-million dollar NGOs (which, although unelected, claim to represent civil society) to support and pursue REDD is without doubt inexcusable. Yet, as far as support for REDD is concerned, the government of Ecuador alone will be the egregious villain while Pachamama Alliance and Foundation will be the virtuous victims. (It must be noted that the REDD Monitor is also a beneficiary of funding from Rainforest Foundation Norway.)

At this juncture it is critical to note two items of great significance.

“According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007.” — Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate, November 20, 2013 [7] [“Since 2007, USD 2.72 billion has been pledged to five multilateral climate funds and two bilateral initiatives that support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+).”]

The $2.72 billion that has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 is approximately the same monetary amount (with a similar timeline) that Ecuador required for the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative was the proposal by the government of Ecuador to refrain indefinitely from exploiting the oil reserves of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field within the Yasuni National Park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion over 13 years from the international community. During the six-year history of the initiative, only $336 million had been pledged, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered. [Source] Hence, the project, however flawed, has failed, opening President Correa up to yet another attack by “the left.” [“It is worth remembering that the first trust set up to receive donations was designed, among others, by Yolanda Kakabadse, president of the World Wide Fund for Nature and trustee of the Ford Foundation, and businessman-environmentalist Roque Sevilla, both well connected in the NGO conservation world.” [Source]

This represents the greatest case of victim blaming, which has been the hallmark identifier of the Western response to the non-Anglo plight the world over. Correa and the state have little choice but to exploit these resources (in the case of Yasuni-ITT, 200 hectares (the actual size to be affected contested by some) directly impacted within the million-hectare National Park). This is due to the fact that the global economic system dictates that Ecuador MUST provide these raw materials for financial capital and everyday goods and services – or face the consequences of the West taking what Ecuador will not give willingly. The weak-willed left will point the finger at the leaders in the Global South who must acquiesce for the lives of their people rather than point the finger at the torturers of the Global North, who turn the screws while continuing to inflict the centuries-long pain of this parasitic relationship. Reparations be damned.

Yet a sister campaign, the international outcry regarding the projected tar sands mining/strip-mining designated to destroy 300,000 hectares of the Canadian Boreal Forest, is nowhere to be heard. [“The projected strip-mining of 740,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of forests and wetlands in the tar sands will result in the loss of breeding habitat for between 480,000 and 3.6 million adult birds. The corresponding impact on breeding will mean a loss of 4.8 million to 36 million young birds over a 20-year period, and 9.6 million to 72 million birds over a 40-year period.” [Source] Rather, we hear only cries against a single pipeline (the Keystone or KXL) – a campaign in large part funded by Buffett moneythat has allowed oil, gas and a 21st century oil-by-rail industrial revolution to expand and flourish. Production stopped at the source (on American soil) is of no focus. International cries for production to be crushed prior to drilling are only directed/applied to resource-rich states and their “dictators” (a phrase only applied to the uncooperative) who refuse to get down on all fours and lick the feet of imperialism. Once imperial states take control of foreign soil and natural resource wealth (via occupation, coercion or puppet presidencies), we never hear of campaigns to “keep the oil in the soil” again. A case in point would be the oil-rich state of Nigeria or recently illegally invaded and now occupied Libya where foreign interests pump and steal the oil as fast as modern day technology allows.

There is valid point to be made that defending the rights of nature cannot be based on the promise of compensation, yet the reality is that we, civil society, have a “movement” that refuses to make anti-capitalism the very foundation of all dialogue. A movement financed in full by the very interests we claim to oppose.

The fact of the matter is, if NGOs had campaigned for Yasuni (with no allowances for carbon offsetting / markets), rather than working behind the scenes with corporate interests and leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting Annex 1 statesto sanction / advance REDD, perhaps our situation today would be far different. But of course, this is not why the non-profit industrial complex exists. Instead, these NGOs and their foot soldiers, financed by the oligarchs, attacked the Ecuadorian Government, framing the failure as Correa’s alone, strategically pardoning the leading GHG-obstructionist states from their failed obligation and reparations while simultaneously ignoring the nature of the capitalist beast. [Opinion: Yasuní: Entre el eco-fundamentalismo y el Socialismo del Buen Vivir]

“It is becoming more apparent every day that there is no radical Left in this period, just a bunch of middle class intellectuals, politicians, preachers, businesspeople, and academics, many of whom are seeking or receiving government jobs, grants, contracts, or elevation to high political office from the very corporations or the capitalist state they claim to be fighting. They just want us to replace one group of masters for another, while the system itself keeps humming along.” Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

And while NGOs such as Pachamama Alliance/Foundation, Avaaz (partner of Rockefellers Pro-REDD Climate Group), Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, etc. assist in the corporate capture of our commons, consider this:

“The work of environmental scientists supporting the UN’s GEP [green economy program] will give scientific authority to the project, but the important decisions will have already been made…. The project is a deepening commitment to neoliberal free markets…. Meanwhile, scientific institutions, environmental NGOs and government agencies are working to build institutional infrastructure to give scientific authority to the UN’s GEP.… The historical critique of capitalism presented by John Bellamy Foster (2002) and others describes that the appropriation of the commons is an integral aspect of capitalism. Capitalism is always looking for new means of producing profit from activities that were otherwise not managed through commodity relationships.” Dr. Joanna Boehnert, Re-imaging the Commons as “The Green Economy”

The second item of significance is the State of Bolivia’s “Proposal for the Development of the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests,” which was presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)in August of 2012. Although in appearances many organizations have voiced opposition to REDD and carbon markets, it appears that absolutely none have seized the opportunity to campaign on the alternative proposal presented by the State of Bolivia.

Consider this: As the Bolivia delegation stood alone (and continues to stand alone) on the world stage opposing carbon markets (which include REDD) while also developing and presenting alternatives, behind the marketing and branding veneer of the non-profit industrial complex, some realities are crystal clear. “In September 2011, the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference took place in Bonn, Germany. About 1,500 people from 70 countries turned up. On the third day of the meeting, a remarkable thing happened. Not a single participant at the conference put up their hand to disagree with a declaration which promotes REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.”

“No one raised their hand to object to a single word in the declaration text. In an email distributing the document, Dodd states that, ‘The Declaration was accepted unanimously by the 1500 NGOs and other stakeholders present.'” Manufacturing Consent on Carbon Trading, Chris Lang

The declaration ended with “the call for governments to support forest certification. The ‘gold standard’ of forest certification is the Forest Stewardship Council. Yet FSC has certified vast areas of monoculture tree plantations. FSC also certifies industrial logging in primary forests. But none of the 1,500 people in the meeting objected to any of this – or any of the other statements in the more than 9,000-word declaration.” [Source]

So-called “progressive” media (also financed by and dependent upon foundation funding) apparently have no interest in alternatives to carbon markets either. Bolivia continued to fight for Mother Earth during the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Doha, Qatar. The Bolivian delegation reaffirmed its rejection of the use and expansion of the carbon market as a tool to reduce emissions that cause climate change in the world and presented a proposal with alternative tools in carbon markets. But what use are such alternative tools in the growth of global capitalism? In the mind of the Western world, this is akin to a child handing a bow and arrow to a warrior who is accustomed to using an Uzi, when in fact the “civilized” is now dependent upon the “savage” for help in solving the problem of Earthly destruction. But it appears we would rather die a thousand deaths than actually take this under consideration. As the world hangs in the balance, there is no more time left for the Western world to hold such ideologies. Yet, this will more than likely be the mindset that the West, as a collective, takes to the grave – taking all of the world with it.

Like Bolivia’s alternative proposal for carbon markets, the essential People’s Agreement (April 2010, Cochabamba), has been also been vigilantly marginalized and buried by the non-profit industrial complex. There has been almost zero support for any of these ground-breaking proposals/declarations. When climate justice groups on an international climate justice listserv were asked openly if there were flaws in these alternative proposals, the response was silence. Rather, the environmental “movement,” dominated by the privileged left while residing in the leading GHG-obstructionist NATO states, prefers to condemn leaders of ALBA states as phony “extractivists.”

“I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.” Teju Cole

Imperialism and enslavement is a narrative as old as time. The transformation of Western influence over sovereign states of the world can be traced back to what transpired after the overthrow of French colonizers by Haitian slaves in 1804.

As a result of their audacious desire to be free – a basic human right co-opted mainly by global white male supremacy – the Haitian slaves traded physical oppression, which had been the norm to that juncture, for an economic domination that they were unable to resist. Since then, this has been the blueprint imposed by the West over all the nation states that have attempted to overthrow physical domination.The forms of subjugation have changed over these past 200 years, yet subjugation remains.

Reddy to Manipulate

Consider the following:

In the February 21, 2013 article (Growing Coalition Joins Indigenous Leaders in Houston) featured on the Pachamama Alliance website, the following information is reported, demonstrating the close relationship between Pachamama Alliance and The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). [8]

… [O]ther citizen groups also turned out and spoke up to show their solidarity and support Vargas and Narcisa Mashienta, a Shuar leader and coordinator of Fundación Pachamama’s Jungle Mamas program who also traveled to Houston.

The leaders brought with them an open letter from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador’s Amazon (CONFENIAE), which called for solidarity from the national and international community to resist oil exploitation in Ecuador’s remaining Amazon rainforest, among the most biodiverse in the world….

The petition has also garnered positive media coverage in Ecuador and internationally, ensuring that the issue of oil exploitation in what’s left of Ecuador’s Amazon would become part of the popular discourse and debate around Ecuador’s recent presidential election. (That election was held on February 17th and Rafael Correa was re-elected for a third term as President.)

Fundación Pachamama, Amazon Watch, and other allied NGOs have joined forces with Avaaz.org …. [Further Reading: AVAAZ: IMPERIALIST PIMPS OF MILITARISM, PROTECTORS OF THE OLIGARCHY, TRUSTED FACILITATORS OF WAR]

It is clear and reasonable that the Indigenous populations would oppose the drilling of oil on their ancestral land and that they have every right to defend it. Yet, there is another grave threat to the forests and their ancestral lands. And this very real threat is REDD. Pachamama Foundation is certainly “lending a hand” in ensuring that the devastating impacts of drilling oil are understood in the Indigenous populations, yet when it comes to REDD, the market incentive is discussed as though it can somehow be “made to behave” and evolve into an ethical, non-threatening market mechanism. This is a clear example of how foundation dollars and Western interests come into play. Drilling for oil is an obvious threat to forests. However, REDD, although equally threatening, does not “look” like oil. Workers don’t show up in coveralls, work boots and dirty rigs. REDD arrives in a shiny new Land Rover, full of designer suits, new Italian shoes and shiny white faces. Like CO2, the commodification of the forests is invisible.

Video (Running time: 9:26). Chief Aritana Yawalapiti explains how his people and his region are aggressively targeted by NGOs (ISA) to agree on REDD+ projects. [Published August 22, 2010 by documentary filmmaker Rebecca Sommer.]

On August 3, 2009, CONFENIAE (the logo and letterhead list of members includes organizations of the Shuar, Kichwa, Achuar, Waorani, Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Zapara, Shiwiar and Andoa Peoples) demonstrated that they were vehemently opposed to REDD:

 “We reject the negotiations on our forests, such as REDD projects, because they try to take away our freedom to manage our resources and also because they are not a real solution to the climate change problem, on the contrary, they only make it worse.

“We inform COICA, of which we are a part, that, as Ecuadorian Amazonian representatives with the right to voice and vote, that no person, entity, NGO, etc., is authorized to speak on our behalf in favor or against any issue without our knowledge and participation.”

Yet, in a paper titled “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center published about a year later (December 2009), both CONFENIAE and COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Amazon region) are now identified as REDD partners with Pachamama Foundation, the World Bank, WWF, etc. on page 5. The Woods Hole Research Center’s work on REDD is financed by USAID, The World Bank, Goldman Sachs, WWF and many others (page 2).

[“The WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Woods Hole Research Center, CIFOR, Wildlife Conservation Society and other ‘conservationist’ NGOs are among those who stand to make billions of dollars from REDD+.” Source]

“In recognition of the vital role of Indigenous Peoples in the REDD process, the Forum, in collaboration with COICA and the national Indigenous network in each country, convened three national-level workshops on REDD for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Partners in these workshops include EDF, IPAM and the Pachamama Foundation.” — “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center [Source]

The “forum” referred to in the above quote is the Forum on Readiness for REDD. EDF refers to Environmental Defence Fund USA and IPAM refers to the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (Brazil).

Demonstrating further disrespect for the State of Bolivia, which has been ardently opposed to REDD and carbon markets, “The Forum” conducted REDD workshops with Indigenous communities in Bolivia via FAN-Bolívia (Fundacion Amigos de la Natureza) [Funders and Donors] with REDD partner CIDOB (The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia). [“… various social sectors have been infiltrated by USAID, which openly funded CIDOB, by the NED, and by the army of NGOs, which unfortunately has become another mechanism for hegemony to evade responsibilities.” Source] [CONAIE was formed out of the union of two already existing organizations, ECUARUNARI and CONFENIAIE. ECUARUNARI, the regional organization of the Sierra that has been functioning for over 20 years, and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), formed in 1980, created that same year the National Coordinating Council of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONACNIE).]

As mentioned prior, documents demonstrate that Pachamama Foundation has also partnered with USAID-WCS.

Attorney and writer, Eva Golinger(winner of the International Award for Journalism in Mexico, 2009), speaking in reference to USAID/NED:

“This type of funding/aid/advice is very complex and effective because it enables US agencies to infiltrate groups of all spectrums. I am not alleging all of these groups and their members are US agents or receive US funding, but the evidence is quite clear that certain factions within them have close relations w/ US agencies and receive their funding. And, they share a common agenda, against President Rafael Correa. That is undeniable.

“I have never said all of CONAIE or Pachakutik receives funding from US agencies, I have always said sectors, individuals and elements connected to them do receive such funding and training.

“Anyone who dismisses receiving funding or training from NED/USAID and related agencies as having no impact on politics has no understanding of the complex workings of these US agencies. They attempt to recruit, infiltrate and capture influential groups, parties and people who then promote US agenda. This is fact. Unfortunately, they are quite successful.”

The emphasis on local participation, encouraged and even mandated by the foundations and financiers, laid the pivotal groundwork for Indigenous participation regarding REDD. In the 2007 report led by Ricken Patel, founder of Avaaz, for the Gates foundation (“Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South”), this is referred to as “cultivating the fringe”: “If possible, fund the fringe, but if this is perceived as too high a risk then invite them to the table by including them in conferences and convenings.” [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South: A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

It is difficult to place any blame on the Indigenous communities/groups who have entered (or been coerced) into REDD partnerships. The manipulation by the elite foot soldiers within the complex is as smooth as fresh-churned butter. It is important to note that although many Indigenous Peoples are traditional, there are also those “selected” by the World Bank et al that have been completely assimilated by the Western culture and do fully understand that REDD, along with every organization and institution advancing/implementing it, is compromised or fraudulent, or both.

On December 14, 2013, it was reported that “At odds with Ecuador, USAID moves to leave. USAID expects to close its doors in Ecuador by September 2014 due to an increasingly acrimonious relationship with President Rafael Correa. This comes six months after it was kicked out of Bolivia.” The article quoted Steve Striffler, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of New Orleans who studies Ecuador, who stated “[T]hese countries are able to carve out independence from the US in a way they weren’t in the past. The idea they would have kicked out USAID 10 or 15 years ago is unimaginable…. In some ways these actions, and the [USAID decision] can be put in there too, are intended to say that we are an independent sovereign nation…. In the perspective of many in Latin America, and with good reason, USAID is seen as an agent of US imperialism.”

 

 

End Notes:

[1] “Since 2008, we are a member of Accra Caucus, a coalition of civil society in countries with tropical forests, seeking recognition and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands, territories and resources, and traditional uses of forest policies in fighting climate change.” [Source] [2] “The UN-REDD Programme was launched in September 2008 to prepare and implement national REDD+ strategies in developing countries and was formed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UN-REDD currently has 29 partner countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, of which 13 are receiving support for national programme activities, worth US$55.4 million.” [Source, June, 2011] [3] The Pachamama Foundation is listed as an “actor” on the UN REDD Desk website, which states: “The Pachamama Foundation was created in 1997 in Ecuador as the sister organization of the Pachamama Alliance that was itself born in Ecuador following the visit of a group of tourists from California, USA, to the Achuar territory, home of an indigenous group that maintains its traditional lifestyle within the tropical rainforest in a remote region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.” [Source: http://theredddesk.org/countries/actors/pachamama-foundation] [4] “Furthermore, through its ongoing REDD project, which got under way in May 2009, RFN and its local partners have sought to influence the REDD process in the DRC by disseminating information at the grassroots level on the opportunities and challenges of REDD – to local communities, small NGOs, and members of government and research institutions. RFN has also strengthened the capacity of a large number of Congolese civil society organisations to influence the REDD agenda of the DRC, both at the national and at the international level and has, alongside its partners, succeeded in securing civil society participation in the DRC’s National Steering Committee for REDD.” [Source] “There are many more layers that are pushing for legitimizing and expanding REDD+. For example, key funders that are promoting REDD+ are the Climate and Land Use Alliance (Ford Foundation, Packard Foundation, Climate Works, Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation), the Clinton Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, Germany), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to name a few.” [Source: Some Key REDD+ Players] [5] “This multi-donor trust fund states that “the final phase of REDD+ involves developed countries paying developing countries carbon offsets for their standing forests,” making it clear that they see REDD+ as a carbon trading scheme. [Source: June 2011] [6] The following text appears March 8, 2010 in an article titled Getting REDDy to Cross the Finish Line, Two Decades in the Making: “It’s hard to imagine with all the progress REDD has achieved, that it all started less than 20 years ago with the Rio Summit in ’92, when the makings of a global sustainability architecture in the form of a climate treaty began to take shape. But a forestry treaty had yet to happen …. With over 20 years of experience in the forestry sector, Michael Northrup, Program Director of Sustainable Development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, was invited by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation to give a Distinguished Lecture, ‘After Copenhagen: Implications for U.S. Climate, Energy, and Forest Policy’ at the high brow, exclusive Cosmos Club. Northrup casually described to the 30 or so people in the room where we are with REDD today and how we got here. Plus he played the ‘name game’ as he knew most of the people in the room.”

[7] “Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate: Promises turn into ‘definite’ dollars. REDD+ finance, the money needed to set up and implement a system that pays countries to leave forests standing, has followed a long road since the 2007 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where nations pledged to take meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation. A 2008 study found it would cost between $17.2 billion and $28 billion per year to cut the global rate of deforestation in half. According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 through five multilateral funds and two bilateral funds, more than half of it to Indonesia and Brazil. About one-tenth of the pledges have been disbursed to projects on the ground.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rich-nations-agree-to-fund-forest-protection-for-climate&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20131120

[8] The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Spanish: La Confederación de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana) or CONFENIAE is the regional organization of indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon or Oriente region. Nine indigenous peoples present in the region – Quichua, Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, Siona, Secoya, Shiwiar, Záparo and Cofán – are represented politicalily by the Confederation. CONFENIAE is one of three major regional groupings that constitute the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). It is also part of the Amazon Basin indigenous organization, COICA. [Source: Wikipedia]

 

For All Those Who Were Indian In A Former Life

Manataka American Indian Council

by Andrea Smith

The New Age movement has sparked a new interest in Native American traditional spirituality among white women who claim to be feminists. Indian spirituality, with its respect for nature and the interconnectedness of all things, is often presented as the panacea for all individual and global problems. Not surprisingly, many white “feminists” see the opportunity to make a great profit from this new craze. They sell sweat lodges or sacred pipe ceremonies, which promise to bring individual and global healing. Or they sell books and records that supposedly describe Indian traditional practices so that you too, can be Indian.

On the surface, it may appear that this new craze is based on a respect for Indian spirituality. In fact, however, the New Age movement is part of a very old story of white racism and genocide against the Indian people. The “Indian” ways that the white, New Age “feminists” are practicing have little grounding in reality.

True spiritual leaders do not make a profit from their teachings, whether it’s through selling books, workshops, sweat lodges, or otherwise. Spiritual leaders teach the people because it is their responsibility to pass what they have learned from their elders to the youngest generations. They do not charge for their services.

Furthermore, the idea that an Indian medicine woman would instruct a white woman to preach the “true path” of Indian spirituality sounds more reminiscent of evangelical Christianity than traditional Indian spirituality. Indian religions are community-based, not proselytizing religions. For this reason, there is not ONE Indian religion, as many New Agers would have you believe. Indian spiritual practices reflect the needs of a particular community. Indians do not generally believe that their way is “the” way, and consequently, they have no desire to tell outsiders about their practices. Also, considering how many Indians there are who do not  know the traditions, why would a medicine woman spend so much time teaching a white woman? A medicine woman would be more likely to advise a white woman to look into her OWN culture and find what is liberating in it.

However, some white women seem determined NOT to look into their own cultures for sources of strength. This is puzzling, since pre-Christian European cultures are also earth-based and contain many of the same elements that white women are ostensibly looking for in Native American cultures. This phenomenon leads me to suspect that there is a more insidious motive for latching onto Indian spirituality.

When white “feminists” see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming very close to destroying the earth, they often want to disassociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to “become Indian.” In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.

Of course, white “feminists” want to become only partly Indian. They do not want to be part of our struggles for survival against genocide, and they do not want to fight for treaty rights or an end to substance abuse or sterilization abuse. They do not want to do anything that would tarnish their romanticized notions of what it means to be an Indian.

Moreover, they want to become Indian without holding themselves accountable to Indian communities. If they did they would have to listen to Indians telling them to stop carrying around sacred pipes, stop doing their own sweat lodges and stop appropriating our spiritual practices. Rather, these New Agers see Indians as romanticized gurus who exist only to meet their consumerist needs. Consequently, they do not understand our struggles for survival and thus they can have no genuine understanding of Indian spiritual practices.

While New Agers may think that they are escaping white racism by becoming “Indian,” they are in fact continuing the same genocidal practices of their forebears. The one thing that has maintained the survival of Indian people through 500 years of colonialism has been the spiritual bonds that keep us together. When the colonizers saw the strength of our spirituality, they tried to destroy Indian religion by making them illegal. They forced Indian children into white missionary schools and cut their tongues if they spoke their Native languages.

Sundances were made illegal, and Indian participation in the Ghost Dance precipitated the Wounded Knee massacre. The colonizers recognized that it was our spirituality that maintained our spirit of resistance and sense of community. Even today, Indians do not have religious freedom. In a recent ruling the Supreme Court has determined that American Indians do not have the right to sue under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. They have also determined that if Indian religious freedom conflicts with any “compelling” United States interest, the government always supersedes Indian peoples’ freedom of religion.

Many white New Agers continue this practice of destroying Indian spirituality. They trivialize Native American practices so that these practices lose their spiritual force, and they have the white privilege and power to make themselves heard at the expense of Native Americans. Our voices are silenced, and consequently the younger generation of Indians who are trying to find their way back to the Old Ways becomes hopelessly lost in this morass of consumerist spirituality.

These practices also promote the subordination of Indian women to white women. We are told that we are greedy if we do not choose to share our spirituality. Apparently, it is our burden to service white women’s needs rather than to spend time organizing within our own communities. Their perceived need for warm and fuzzy mysticism takes precedence over our need to survive.

The New Age movement completely trivializes the oppression we as Indian women face: Indian women are suddenly no longer the women who are forcibly sterilized and tested with unsafe drugs such as Depo Provera; we are no longer the women who have a life expectancy of 47 years; and we are no longer the women who generally live below the poverty level and face a 75 percent unemployment rate. No, we’re too busy being cool and spiritual.

This trivialization of our oppression is compounded by the fact that nowadays anyone can be Indian if s/he wants to. All that is required is that one be Indian in a former life, or take part in a sweat lodge, or be monitored by a “medicine woman,” or read a how-to book.

Since, according to this theory, anyone can now be “Indian,” then the term Indians no longer refers specifically to those people who have survived five hundred years of colonization and genocide. This furthers the goals of white supremacists to abrogate treaty rights and to take away what little we have left. When everyone becomes “Indian,” then it is easy to lose sight of the specificity of oppression faced by those who are REALLY Indian in THIS life. It is no wonder we have such a difficult time finding non-Indians to support our struggles when the New Age movement has completely disguised our oppression.

The most disturbing aspect about these racist practices is that they are promoted in the name of feminism. Sometimes it seems that I can’t open a feminist periodical without seeing ads promoting white “feminist” practices with little medicine wheel designs. I can’t seem to go to a feminist conference without the woman who begins the conference with a ceremony being the only Indian presenter. Participants then feel so “spiritual” after this opening that they fail to notice the absence of Indian women in the rest of the conference or Native American issues in the discussions. And I certainly can’t go to a feminist bookstore without seeing books by Lynn Andrews and other people who exploit Indian spirituality all over the place. It seems that, while feminism is supposed to signify the empowerment of all women, it obviously does not include Indian women.

If white feminists are going to act in solidarity with their Indian sisters, they must take a stand against Indian spiritual abuse. Feminist book and record stores should stop selling these products, and feminist periodicals should stop advertising these products. Women who call themselves feminists should denounce exploitative practices wherever they see them.

Many have claimed that Indians are not respecting “freedom of speech” when they demand that whites stop promoting and selling books that exploit Indian spirituality. But promotion of this material is destroying freedom of speech for Native Americans by ensuring that our voices will never be heard. Feminists have already made choices about what they will promote (I haven’t seen many books by right-wing, fundamentalist women sold in feminist bookstores, since feminists recognize that these books are oppressive to women.) The issue is not censorship; the issue is racism. Feminists must make a choice either to respect Indian political and spiritual autonomy, or to promote materials that are fundamentally racist under the guise of “freedom of speech.”

Respecting the integrity of Native people and their spirituality does not mean that there can never be cross-cultural sharing. However, such a sharing should take place in a way that is respectful to Indian people.

The way to be respectful is for non-Indians to become involved in our political struggles and to develop an on-going relation with Indian COMMUNITIES based on trust and mutual respect. When this happens, Indian  people may invite a non-Indian to take part in a ceremony, but it will be on Indian terms.

I hesitate to say this much about cross-cultural sharing however, because many white people take this to mean that they can join in our struggles solely for the purpose of being invited to ceremonies. If this does not occur, they feel that Indians have somehow unfairly withheld spiritual teachings from them. We are expected to pay the price in spiritual exploitation in order to gain allies in our political struggles.

When non-Indians say they will help us, but only on their terms, that is not help – that is blackmail. We are not obligated to teach anyone about our spirituality. It is our choice if we want to share with people who we think will be respectful. It is white people who owe it to us to fight for our survival, since they are living on the land for which our people were murdered.

It is also important for non-Indians to build relationships with Indian communities, rather than with specific individuals. Many non-Indians express their confusion about knowing who is and who is not a legitimate spiritual teacher. The only way for non-Indians to know who legitimate teachers are is to develop ongoing relationships with Indian COMMUNITIES. When they know the community, they will learn who the community respects as its spiritual leaders. This is a process that takes time.

Unfortunately, many white feminists do not want to take this time in their quest for instant spirituality. Profit-making often gets in the way of true sisterhood. However, white feminists should know that as long as they take part in Indian spiritual abuse, either by being consumers of it or by refusing to take a stand on it, Indian women will consider white “feminists” to be nothing more than agents in the genocide of their people.

OUR SPIRITUALITY IS NOT FOR SALE!

 

Editor’s Note:  The article above first appeared in the “Cultural Survival Quarterly”, Winter 1994 and was written by Andrea Smith, who is a member of “Women Of All Red Nations” in Chicago, and she is the Chairperson for Women of Color for the “National Coalition Against Sexual Assault”.  While branded by right-wing Catholics as controversial, pro-gay, pro-abortion and a radical feminist, her opinions bear a strong resemblance to truth that some people find offensive.  We do not.

 

Anthropocene Boosters and the Attack on Wilderness Conservation

Independent Science News

May 12, 2015

by George Wuerthner

 

A growing debate has serious consequences for our collective relationship to Nature. Beginning perhaps twenty years ago, a number of academics in disciplines such as history, anthropology, and geography, began to question whether there was any tangible wilderness or wild lands left on Earth. These academics, and others, have argued that humans have so completely modified the Earth, we should give up on the notion that there is anyplace wild and instead recognize that we have already domesticated, in one fashion or another, the entire planet for human benefit.

These individuals and groups are identified under an umbrella of different labels, including “Neo Greens” Pragmatic Environmentalists” “New Conservationists” “Green Postmodernism” and Neo-environmentalists” but the most inclusive label to date is “Anthropocene Boosters” so that is the term I will use in this essay.

The basic premise of their argument is that humans have lived everywhere except Antarctica and that it is absurd to suggest that Nature exists independent of human influences. Wilderness was, just like everything else on Earth, a human cultural construct—that does not exist outside of the human mind (1). With typical human hubris, Anthropocene Boosters suggest we need a new name for our geological age that recognizes the human achievement instead of the outmoded Holocene.

Great Egret (Casmerodius albus)

Not only do these critics argue that humans now influence Nature to the point there is no such things as an independent “Nature”, but we have a right and obligation to manage the Earth as if it were a giant garden waiting for human exploitation (2). Of course, there are many others, from politicians to religious leaders to industry leaders, who hold the same perspective, but what is different about most Anthropocene Boosters is that they suggest they are promoting ideas that ultimately will serve humans and nature better.

From this beginning, numerous other critiques of wilderness and wildness have added to the chorus. Eventually these ideas found a responsive home in some of the largest corporate conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy as well as some think tanks like the Breakthrough Institute  (3), Long Now Foundation (4), The Reason Foundation (5), and others.

The Anthropocene Boosters make a number of assertions.
1.    Pristine Wilderness never existed, or if it did, is now gone. Making wilderness protection the primary goal of conservation is a failed strategy.
2.    The idea that Nature is fragile an exaggeration. Nature is resilient.
3.    Conservation must serve human needs and aspirations, and do so by promoting growth and development.
4.    Managing for “ecosystem services”, not biodiversity protection, should be the primary goal of conservation.
5.    Conservation efforts should be focused on human modified or “working landscapes” not creating new strictly protected areas like national parks, wilderness reserves and the like. Wildlands protection is passe.
6.    Corporations are key to conservation efforts, so conservationists should partner with corporate interests rather than criticize capitalism or industry.
7.    In order to garner support for these positions, conservation strategies like creation of national parks and other reserves are attacked as “elitism” or “cultural imperialism” or “colonialism.” (6)

Many holding these viewpoints seem to relish the idea that humans are finally “masters of the Earth”. They celebrate technology and the “path of progress” and believe it will lead to a new promised land where Nature is increasingly bent to human desires, while human poverty is alleviated. For instance, Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame, embraces the idea of altering evolution with genetic modifications of species by “tweaking” gene pools. (7)

These trends and philosophical ideas are alarming to some of us who work in conservation. The implications of these goals and observations imply no limits upon consumption that is destroying the planet’s ecosystems and contributing to a massive Sixth Extinction of species. Whether intentional or not, these ideas justify our current rapacious approach that celebrates economic and development growth.

These ideas represent the techno-optimism of a glorious future, where biotech, geoengineering, nuclear power, among other “solutions” to current environmental problems save us from ourselves.

Many Anthropocene Boosters believe expansion of economic opportunities is the only way to bring much of the world’s population out of poverty. This is a happy coincidence for global industry and developers because they now have otherwise liberal progressive voices leading the charge for greater domestication of the Earth. But whether the ultimate goals are humane or not, these proposals appear to dismiss any need for limits on human population growth, consumption, and manipulation of the planet.

Many of those advocating the Anthropocene Booster world view either implicitly or explicitly see the Earth as a giant garden that we must “steward” (original root from “keeper of the sty” or caretaker of domestic livestock) the land. In other words, we must domesticate the planet to serve human ends.

But the idea of commodifying Nature for economic and population growth is morally bankrupt. It seeks only to legitimize human manipulations and exploitation and ultimately is a threat to even human survival.

Our book, Keeping the Wild—Against the Domestication of the Earth, explains why this is so. It advocates a smaller human footprint where wild Nature thrives and humans manage ourselves rather than attempt to manage the planet.

However let us take these assertions one by one.

Pristine wilderness
First is the Anthropocene Booster’s assertion that “pristine” wilderness never existed, and even if it did, wilderness is now gone. Boosters never define what exactly they mean by wilderness, but their use of “pristine” suggests that they define a wilderness as a place that no human has ever touched or trod (8).

That sense of total human absence is not how wilderness advocates define a wild place. Rather, the concept of a wilderness has much more to do with the degree of human influence. Because humans have lived in all landscapes except Antarctica does not mean the human influence is uniformly distributed. Wilderness is viewed as places largely influenced by natural forces, rather than dominated by human manipulation and presence. Downtown Los Angeles is without a doubt a human-influenced landscape, but a place like Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge is certainly not significantly manipulated or controlled by humans. Though certainly low numbers of humans have hunted, camped, and otherwise occupied small portions of the refuge for centuries, the degree of human presence and modification is small. The Alaska Refuge lands are, most wilderness advocates would argue, self-willed.  By such a definition, there are many parts of the world that are to one degree or another largely “self-willed”.

Nature is resilient
Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy’s Chief Scientist, is one of the more outspoken proponents of the idea that Nature is not fragile, but resilient.  Kareiva says “In many circumstances, the demise of formerly abundant species can be inconsequential to ecosystem function.” He cites as an example the loss of the passenger pigeon, once so abundant that its flocks darkened the sky, whose demise, according to Kareiva, had “no catastrophic or even measurable effects.”

Stewart Brand also sees no problem with extinction. Brand recently wrote “The frightening extinction statistics that we hear are largely an island story, and largely a story of the past, because most island species that were especially vulnerable to extinction are already gone.” (10)

Indeed Brand almost celebrates the threats to global species because he suggests that it will increase evolution, including biodiversity in the long run.

Such a cavalier attitude towards the demise of species, and the normalizing of species declines, undermines the efforts of many conservation organizations to preclude these human-caused extinctions.

Many biologists disagree with Brand and the authors he references. They believe we are on the verge of a Sixth Mass Extinction. There have been other extinctions, but this is a preventable mass extinction. We know it is occurring and the cause of this extinction spiral is human-domination of the Earth and its resources (11).

There is something callous and morally bankrupt in asserting that it is OK for humans to knowingly drive species to extinction.  There seems to be no expression of loss or grief that we are now pushing many species towards extinction. Humans have survived the Black Plague, the Holocaust, and many other losses over the centuries, but one doesn’t celebrate these losses.

Conservation must serve human needs
Another pillar of the Anthropocene Boosters platform is that conservation’s main purpose must be to enhance and provide for human needs and desires. Of course, one consequence of conservation is that protected landscapes nearly always provide for human needs—contributing clean water, biodiversity conservation (if you think that is important), moderation of climate change, to name a few.

However, the main rationale for conservation should surely be much broader and inclusive. Despite the fact that most conservation efforts do have human utilitarian value, the ultimate measurement of value ought to be how well conservation serves the needs of the other species we share the planet with.

The problem with Anthropocene Boosters promotion of growth and development is that most species losses are due to habitat losses. Without reigning in population and development, plants and animals face a grim future with less and less habitat, not to mention changes in their habitat that makes survival difficult if not impossible.

Even when species do not go extinct, the diminishment of their ecological effects can also lead to biological impoverishment, for instance, when top predators are eliminated from ecosystems.

Conservation should focus on “working landscapes” not creation of more parks and wilderness
The term “working landscapes” was invented by the timber industry to put a positive spin on their rapacious operations. Americans, in particular, look favorably upon the “work ethic” and industry coined the phrase to capitalize on that affirmative cultural perspective. Working landscapes are typically lands exploited for economic development including logging, livestock grazing, and farming.

While almost no conservationists would deny that there is vast room for improvement in these exploited landscapes, the general scientific consensus is that parks, wilderness reserves and other lands where human exploitation is restricted provide greater protection of ecosystems and biodiversity.

For this reason, many scientists, including such eminent biologists as Harvard biologist, E.O. Wilson, are calling for protecting half of the Earth’s terrestrial landscapes as parks and other reserves.

Conservationists should stop criticising corporations
Some Anthropocene Boosters believe conservationists should stop criticizing corporations and work with them to implement more environmentally friendly programs and operations.

Almost no conservationist would argue that corporate entities should not adopt less destructive practices. However, it is overdevelopment that is the ultimate threat to all life, including our own. Implementing so called “sustainable” practices may slow the degradation of the Earth’s ecosystems and species decline, but most such proposals only create  “lesser unsustainable” operations.

At a fundamental level, the promise of endless growth on a finite planet is a dead end street, and it is important for conservationists to continuously harp upon that message. To halt criticisms of corporations invites greenwashing, and precludes any effective analysis of the ultimate problems of development and growth.

National parks and reserves are a form of cultural imperialism
Many Anthropocene Boosters, in order to validate their particular view of the world, go beyond merely criticizing environmental and conservation strategies. They seek to delegitimize parks and other wild lands protection efforts by branding them with pejorative terms like “cultural imperialisms”, “colonialism” and other words that vilify protected lands.

The creation of parks and protected areas began with Yellowstone National Park in 1872  (or arguably Yosemite, which was a state park earlier). The general Anthropocene Boosters theme is that this model has been “exported” and emulated around the world and that Western nations are forcing parks upon the poor at the expense of their economic future.

Notwithstanding that nearly all cultures have some concept of sacred lands or places that are off limits to normal exploitation, to denigrate the idea of parks and wildlands reserves as “Imperialism” because it originated in the United States is crass. It is no different than trying to scorn democracy as Greek imperialism because many countries now aspire to adopt democratic institutions. Western countries also “export” other ideas, like human rights, racial equality and other values, and few question whether these ideas represent “imperialism.”

Of course, one of the reasons protected areas are so widely adopted is because they ultimately are better at protecting ecosystems and wildlife than other less protective methods.

But it is also true that strictly protected areas have not stemmed the loss of species and habitat, though in many cases, they have slowed these losses. When parks and other reserves fail to safeguard the lands they are set aside to protect, it is typically due to a host of recognized issues that conservation biologists frequently cite, including small size, lack of connecting corridors, lack of enforcement, and underfunding.

To criticize parks for this is analogous to arguing we should eliminate public schools because underfunding, lack of adequate staffing, and other well publicized problems often result in less than desirable educational outcomes. Just as the problem is not with the basic premise of public education, nor are the well-publicized difficulties for parks a reason to jettison them as a foundation for conservation strategies.

Another criticism is that strictly-protected parks and other reserves harm local economic and sometimes subsistence activities. In reality that is what parks and other reserves are designed to do. The reason we create strictly protected areas is that on-going resource exploitation does harm wildlife and ecosystems or we would not need parks or other reserves in the first place.

While park creation may occasionally disrupt local use of resources, we regularly condone or at least accept the disruption and losses associated with much more damaging developments. The Three Gorges Dam in China displaced millions of people. Similar development around the world has displaced and impinged upon indigenous peoples everywhere. Indeed, in the absence of protected areas, many landscapes are ravaged by logging, ranching, oil and gas, mining and other resource developers, often to the ultimate detriment of local peoples and of course the ecosystems they depend upon. In the interest of fairness, however, people severely impacted should be compensated in some way.

Nevertheless it should also be recognized that the benefits of parks and other wildlands reserves are nearly always perpetual, while logging the forest, killing off wildlife, and other alternatives are usually less permanent sources of economic viability.

Summary
The Wild does have economic and other benefits for human well-being. However, the ultimate rationale for “Keeping the Wild” is the realization there are intangible and intrinsic value to protecting Nature. Keeping the Wild is about self-restraint and self-discipline. By setting aside parks and other reserves, we, as a society and a species, are making a statement that we recognize that we have a moral obligation to protect other lifeforms. And while we may have the capability to influence the planet and its biosphere, we lack the wisdom to do so in a manner that does not harm.

Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of the Earth is a new book edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist, and Tom Butler. In bringing together essays in one volume, we seek to examine and challenge the assumptions and epistemology underlying the Anthropocene Booster’s world view. We seek to offer another way forward that seeks to preserve wildness, wildlands, and Nature and ultimately a co-existence that emphasizes humility and gratitude towards this planet—our only home.

List of people, corporate partners, key words, strategies, and concepts.

(1) Cronon, William The Trouble with Wilderness in Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (1995)
(2) Marris, Emma (2011). Rambunctious Garden. Bloomsbury NY.
(3) Breakthrough Institute
(4) The Long Now Foundation
(5) Ronald Bailey 2011 The Myth of Pristine Nature.
(6) Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz  Conservation in the Anthropocene.
(7) Steward (Brand 2015) Rethinking Extinction.
(8) Interview with Emma Marris.
(9) Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz  Conservation in the Anthropocene.
(10) Stewart Brand (2015) Rethinking Extinction.
(11) Brian Miller, Michael Soulé, and John Terborgh, The “New Conservation’s” Surrender to Development.

 

[George Wuerthner is Ecological Projects Director of the Foundation for Deep Ecology]

The Dying Planet Index: Life, Death and Man’s Domination of Nature

The White Horse Press

Environmental Values 24 no.1: 1-7, 2015

by Clive Spash

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Excerpt:

During my time working in Australia for the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) I visited a nondescript building on the rural work site outside Canberra. This restricted access building held the Australian National Wildlife Collection. What the building in fact held was the preserved dead bodies of species, some of which were extinct. The curator was especially pleased at having collected rare specimens. He told of finding one such for sale in a rural market and how he proceeded to order more from the vendor so other collections around the world could have a specimen as well. That this egalitarian act on behalf of collectors would have wiped out the last remnant of a species did not seem to have crossed his mind. Looking at the bottles of rare pickled amphibians and drawers of compressed and preserved bodies of birds was for me a bizarre experience. In this mortician’s chamber the careful cataloguing of decline was ongoing but with some kind of abstraction from the reality of it all. There was nothing wild here and certainly no life. The Australian National Dead Animal Collection would certainly have been a more accurate and truthful description.There was nothing wild here and certainly no life. The Australian National Dead Animal Collection would certainly have been a more accurate and truthful description.

I was reminded of this incident by publication of the Living Planet Index (LPI) measuring the abundance of more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. In the most recent report this had decline by 52 per cent since 1970; that is, ‘in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half’ (WWF 2014: 4). The statistical decline of species on Earth is another reminder of how humanity watches, observes and statistically enumerates the ongoing destruction. Like the CSIRO collection, the LPI is not a measure of life but rather the death toll relating to human appropriation of resources for human ends. Presenting death as life seems to fit well with the optimistic messages in the rest of the WWF report, which finds an organisation that was once concerned with wildlife now stating ‘we love cities’ because urbanisation is becoming the dominant form of human lifestyle. Meanwhile they treat Nature as capital that is valued for supporting production to provide new greener consumption possibilities and financial rewards. This is the economic discourse now common amongst the environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs). The contradictions of supporting extractivist capital accumulation and consumerism while wanting to conserve Nature are reconciled as easily as calling death life.Like the CSIRO collection, the LPI is not a measure of life but rather the death toll relating to human appropriation of resources for human ends.

The ongoing decimation of the natural world is now reaching such heights that the term Anthropocene is being put forward as encapsulating the overwhelming influence of man on natural processes. You might expect this to raise concern over stopping abusive and unthinking advance of economic growth and technology and promoting the need for precaution. However, Baskin opens this issue by describing how the urgency of problems is being used by an elitist expert grouping to promote the rapid implementation of global management and high-tech ‘solutions’ bypassing democratic institutions. This same approach is reflected in the Better Growth, Better Climate report (GCEC 2014), which recommends strong economic growth stimulated by public investment in new technologies and deregulation to aid corporate innovation (Spash 2014).

In a strange twisted logic the dominance of man and his destruction of the environment via technology and industrialisation changes from a negative to a positive. Rather than ignorant and unthinking innovation risking life on Earth this becomes man controlling everything. Here man may be taken as meaning male because this discourse strikes me as highly patriarchal, with the overt goal of dominating and controlling all that Nature represents. As Baskin explains, the Anthropocene is for many a modernist triumph signalling the final dissolution of Nature because everything is now man-made.

Download the full editorial here.

 

[Clive Spash is an economist who writes, researches and teaches on public policy with an emphasis on economic and environmental interactions. His main interests are interdisciplinary research on human behaviour, environmental values and the transformation of the world political economy to a more socially and environmentally just system.]

J’Accuse Human Rights Watch [Eritrea]

The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was an egalitarian movement in which 30% of the fighters were women. Eritrean Women’s important role in the War for Independence: Eritrean Women fought in the war for Independence from Ethiopia, helping to continuously elevate their status in society as time progressed. Women played a vital role in winning Eritrea’s independence on the battlefield, but also in the community, as health care providers, educators, army assistants and of course as nurturing grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins and sisters to their families. Eritrean women continue to be held in high regard and respected in today’s society in their many different positions in society. They do all of this while continuing to nurture and pave the way for their children, grandchildren and future generations. Source: knowledgeequalsblackpower

 

Letter to Mr. Kenneth Roth (Executive Director of HRW)

April 20, 2015

by Daniel Wedi Korbaria 

I – WORLD REPORT ERITREA

Dear Mr. Roth,

Reading your latest annual report on Eritrea (2014), at first, I strongly doubted it was even my country. But, unfortunately, it was my homeland you were writing about.

I would be really pleased if you could help me understand a few passages.

First, I was wondering whether by putting the logo of Bisha’s gold mine at the centre of Eritrea’s map corresponded with an inexplicit message to point out the country’s natural resources or just to make the report more appealing to the reader?

Secondly, you compile your report with a heavy load of according to, reported by, it said, it told, he describes, etc. It also seems appropriate to mention that Human Rights Watch does not operate within Eritrea, neither it acquires reliable information from inside the country. So HRW continues, through its reports, to spread unconfirmed stories and fabrications.

The report states: “Eritrea is among the most closed countries in the world; human rights conditions remain dismal. Indefinite military service, torture, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and religion provoke thousands of Eritreans to flee the country each month.”

Young Eritreans are fleeing their country. That is true. They run away for extended military service, this is also true. But why does the report fail to rightly address Ethiopia’s incompliance with the EEBC final and binding decisions, Ethiopia’s continuing illegal occupation of Eritrean territories? Is Human Rights Watch aware of the no war – no peace situation persisting since the end of the conflict in 2000 and that forces everyone to stay alert?

Given our history, which has taught us in the most terrible way how this world and politics work, you should already understand that any genuine, patriotic, and conscious Eritrean would just never naively accept incorrect reports by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.

The UN unlawful decisions have negatively affected the course of Eritrean history. It started in 1952, with the federation of Eritrea to Ethiopia and the total annexation ten years later by Emperor HaileSellasie. During the thirty-year struggle for freedom more than 100.000 Eritreans sacrificed their lives during which the UN only watched silently and it was only because of their ultimate sacrifice that we have been able to become a Nation!

So Mr. Roth, I wonder where the UN was when Eritreans were getting killed by the regimes of HaileSellasie and MengistuHailemariam? Was the UN not aware of the Red Terror Campaign? Was the UN not aware of the Napalm bombs used to kill innocent civilians? Why wasn’t a “Special Rapporteur” of the UN on Eritrea constituted during these bloody years?

“Eritrea has no constitution, functioning legislature, independent judiciary, elections, independent press, or nongovernmental organizations; it does not hold elections.”

We have been strongly demonized for not welcoming foreign NGOs, although they seem to have become a way of western control in Africa. Like many other Eritreans, I believe in the principle of self-reliance and a way for me to proudly-and-rightly contribute to the development of my nation is by paying the two percent tax.

“Children as young as 15 are inducted and sent for military training, according to recent interviews by refugee agencies.”

This statement is utterly false. In Eritrea every child has to go school and their main concern age would be about their homework, semester exams and probably falling in love with his/her classmate. The military training only starts at the completion of the secondary school.

“Some prisoners are offered release on condition that they sign statements renouncing their faith. Three deaths during captivity were reported by foreign based religious monitoring groups in 2013, but given the difficulties of obtaining information, the number may be higher.”

Or maybe even lower?

In my country, from thousands of years, Christians and Muslims have co-existed in peaceful harmony and total respect of each other’s faith. Islam and Christianity are both secular religions that have become part of the Eritrean history and culture. Having said that, Eritreans remain conscious about those western-driven religions, which aim at controlling and dividing populations. In Eritrea, it is the established religions, especially the Orthodox Church, that have been targeted by Christian fundamentalist groups from the West.

“Eritrea has been under United Nations sanctions since 2009 because of its support for armed Islamic insurgents in Somalia and its refusal to release Djibouti prisoners of war captured during a 2008 invasion of Djibouti’s border territory.”

Supposedly, Human Right Watch should act as a neutral observer but the biases are quite obvious. Nothing could be more false than linking Eritrea with warlords in Somalia, invasion of Djibouti’s territory – all started as Ethiopia’s propaganda and proved to be totally unfounded. Moreover, the Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council resolution 2111 (2013) -13 October 2014- boldly states: “The Monitoring Group has found no evidence of Eritrean support to Al-Shabaab during the course of its present mandate.”

Similarly, the recent UN sanctions have been unjustly imposed on the Eritrean people by the US pressure, eternal ally of Ethiopia since the times of Emperor HaileSellassie.

Blatant was the take of US when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, in 1952, openly declared: “From the point of view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and world peace make it necessary that the Country (Eritrea) be linked with our ally Ethiopia.”

In my opinion dear Mr. Roth, your reports on Eritrea also seem to carry on such legacy.

Below some few examples of Human Rights Watch’s curriculum.

1) IRAQ: in your article Indict Saddam published on Wall St. Journal (Mar. 22, 2002) you conclude saying: “That delegitimization would not guarantee his ouster, but it would certainly help build consensus that he is unfit to govern, and thus that something must be done to end his rule.”
By now, everyone knows what has later happened to Saddam Hussein and the cycle of chaos and instability reigning in Iraq since the end of the ‘rule’. I wonder what your opinion on ‘human rights’ after Saddam is and whether you believe Iraqis have been better off since US and UK intervention. How many people have died because of foreign intervention? Will Human Rights Watch ever denounce the crimes of Bush and Blair among others?

In the Briefing Paper (February 20, 2003) Section II: Weapons of Mass Destruction it was clear that Human Rights Watch believed on Iraqi’s possession of weapon of mass destruction, as the report stated: “No party to a conflict in Iraq would be legally justified in using any weapon of mass destruction under any circumstances. Given that a stated rationale for a potential attack on Iraq is the desire to remove any threat from weapons of mass destruction (WMD), there are two issues that are of particular concern. The first is a deliberate use of WMD by Iraqi forces against invading coalition forces or as an act of vengeance against Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi government might also use conventional weapons to commit mass atrocities against Iraqis.(…) Similarly, any use of biological weapons by either party to the conflict would violate international law. The 1975 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits the development, production, acquisition, and stockpiling of biological weapons.”

Did Human Rights Watch ever explain that these weapons were never found? Has HRW ever taken responsibility for the consequences of its sinister fabrications? Has HRW ever apologized to anyone?

2) SYRIA: the Syrian uprising started on spring 2011 and World Report 2011 on Syria (Events of 2010) reports: “There was no significant change in Syrian human rights policy and practice in 2010. Authorities continued to broadly violate the civil and political rights of citizens, arresting political and human rights activists, censoring websites, detaining bloggers, and imposing travel bans. (…) The international community’s interactions with Syria have focused almost exclusively on its regional role. Key European Union and US officials have condemned the arrest and trials of prominent activists, but their interventions have had no impact on Syria’s actions.”

Does Human Rights Watch consider the atrocities of war in Syria being the reason of the situation of earlier years? Is HRW satisfied with today’s human rights situation?

3) LIBYA: the protests in Benghazi began Tuesday the 15th of February 2011 and about a year earlier, the World Report 2011 on Libya (Events of 2010) reads as follows: “Libya has no independent NGOs and Libyan laws severely restrict freedom of association. (…) in June Libya ordered UNHCR to close its office and expelled its representative (…)”
Ten days since the beginning of the uprising, 63 Organizations around the World signed a Petition to the General Assembly as reported by Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. She reported the words of Jose Luis Diaz, Head of Office and Representative at the UN for Amnesty International: “Allowing Libya to continue to serve on the Human Rights Council today would be an affront to those suffering in Libya and to human rights defenders across the globe who are demanding Libya’s suspension.”

So, again I ask: is Human Rights Watch satisfied with the human rights situation in Libya since the defeat of MuammarGadhafi? Has the country’s human rights situation gotten any better?

4) SUDAN: before the Sudan was split, the report: Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights (November 25, 2003) Human Rights Watch advices all oil companies to suspend their activities in Sudan. “None of these nor any oil company, including TotalFinaElf, nor industry contractors and subcontractors, should resume or commence operations in Sudan unless(…)”

Below other two recommendation, the first was addressed to the Government of Sudan: “Adhere in full to the IMF Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency and publish a detailed account of military expenditures and the source of such revenue under IMF guidance (…)”
The second was addressed to the US: “Condemn abuses by all parties to the conflict-including the Sudanese government armed forces and its ethnic militias, SSDF, Baggara militias, Popular Defence Force, SPLM/A, and others-and insist that those responsible for abuses be held accountable. Continue existing sanctions on Sudan until concrete and measurable progress has been made toward ceasing human rights abuses.”

I wonder why would Human Rights Watch consider the US a crucial party to be involved in the affairs of Sudan? Can the US even be regarded as a benign guardian or fair mentor lecturing other countries about human rights standards?

Again, is HRW satisfied with the human rights situation of Sudanese people today?

II – BACK TO ERITREA

Here are the contents of the report Eritrea: Mining Investors Risk Use of Forced Labor on the gold found in Eritrea (15 January 2013). It reads: “Hear No Evil: Forced Labor and Corporate Responsibility in Eritrea’s Mining Sector,” describes how mining companies working in Eritrea risk involvement with the government’s widespread exploitation of forced labor (…) “If mining companies are going to work in Eritrea, they need to make absolutely sure that their operations don’t rely on forced labor,” said Chris Albin-Lackey, business and human rights researcher and senior Human Rights Watch.

“Based on the Bisha experience the greatest risk of abuse may occur during the construction phase of these projects. (…) All mining firms working in Eritrea should undertake Human Rights(…) It is negligent for mining companies to ignore the risks of forced labor that clearly exist in Eritrea, (…)”
In other words, HRW efforts can clearly be interpreted as another futile attempt to undermine Eritrea economically.

Already seven months before (June 20, 2012), in US: Joint Letter Regarding US Engagement at Upcoming Human Rights Council Session, Frank Jannuzi (Deputy Executive Director, Amnesty International USA) wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State Department of the United States).

“Dear Secretary Clinton, The joint statement on Eritrea signed by 44 countries at the March HRC Session marked a positive step forward in drawing international attention to grave human rights violations in that country. The dire situation in Eritrea merits further attention from the Human Rights Council, and we call on the U.S. to work with partners to mobilize African leadership for a strong resolution at the June session that will establish a Special Rapporteur to report on the widespread and systematic human rights violations that have been continuing in Eritrea for over a decade. Sincerely yours… ”
Co-signatory Juliette de Rivero (Director of Human Rights Watch in Geneva).

It seems quite obvious that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are moving in perfect symbiosis.

In the report: Ten Long Years of September 24, 2011 HRW was recommending with the Government of Eritrea, writing: “Allow independent monitors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UN and African Commission special mechanisms access (such as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) to Eritrea’s detention facilities.” (…) “Human Rights Watch and other independent human rights entities, including the UN special Rapporteur on Eritrea, have documented serious patterns of human rights violations in Eritrea.”

A judgment already written, it seems.

Finally, a recommendation to all countries of the world: “Abide by the guidance of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that particular categories of asylum seekers may be at risk upon return, in particular, persons avoiding military/national service; members of political opposition groups and Government critics; journalists; trade unionists; members of minority religious groups; members of certain minority ethnic groups; and victims of trafficking. Facilitate full access for UNHCR to Eritrean asylum seekers.”

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009, President Obama declared: “I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea. We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers. We are helping other countries step up their efforts and we have seen results.”

And when Obama speaks of ‘groups that help women and children escape’ might he be alluding to the refugee camps in Ethiopia and Sudan? And what are these results of which he speaks of? Our young people running away?

“(…) Eritrean refugees have become a crucial source of information on the human rights situation in Eritrea given that Eritrea has not allowed United Nations special rapporteurs or other international human rights investigators to visit the country” states the latest report of Human Rights Watch dated 26 September 2014, although it does not sufficiently address on these other international investigators.

But young Eritreans also flee from the refugee camps in Ethiopia or Sudan. What happens there? HRW explains: “Few Eritreans seek refuge in countries near Eritrea – including Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, and Sudan – because those countries force them to live in closed remote refugee camps, deny them access to work, or detain and abuse them in inhuman and degrading conditions”
Almost justifying their journey through the desert and sea, which has led to a terrible number of deaths.

I wonder how many of those drowned in the Mediterranean Sea does HRW feel on its conscience. How many of those who vanished in the desert did HRW actually meet and did question? How many of them did HRW deceive with a false pretense of humanitarian reception in refugee camps? Did HRW really listen to their voices, catch the hopes painted in their eyes? Does HRW consider the voices of all Eritrean migrants including those who did not lament of a ‘dictatorship’ in Eritrea? Probably not.

“Cui prodest?” said the Latins. The Exodus helps neither Eritrea nor its President. So who would be more interested in ripping Eritrea of its young people than the United States and Ethiopia? Human Rights Watch too?

Dear Mr. Roth, as Human Rights Watch wrote: “The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on June 27 to establish the Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Eritrea “since independence” in 1991″ clearly stating that abuses have been a recurring factor in Eritrea since liberation. Was the situation during the Ethiopian annexation regime of Colonel MengistuHailemariam and before harmonious?

The one charm about the past is that it is the past – Oscar Wilde

Dear Mr. Roth, are you truly committed in protecting the human rights of Eritrean citizens?
If so, as an Eritrean citizen I ask you and HRW to understand that since the 1950s the very first human right has been denied to us: the right to peace. I challenge you to help us assure peace, the respect of Eritrea’s sovereignty and guarantee that our borders are finally respected.

The right to peace should be the root and the mother of all human rights. To deprive a nation of this fundamental right is, for me, to deprive it of its very right to exist.

Eritrea is a country that has continuously committed to development through its own efforts and without the usual borrowing from legalized loan sharks, that has made incredible progress in the achievement of almost all eight Millennium Development Goals (according to UNDP, Eritrea is among the only four countries in Africa to succeed), ensuring a long-term solution to water shortage through the construction of several dams – which has also served to guarantee food security. Dams are used to retain water, without water there would be no food, and that would highly compromise the well-being of this and future generations.

So again I ask: can a country like Eritrea, which has consistently shown its commitment to social welfare and development, instead be accused of depriving its citizens of fundamental human rights?
It is with noble ideals of serving future generation on long-term commitment that the Eritrean People build their country from scratch today. How can HRW just belittle the efforts of Eritreans by labeling it ‘forced labor’?

Is it plausible that a Country, which has uniquely managed to reduce infant and maternal mortality, eradicate malaria and extraordinarily reduce HIV rates, can be called “Hell on Earth”? Eritrea is also one of the few countries in the world that offers its students free education from kindergarten to College. A Country that in 2014 successfully involves students and teachers in projects to plant 4,000,000 trees to prevent desertification, a Country that cares for the well-being of those who will come tomorrow and for them today plants Eritrea’s future trees. Is it credible that a Country that puts all this determination and care should be accused, tried and punished for serious crimes against its people?

I find these allegations to be very unreal and HRW attitude to perpetrate the crime of theft and deprivation of basic human rights to the Eritrean people. An injustice that, however, will not escape history books.

But it is never too late to repair and a letter can be an opportunity to encourage you with that. HRW should be on the side of Eritreans who are still fighting for justice. The solution to all ills has already been recognized and ruled on paper by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) but, inexplicably, it was never respected nor implemented. Twelve long years have been wasted and that has served for some to provide their own distorted versions of history. Brush up on those records and you will find the whole truth printed in large letters, and it’s simpler than HRW may believe.

Dear Mr. Roth, if you properly looked at our History, you would have discovered all the injustices that we have faced and still do. Since the days of our grandfathers, Eritreans were made Ascari of the Italians fighting in Libya, Somalia and Ethiopia, during which nearly one million Eritreans never returned home. Then we suffered other oppressors: English rule for 11 years and Ethiopian occupation for 40 years, which set off the thirty year-war for Liberation with more than 100,000 Eritreans killed. Again, thousands of youngsters were martyred because of the border war 1998-2000.

Today, those young Eritreans who are “tired” of the environment Eritrea was forcefully put into, end up drowning in the sea as it happened in the Tragedy of Lampedusa despite many human rights NGOs instead encourage them to leave. All while we Eritreans continue to suffer!

Mr. Roth, however you want to put it, we would always send up talking about the death of these Eritreans.

Therefore Mr. Roth, not only as an Eritrean citizen, but also as a global citizen, I launch my own J’Accuse to Human Rights Watch and to you as his lawful Representative.

J’Accuse Human Rights Watch to be part of the creative mind to foment the global chaos of our times, and that will continue time and time again, as in the past, to be used to justify more wars;

J’Accuse Human Rights Watch to be the one of best tools ever invented by the Western Powers to destabilize and promote new-colonization of Africa; and

J’Accuse Human Rights Watch to be who, in the name of human rights, is dictating laws around the World particularly focusing its attention on the African continent!

Expressing my inner disregard for such “humanitarian” job, hope you can live up to the day when there will be a new Era for Africa, the day of an African Renaissance, the day when there will be an International African Court of Justice to indict Human Rights Watch and similar “humanitarian” organizations for crimes against humanity.

And I hope that day will come very soon!

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Wedi Korbaria (Eritrean artist)

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Crimes Against Humanity: Pro-War NGOs

Public Good Project

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Above: Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, 2010, Photo by The City Project

As Cory Morningstar reported in 350: Agent Saboteur, the April 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was the first and only climate conference that was led by indigenous peoples and recognized by the United Nations. The People’s Agreement — that resulted from this conference — called for 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide, and a 1 degree Celsius limit.

350UnderminesBolivia-1024x768

Attending the 2010 conference in Bolivia — created in response to the failure of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen — was 350 co-founder Kelly Blynn. After undermining emission reduction targets at Copenhagen, Blynn’s role at Cochabamba was to press for 350 parts per million, and a 2 degree Celsius limit, thus protecting the fossil fuel industry and the very lucrative 350 brand.

KleinGettyImages

Four years later — financed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Warren Buffett’s NoVo Foundation – 350 used the Charms of Naomi as a powerful new tool of social engineering by Wall Street. The civil society fad led by Ms. Klein in 2014 evolved into a cult of celebrity worship, as she and Bill McKibben hypnotized thousands of college students into believing divestment of fossil fuel was part of a magical social revolution.

ObamaInvest-Divest

Above: Image from Fossil Free Website (Endorsements)

The KXL hoax — yet another example of hypnotic behavior absent critical judgement — was funded by Buffett in order to distract attention from his oil-by-rail empire, now threatening communities across North America with “bomb trains” for fossil fuel export. By the time Klein’s followers figure out they were duped into being Buffett’s pawns, he and his friend Bill Gates will have made a fortune shipping Tar Sands bitumen and Bakken Shale crude.

cbr-loadings---annual-2008---2013

In the U.S. Army War College manual on psychological warfare, the stated objective is to destroy the will and the ability of the enemy to fight, by depriving them of the support of allies and neutrals. Some of the methods used in the manual are sowing dissension, distrust, fear and hopelessness. Since this manual was published, a new type of psywar has emerged in the form of false hope.

Communications-in-Conflict-

Above image: Communications in Conflict

With support from foundations like Ford, Gates, NoVo, Rockefeller and Soros’ Open Society Institute, U.S. propaganda now has a vast new army of non-profits that serve as a fifth column for destabilization campaigns worldwide. Embodiments of false hope – like Avaaz, Purpose and 350 – use social media as a means of social manipulation.

SocialMediaManipulation

In Welcome to the Brave New World—Brought to You by Avaaz, Morningstar notes that Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello has had a long relationship with the convicted inside-trader George Soros, and was one of the most pro-war members of the U.S. Congress. Along with Ricken Patel, Perriello made it popular for civil society to become complicit in crimes against humanity.

purpose-logo

In 2014, the New York public relations firm Purpose created a campaign to rally international support for NATO to bomb Syria. The campaign was backed by the New York lobby Avaaz. The CEO of Purpose, Jeremy Heimans, is a co-founder of Avaaz. His associate, David Madden, is co-founder of Purpose, Avaaz and MoveOn—a Democratic Party associated PAC. Avaaz and MoveOn are funded in part by the billionaire hedge fund mogul Soros.

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In Imperial Civil Society, Jay Taber observes that the power of moral sanction is something Wall Street takes very seriously. So seriously, that hostile takeovers of authentic civil society organizations, and full-fledged displacement by corporate false fronts, has led compromised NGOs to promote privatization, austerity, and military aggression. According to Maximilian Forte, the main purpose of the burgeoning civil society fad – that comprises the international bureaucracy of neoliberalism — is to take over basic functions and powers of the state.

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Destabilizing foreign governments, using NGOs like Avaaz as provocateurs, puts authentic non-profits and journalists at risk. Indeed, the imperial network of financiers like Soros makes NGO entrepreneurs in the pro-war champagne circuit accomplices in crimes against humanity.

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As affiliated entities, 350, Avaaz, Ceres, MoveOn and Purpose enable the Democratic Party to market itself as a friend of the environment and supporter of democracy, while simultaneously serving Wall Street’s agenda. What those familiar with serious fraud might call “the long con”. As Morningstar describes The Art of Social Engineering by Avaaz, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media.

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Paralyzed in a state of collective hypnosis, naive followers of the non-profit industrial complex have become missionaries of empire. From Bolivia to Syria, NGOs now help destabilize and overthrow foreign regimes hostile to American dominance. “Avaaz,” says Morningstar, “is arguably the world’s most powerful NGO”.

Internet Fraud: Avaaz, Purpose, 350

April 11, 2015

by Jay Taber

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Soliciting donations and selling memberships in an enterprise that is wholly contrary to that promoted on the Internet is a federal felony in the United States. Internet fraud in the US is policed by the Federal Trade Commission, and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General.

Avaaz, Purpose and 350 use the Internet for fraudulent purposes, i.e. “humanitarian intervention” and fossil fuel divestment campaigns. As these organizations are a product of the Democratic Party, and tools of Wall Street moguls like Buffett and Soros, they will not be prosecuted for fraud.

They could be charged under international law for abetting crimes against humanity, but with the UN controlled by the US, this will not happen. That leaves civil society moral sanction. Moral sanction against these NGO adjuncts to the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense, because they are politically immune to prosecution by the Department of Justice.

 

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

 

 

Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators | White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof & Syria No Fly Zone

Dissident Voice

April 9, 2015

You might think that after seeing the consequences of their campaign for “freedom and democracy” in Libya, journalists like Nicholas Kristof and “humanitarian campaigners” like Avaaz would have some qualms.

Unfortunately they have learned nothing. They have generally not been held to account, with a few nice exceptions such as this Greenwald/Hussain article. And now they are at it again. Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration shows the sequence and trail of deceit leading to Avaaz’s call for a No Fly Zone in Syria.

unnamedFollowing is a brief description documenting the flow of misinformation and deceit, beginning at the Source and ending with Avaaz’s campaign for NATO/US attack on Syria.

Source

The “Source” is unknown at this time. It might be some US agency with or without the approval of the Obama administration. Or it might be another foreign government which seeks, in plain violation of international law,  the overthrow the Syrian government.  In addition to the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Qatar have each spent hundreds of millions and even billions in heavy weaponry plus 3,000 tons of weapons via Croatia plus arming, training, supplying and paying the salaries of thousands of domestic and international mercenaries sowing mayhem and destruction in Syria.

At this point we do not know but there is a REWARD:  $100 finders fee to the first person who can provide credible evidence identifying the SOURCE.

PURPOSE Inc.

This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz.

President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum).  Their website describes their goal:

“Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.”

In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land.

For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance.

Toward that end,  Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.

The Syria Campaign 

The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014. One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.

The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan,  who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war.

According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry.

White Helmets

White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria.  Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo. There are widely divergent claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets and the number of people rescued.  The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. A doctor who recently served in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo described it as a ghost town. The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.

But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.  A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial.  White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.

Nicholas Kristof/New York Times

The “White Helmets” campaign has been highly successful because of uncritical media promotion.  Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was an advocate of the NATO/US attack on Libya. According to him, villagers who had been shot, injured and their homes destroyed were not bitter, they were thankful! . “Hugs from Libyans” is how he viewed it.  It was, of course, nonsense, helping to pave the way in the invasion and destruction of the country.

Now Kristof is uncritically promoting the White Helmets, aiding and abetting their political and propaganda message seeking foreign intervention in Syria.

Avaaz

Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation.  While Avaaz has promoted some worthy causes, they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. Accordingly, they had a major disinformation campaign against Venezuela last year.

Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria.

In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”.

Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.

Conclusion

The manipulators rely on emotional images and messages, not facts. They depend on willing partners in the mainstream media who amplify the easy and glib characterizations of who and what is good and bad.  The manipulators depend on their audience not asking questions or investigating on their own. In these times of rapid spread of visual and text information via social media, the potential for deceit is huge.

Snapshots

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Avaaz Petition for Libya No Fly Zone — 2011

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Avaaz Petition for Syria No Fly Zone — 2015 (Syria Campaign Posting)

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Kristoff/New York Times/2011

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Kristoff/New York Times/2015

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The Real White Helmet Purpose:  Propaganda

[Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com.]

 

 

Fetishisms of Apocalypse

The Corner House

by Larry Lohmann

Note: An excellent interview with Larry Lohmann follows this piece.

September 20, 2014

Climate change and other environmental campaigns often try to mobilize people around the idea of avoiding apocalypse. This short piece for Occupied Times explores some of the weaknesses of this approach.

To anybody who has ever gone around Europe or North America giving talks or workshops on environmental politics, the scene will be familiar. At some stage a person sitting in the front row will stand up to wonder aloud what the point of the discussion is given that the world is going to hell so fast. A list of terrifying trends will then be laid out. At least three “planetary boundaries” out of nine have already been breached. Humanity now appropriates between 20 and 40 per cent of nature’s net primary production. The proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide is now higher than it was 10 or 15 million years ago, when sea levels were 100 feet above current levels. If temperatures continue to rise and release even a small amount of the carbon still locked up in the soils and ocean bottoms of the Arctic, we’re fucked. If any doubt remains about whether apocalypse is really on the way, just look at all those crashed civilisations of the past (Easter Island and the Maya are regularly invoked) who also failed to pay attention to “ecological limits”.

The tone of the recital is that of a grim call to order. Those present have just not been registering the facts, and clearly the volume has to be turned up. Why sit around sharing experiences of financialisation, environmental racism, or the enclosure of commons when climate change is about to fry all of us? There’s no time for social transformation. Ruling elites have to be persuaded to act in their own interest now. So obvious is all this to the person in the front row that at this point they may just get up and leave – not so much in protest at the triviality of the proceedings nor out of conscious disrespect for the other participants as from a sense that now that the people present have been alerted to the situation, it’s time to take the message elsewhere.

In a meeting of the kind I describe, the front-row apocalyptician will probably get a respectful hearing. This is a person, after all, in possession of an impressive body of research and statistics – and who is more than justified in insisting that the status quo is untenable. Yet one or two things are likely, rightly, to raise a tremor of unease among those present.

One is the implicit dismissal of class politics. The apocalyptician’s reasoning is as follows. We’re talking about a catastrophe that could kill everybody and everything. Who could have an interest in bringing that on? No need now for the Marxist project of trying to understand how capital accumulation continually recreates human interest in destruction, because, ex hypothesi, no one could ever want destruction to that extent. Catastrophic climate change makes distinctions between hotel room cleaners and hedge fund managers irrelevant. “People” become the universal political subject. Climate politics moves out of the realm of, say, class struggle between workers in Chicago and the financiers of energy projects that pollute their neighbourhoods, or between indigenous bands in the Amazon and the oil companies despoiling their territories. Instead, it becomes – to quote the words of US climate movement guru Bill McKibben – a battle in which generic “human beings” collectively learn to submit to the Great Other of “physics and chemistry”.

For the apocalyptician, the spectre of universal catastrophe may look like a good way of rallying a middle class who may not directly suffer from the impact of fossil-fuelled globalisation. But for many listeners, to flatten out existing social conflict in this way feels disempowering. If the threat of global collapse is supposed to spur us all toward concerted action, why does it seem instead to paralyse the political imagination, spook ordinary people into putting their rebellious instincts on ice, and deaden discussion among different social movements about the lessons of their struggles? Why does it lead so easily to despair or indifference – or even to a sort of sado-masochistic or death-wishy pleasure in the pornography of doom? And why do the remedies proposed – “we need a crash programme to keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2 equivalent below 350 parts per million” – sound so parochial?

Indeed, instead of unifying political struggles, apocalyptic obsessions often seem to shrink transformative politics to the vanishing point. Slavoj Zizek has remarked that whereas it is precisely out of struggles against particular forms of oppression that “a properly universal dimension explodes … and is directly experienced as universal”, “post-political” campaigns against abstractions like “CO2” suffocate movement expansion because they close off possibilities for people to see their own strivings as a “metaphoric condensation” of global class struggles.

***

Yet isn’t the deeper problem with the appeal to apocalypse not that it is “apolitical”, but that it is all too political in a pernicious way? Not that it is “disempowering”, but that it is all too empowering of the technocratic and privileged classes?

Take climate apocalypse stories, which are currently reinforcing the old capitalist trick of splitting the world into discrete, undifferentiated monoliths called Society and Nature at precisely a time when cutting-edge work on the left – often taking its cue from indigenous peoples’, peasants’ and commoners’ movements – is moving to undermine this dualism. On the apocalyptic view, a fatally-unbalanced Nature is externalised into what Neil Smith called a “super-determinant of our social fate,” forcing a wholly separate Society to homogenise itself around elite managers and their technological and organisational fixes.

By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.Thus disaster movies – not to mention the disaster stories broadcast on the news every evening – are not produced just to feed our sneaking joy in mayhem. They also present narratives of technocratically-minded stars responding on our behalf to “external” threats in which they are portrayed as having played little part. Books like Collapse by Jared Diamond, meanwhile, replace complicated political stories of long-term survival, struggle, and creative renewal among civilisations like those of the Easter Islanders or the Maya with fables of apocalypse and extinction in which one non-European society after another supposedly wipes itself out through its rulers’ failure to “manage” the Menace from Nature. By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.

The expert Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) follows the same procedure, avoiding collective inquiry into the ins and outs of capital accumulation in favour of a simplistic narrative pitting Society against a Nature consisting of greenhouse gas molecules. Except that unlike the apocalyptician visiting the activist meeting, who chooses to get up and leave after speaking, the IPCC is actually statutorily required to “present the global warming science” as if it contained a politics-free message from Nature itself, requiring no discussion, and then get up and walk out in order to allow the sanitised missive to sink into Society (a.k.a. the delegates to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Although they can hardly be accused of drawing back from analysing the dynamics of capital, some flavour of this approach lingers on even among some thinkers on the left such as John Bellamy Foster and Naomi Klein, who, contemplating apocalypse, are tempted to fall back on creaking Cartesian slogans according to which not only does Capitalism act on a wholly separate Nature (“Capitalism’s War on the Earth”), but Nature itself somehow acquires that long-coveted ability to overthrow Capitalism (“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”).

***

Apocalypse stories are always about rule. Every community, perhaps, recounts its own apocalypses, paired with its own ideals of elite or revolutionary response. St. John’s biblical apocalypse found its answer in God’s infinite love. In early capitalist England, the threatened apocalypse of rebellion on the part of an emerging, uprooted proletariat was countered by, among other things, a new discipline of abstract Newtonian time that promised to keep everyone in line. Marxist visions of capitalist  apocalypse are typically matched with projections of political redemption through revolution.   Southeast Asian millenarianists gambled on a moral cleansing of the worldly order, as do some  survivalists in the contemporary US, where doomsday religious rhetoric has often gone hand in hand
with rampant extractivism and free-market ideology.

The prototype modern apocalypse story is perhaps that of Malthus, with his 1798 vision of uncontrollably breeding hordes whose ravening after land would “sink the whole world in universal night”. Helping justify the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, Malthus’s tale also energised murderous 19th-century famine policies in British India, powered Garrett Hardin’s 20th-century polemics against commons and communism and serves as an unacknowledged foundation for countless World Bank economic reports and research projects in biology and “natural resource management”. Finding an echo in Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” apocalypse speech, it also haunts the immigration policies of UKIP and other British political parties.

Of equally enduring influence has been the slow-motion apocalypse prefigured by 19thcentury
thermodynamics: heat death, when capital can extract no more work from the universe, all the lights go out, and the machines rumble to a halt. While this particular catastrophe story has ceased to be the object of the obsessive brooding that it was among North Atlantic intellectual classes in the 1800s, it too remains active today, hovering ghostlike in the background of every post-Taylorian drive to sweat labour and other resources, as well as every energy-saving programme or excited politician’s appeal to the “white heat of technology” or “increased efficiency for national competitiveness”.

Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In the global warming debate as well, apocalypse has come to be invoked mainly to tell us what will happen if we don’t adopt innovative business practices. Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In Carbon, an August 2014 climate campaign video from the Leonardo di Caprio Foundation, cartoons of a rampaging, Transformer-like “fossil fuel robot” without a human face stomping around the planet laying waste to all living things alternate with interviews with bland, besuited North American and European technocrats and  politicians drawling about carbon prices as the solution to all our climate problems. Which half of this composite vision is the more terrifying is, for me, an open question.

Justice Matters – Larry Lohmann

Published on Mar 13, 2015 

The Fight For The Soul Of The Black Lives Matter Movement

Gothamist

April 7, 2015

by Aaron Miguel Cantú and Raven Rakia 

 

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(Tod Seelie / Gothamist)

At a march in mid-December organized by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Washington D.C., organizers rushed the stage and claimed that the old guard was attempting to hijack the nascent Black Lives Matter movement away from its founders.

“This movement was started by the young people,” Johnetta Elzie, a key organizer from St. Louis, said to the raucous crowd. “There should be young people all over this stage.”

It was one of the most visible examples of the clash between the old, signified by Sharpton, and the new, represented by grassroots groups who emerged from Ferguson and New York after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions.

Sharpton has been extremely sensitive to this criticism. “Oh, you young and hip, you’re full of fire. You’re the new face,” he sneered at a recent gathering at the headquarters of NAN in Harlem. “All that the stuff that they know will titillate your ears. That’s what a pimp says to a ho.”

At an MLK Day march in Harlem, the division between the old and the new was quieter but no less pronounced.

On Luxembourg Street, three cops stood behind a barricade, just a few feet away from a thousand protesters. One of the two female officers, brown skinned with accentuated eyebrows, plucked lint from the uniform of her stocky, white male colleague; they all laughed.

Meanwhile, a dozen or so protesters began to veer from a universal chant—one about justice being lost until it is found—to a more abrasive one: “How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D.” It’s the same kind of chant Mayor Bill de Blasio called “hateful” and an “attempt to divide this city in a time when we need to come together” a week after two detectives were fatally shot in their squad car in Brooklyn. Immediately the three officers stiffened their backs and softened their smiles.

Minutes later, dozens of members of a group called Justice League NYC stormed past the officers on the sidewalk, led by some of its key staffers, with Councilmember Jumaane Williams at their side.

Seeing the group of well-groomed activists and politicians stroll by, the three officers relaxed and dropped their hands from their waists. The police seemed to know that for all the demonstrators’ bluster, it was going to be an uneventful day.

The Justice League had convened the MLK demonstration, a shift in a strategy that has prioritized closed door meetings with police officials and politicians—including Governor Cuomo—over action in the streets and grassroots organizing. It’s the sort of insider-activist strategy that Sharpton has mastered.

While Sharpton’s influence has grown within the establishment, his tactics have become less palatable among young people. That’s what makes the Justice League a new sort of political animal: It has all of Sharpton’s trademarks—compromise politics, access to power and media, rebel aesthetics, calculated outrage campaigns—but doesn’t feature the MSNBC talk show host himself. This approach has allowed Justice League to confidently assume the reigns of New York’s anti-police brutality movement in recent months.

But some grassroots activists who began organizing out of anger towards the grand jury decisions, as well as the fatal police shooting of Akai Gurley, many of them working class and politically unconnected, fear that the establishment-friendly reformism championed by the Justice League threatens to water down the struggle against state violence. They worry that the group’s ties to city government and wealthy celebrities make it nearly indistinguishable from the power it’s trying to change. The result has been a quiet struggle for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement in New York City.

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(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)

“The way [the Justice League is] moving, it’s like it would appear to outside forces that they are the face of the movement, and it’s so not true,” said Ty Black, a 26-year-old activist and artist.

After the killing of the unarmed Gurley by an NYPD officer in a stairwell of East New York’s Pink Houses, Black and a small group of young activists from East New York and Crown Heights, along with Gurley’s aunt, came together to form Justice for Akai Gurley. The group has organized multiple protests at the Pink Houses, marching through different public housing complexes in East New York before stopping at the 75th Precinct.

According to Black, the group aims to build community power and reclaim control of their own streets, while also “eliminating police presence in our neighborhood through things like copwatch,” the tactic of vigilantly documenting routine police interactions with civilians. In February, copwatch footage exonerated Jonathan Danza, a Sunset Park street vendor who was accused to assaulting the police; video showed that in fact it was Daza who had been violently assaulted by his arresting officers.

“Police are the paramilitary arm of New York City development,” says Asere Bello, another member of JFAG. He pointed to the broken elevator in Gurley’s NYCHA building and the burnt-out light in the stairwell where he was fatally shot as a part of the disenfranchisement that played a role in his death.

JFAG plans to ask NYCHA residents about the repairs needed in their buildings and recruit handymen to fix them. After surveying residents in East New York who expressed a need for ways to deal with interpersonal violence—the police receive more than 700 domestic violence calls each day—JFAG’s second march was led by women, and focused on the connections of state and gender violence.

The point, representatives of the group say, is to reclaim their own power and reduce dependence on state institutions, and show the connections between Broken Windows policing, displacement, gentrification, and police brutality.

“For us it’s a matter of getting the skills to navigate our own relationships or our own conflicts…in a way that lessens the dependency and completely eliminates the dependency on the state to resolve our conflicts,” Bello said.

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Ty Black (courtesy Kelly Stuart)

Like Justice for Akai Gurley, nearly a dozen grassroots groups in the Bronx are organizing against police brutality as well as interrelated social problems like gentrification, and the school-to-prison pipeline. At a protest in December, Ephraim Cruz, a former agent with the Department of Homeland Security who now leads the group Bronxites for NYPD Accountability, said the NYPD were committing “operational terrorism,” not only through overt violence against people of color but by enforcing a system that inflicts trauma on the poor every day.

“We are at the very tip of the brunt of officer abuse impact,” he said. “We’re being pushed off streets because cops tell us to clear the corners, they tell us that we can’t interact in public. And we’re being pushed out by gentrification, we’re being pushed out of public schools by charter schools. We’re here to say the jig is up.”

At a different gathering, which was formally closed to press, a member of the group Take Back the Bronx discussed their group’s efforts to establish “no cop zones,” or places where community members actively but nonviolently repel police presence block-by-block. “We explore alternatives to policing,” the representative said, adding that non-profits tied to formal funding sources attempt to “pacify us and channel the anger.”

Regarding Justice League NYC, Black and Bello did not see the League as being as prominent as Sharpton’s NAN, but acknowledged celebrity culture and representative politics as things to be wary of.

“Ella Baker said it best: ‘Strong people do not need strong leaders,'” Bello noted.

With respect to Al Sharpton and NAN, Black said, “I have different views on how the movement should go. Anybody or any organization that’s embracing the National Action Network, I feel it’s important for the grassroots to stay away from that.”

Founded in early 2014 by Carmen Perez, a former parole officer, the Justice League is considered an initiative of the non-profit Gathering for Justice. Many members of the Justice League, including Tamika Mallory, former executive director of Sharpton’s NAN, and Michael Skolnik, political advisor to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, also work within the city’s nonprofit sector, which has maintained the legacy of reformism championed by middle and upper class Blacks since the NAACP was founded in New York City a century ago.Their approach generally embraces a neoliberal concept of opportunity—a world where everybody can have an equal shot at economic success—while keeping the overall economic structure more or less intact.

In the middle of the last century, an increasingly radical campaign for racial justice taking aim at international capitalism also gained prominence. This approach seeks to undermine economic exploitation by encouraging self-sufficient communities independent from the mainstream economy. In practice, it looks like the Black Panthers’ numerous community initiatives, and the sort of organizing JFAG is pursuing in East New York.

The last serious challenge to reformism arose during the 1960s and 70s, when Black working class activists affiliated with the Black Power movement, led by the Black Panthers, tussled with more moderate and affluent Blacks who aligned with groups like the NAACP. At one point, in 1967, two members of a cell called the Revolutionary Action Movement were charged with conspiracy to murder civil rights leaders working for the NAACP and another moderate group. But the fight for influence rarely got that violent, and after a while it wasn’t even much of a contest.

In the 1980s, after the Panthers and similar liberation groups mostly withered away (thanks in part to coordinated infiltration by the police and FBI) the nonprofit sector grew in size and influence due to Reagan-era budget cuts to social services. Because they rely on a mix of private funding and government contracts, nonprofits generally have to maintain cordial relationships with powerful members of the public and private spheres. That closeness can be seen in how Bill de Blasio was able to transition from his job at a nonprofit focused on improving health care in Central America to low-level aid in City Hall, the move that jump-started his political career.

In The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, Naomi Murakawa argues that liberal reforms, Democratic politicians, and the NAACP are partially to blame for today’s policing practices. She argues that “liberal law and order” laid the foundation for mass incarceration in the 21st century.

Some who are critical of the Justice League see the group as part of this pattern.

“I see this movement being empowered off the idea of ‘better police,’ ‘better laws,'” says Timothy DuWhite, a Black Lives Matter activist. “I see the overwhelming assertion for officer indictment as a direct reflection of our society’s dependence on the prison industrial complex.”

“The names we hear being chanted and lifted up in the streets are not black trans-women, are not cis black women, and are not queer identified men, these are just not the stories being told,” DuWhite said.

“We must push the movement forward past the simplicity of physical harm and murder committed by the police, and begin to talk about how poverty is a form of state-sanctioned violence. How reduced access to health care is a form of state-sanctioned violence. How reduced access to proper education is a form of state-sanctioned violence.”

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(Getty Images)

After leaderless masses of protesters poured into the streets to block traffic on highways and bridges in the aftermath of the Garner and Brown grand jury decisions, the Justice League NYC began organizing actions, giving order to the spontaneity that had captured the world’s attention. The group’s first major event was a die-in and rally outside of Barclays Center during a Nets basketball game, and it continued holding similar actions in major shopping centers, as well as press conferences with councilmembers and celebrities like Nas and Russell Simmons, hours after Simmons and Jay Z met with Governor Cuomo.

Soon Justice League moved to the front of the protest line. The mix of celebrity and media exposure compounded the number of people at their events, reinforcing their growing influence in the movement.

After organizing a few events, the Justice League issued a set of 10 demands in early December. They ranged from calling for meetings with Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, to passing a law prohibiting chokeholds and a transparency-enforcing Right To Know Act.

Mallory, the executive director at NAN for four of her 14 years there before stepping down in late 2013, describes Justice League, along with its parent non-profit, Gathering for Justice, as “exist[ing] on the same principals of National Action Network.”

“There are many people in the Justice League who have connections to City Hall. I’m one of them,” Mallory told Gothamist. Harry Belafonte, who sits on the Justice League’s board, spoke at de Blasio’s inauguration, and the mayor selected Mallory to join his transition committee.

“There are perhaps maybe some folks who don’t necessarily feel that that is the right strategy,” Mallory said of working with the government. “But the bottom line is that we can protest, which we do all day, but if we don’t move legislation and actual rules and regulations, then we’ve accomplished nothing.”

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The Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee led a march into Bed-Stuy in late November (Jessica Lehrman / Gothamist)

One long-time New York City activist who works at a non-profit in the city and asked to remain anonymous because they feared reprisal within the community, sees serious flaws in this strategy.

“We’re concerned that the group’s liberal politics and their ties to the mayor’s office, and for instance, someone like Linda Sarsour, with political aspirations, will prioritize being conciliatory at a time when liberal gatekeepers must be challenged and held accountable,” the activist said. “Despite their rhetoric, their actions are already interpreted as watering down progressive and human rights work in the city.”

Sarsour is a member of the Justice League and the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.

“It’s very disingenuous to say, ‘Oh the Justice League just showed up yesterday,'” Sarsour told Gothamist. “They’re making it sound like people just woke up one morning, never set foot in the movement, don’t know anyone in the movement, and all of the sudden now we’re doing work. We’ve been in the movement, we just didn’t have a name! Now we have a name.”

Sarsour pointed to the Justice League’s affiliations with the NYC Revolution Club and the Zulu Nation as proof of the group’s willingness to work with more radical elements. She also defended their use of star power.

“The way you raise the profile of an issue, is by making the issue cool and relevant in pop culture. And if people are seeing it on Twitter, if they’re seeing Russell Simmons tweeting about police brutality, and getting people involved, at the end of the day young people are going to come out for that,” Sarsour said.

“I wish that more of the celebrities, who are multi-millionaires, probably, are able to say to themselves: Wow, my communities are under attack, and I need to give back to my community. And when they come to us, and they want to be a part of something, we absolutely include them. We wish more people would come and be part of the movement.”

Mallory stressed that her group’s political connections wouldn’t compromise their willingness to challenge the status quo: “I know that the leadership of Justice League and the leadership of the Gathering for Justice are certainly of the mind set [that] we must work—not only work with City Hall, but challenge City Hall when need be about what they are or are not doing.”

Sarsour asserts that lawmakers “wouldn’t give us the time of day if they didn’t see the influence we had in our communities.”

“This is civic organizing that I’ve been doing for the past fourteen years of my life. Building civic participation of immigrant communities across the city, getting people to the polls. People watch that. Elected officials know that that’s important, and there’s some people that won’t win elections without communities of color at the polls.”

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(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)

After two NYPD Legal Affairs Bureau officers were assaulted on the Brooklyn Bridge in December after a large demonstration, Mayor de Blasio met with members of the Justice League, who, the mayor said, agreed to identify anybody who “seeks to harm the police or harm anyone and undermine their non-violent peaceful progressive movement.” The mayor seemed to be positioning the Justice League as a wedge between him and more radical elements of the movement.

The Justice League issued a press release right after the meeting that did not address this assertion. Still, some members of the group began to vehemently deny the mayor’s claim on Twitter. Sarsour blamed the “corporate media,” not de Blasio, for trying to discredit and spread division between protesters. The next day, the group tweeted a statement saying they would not work with the NYPD to identify protesters.

Some have questioned why the Justice League didn’t specifically denounce the mayor after he alluded to their possible work as informants.

“If the mayor is the one that’s lying…Why don’t they call the mayor out?” said Dennis Flores, an activist with El Grito de Sunset Park. “If they don’t, it shows that they’re really trying to protect their relationship with the mayor as opposed to calling him out on lying.”

Asked to speak to this controversy, Carmen Perez told Gothamist, “We did not, and do not, get distracted from the important work we are doing, by sensationalized media reporting.”

Linda Sarsour added, “Just because we get a meeting with the mayor—excuse us! Excuse me that I got a meeting with the mayor. I apologize. I’ve built those connections. I didn’t wake up one morning and become some important person.”

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(Tod Seelie / Gothamist)

After two detectives in Brooklyn were killed on December 20 by a lone gunman from Baltimore, the Justice League adopted a more conciliatory and solemn tone, holding a vigil in Harlem the day after the shootings.

In the following weeks, activists in Take Back the Bronx and related groups—including the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee, which was vilified in the press for its chants about “dead cops”—say they were the targets of coordinated police raids.

A liaison for the protesters, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation by the NYPD, told Gothamist that one activist’s relative was “roughed up” after more than a dozen police officers entered his home. Another activist said police threatened them with deportation. At least one videographer has been subpoenaed.

With the streets largely empty today, and an uneasy peace between City Hall and the police—who turned their backs to the mayor and stopped enforcing petty crimes after the assassination of the two detectives—the mayor says his biggest regret through the whole affair was “not moving quickly enough to repudiate the harsh rhetoric of protesters.”

The Justice League has continued their dialogue with high-level public officials, including a meeting with Governor Cuomo on January 20 and a closed door meeting with NYPD Police Chief James O’Neill at NAN’s headquarters on February 11.

“We are encouraged that the Governor has publicly stated his commitment to advance criminal justice reform legislation addressing urgent concerns that have been rightfully raised by communities across the country impacted by our biased justice system,” Carmen Perez said in a statement after meeting with Cuomo.

The governor later tabled the juvenile justice reforms he initially championed in order to pass an on-time budget.

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(Tod Seelie / Gothamist)

“One conclusion I have made out of this whole thing is that the only person and group that seems to have emerged from this situation in better than they were before is William Bratton,” says Harry Levine, a sociologist at CUNY Queens who has written extensively on the NYPD’s racially-biased marijuana arrests. “He’s a smart cookie.”

When the rift between the mayor and the police unions was deepest, de Blasio leaned heavily on Commissioner Bratton to shore up his waning support within the NYPD. And he was careful to condemn the rank-and-file for showing their backsides to the mayor without meting out any real consequences for their insolence, keeping him mostly in the favor of officers.

Bratton has also held the tacit approval of the Justice League. Perez told the New York Review of Books that she “looked favorably upon some of Bratton’s statements about improving community relations.” And although there is no indication that Justice League has personally met with the commissioner, Chief O’Neil is the second highest ranking official within the NYPD, and has been a close ally of Bratton’s since the early 1990s.

So intact is the commissioner’s political standing despite weeks of demonstrations, he casually announced that the NYPD had a new machine gun-toting unit to deal “with events like our recent protests” (the NYPD clarified that protests would be handled by officers without automatic weapons). More recently, Bratton visited lawmakers in Albany to request a bill that would make resisting arrest a felony, an alarming proposal, considering that 72 percent of all resisting arrest charges are brought by 15 percent of all uniformed officers.

Like other groups, Justice League supports an end to Broken Windows policing, the strategy of cracking down on minor offenses that many say contributed to Eric Garner’s death. Tamika Mallory, the Justice League boardmember, told Gothamist that she personally opposes Bratton, the staunchest defender of Broken Windows.

“Being in the position that he’s in, as the top cop in New York City, tells us that [Bratton] is not the right choice for police commissioner. The mayor ought to reconsider having Commissioner Bratton in position.” Still, the recommendation to remove Bratton as NYPD commissioner didn’t make it on to the group’s 10 demands in December.

Asked about the group’s stance on Bratton, Perez said Justice League is “not interested in human resources,” but added, “Broken Windows is just stop and frisk with another name.”

To Nicholas Heyward, who has organized against NYPD violence over the last 20 years since his 13-year-old son was shot and killed by a police officer in 1994, the man is inseparable from the theory, a sentiment shared widely by activists and protesters. “I think Bratton’s a racist, and his Broken Windows theory targets minority people,” he told Gothamist. “Bratton has to go.”

Josmar Trujillo of New Yorkers Against Bratton began protesting the commissioner before he was even appointed. When Bratton showed up at a City Council hearing last month to ask for 1,000 more officers, Trujillo’s group shouted down the testimony; one woman was arrested, and the chambers were cleared.

“We learned a lot in the last year about the non-profit industrial complex in this fight with Bratton and de Blasio,” Trujillo says. “Ferguson…showed they didn’t need the celebrities or academics to fuel a movement. Somehow, though, that message hasn’t gotten through here in New York just yet. What can the Russell Simmons of the world, all buddy-buddy with the Democrats selling us out, provide other than another token seat at the table?”

Trujillo added, “If people are serious about liberation then tables of power need to be flipped this time around.”

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(Jessica Lehrman / Gothamist)

On April 13, Justice League plans to march 250 miles from New York to Washington D.C., with stops in Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore.

Their stated goal is to urge Congress to act on legislation regarding racial profiling and police demilitarization.

“I’m not going to show up to Washington, D.C. and mobilize thousands of people to meet us there after marching 250 miles and then just scream on the lawn and talk about our pain,” Linda Sarsour says. “We know what the problem is. We need to make sure that the people in power, who have the influence and the authority to change the things we want to be changed, they need to know what’s coming.”

Sarsour said that for politicians, the choice is simple: “You’re either going to welcome us, and welcome our movement, or you’re going to become the opposition.”

If the Justice League is operating by representative politics, some people haven’t asked to be represented. Zora, 23, performs anti-repression organizing with Can’t Touch This NYC. She accused the group of “shucking and jiving for these politicians.”

None of the smaller organizations interviewed for this article have plans to participate in the march, nor does Zora.

“They’re trying to establish themselves as leaders for a movement when the movement doesn’t need leaders.”

 

 

[Raven Rakia is a journalist & writer. She has bylines in The Nation, Ebony.com, Truth-Out, VICE/VICE News, Dazed Digital, and more. Aaron Miguel Cantú is an investigative journalist and researcher in Brooklyn.]