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Saturday, September 07, 2002

W$$D Political Declaration

The Political Declaration that emerged from Johannesberg this past week is symbolic of exactly what took place there in spirit. Initially framed with 69 paragraphs that spoke to the acknowledged failings of the world community to produce anything even resembling the needed change since Rio in 1992, while re-affirming the Rio tenets that stressed environmental conservation and a "common but differentiated responsibility" to the planet (in which rich nations took on a larger percentage of the burden and pledged to limit over-production and consumption while poor nations tackled issues such as population growth), the Summit II Declaration emerged from revisions drastically shortened at 32 paragraphs and wholly lacking the reaffirmed commitment to Rio, the environment, or any limiting of economic growth.

Of course, as the United States and its fellow G8 allies were exactly the copy-editors for the Declaration as it was initially drawn up by the African leadership, it is unshocking that the statement to emerge out of Jo'burg is neither critical of transnational capitalist development, eager to conserve natural resources, or willing to cast blame upon powerful nations for exacerbating the divide between rich and poor over the last decade, as the environment was further stressed and plundered.

Instead of any apologies to Rio, and to the planet that expected the Rio declaration to be implemented, the final declaration of this summit hails the great work done at the IMF/World Bank summit on finance and development in Monterrey this past year and the Doha Ministerial Conference, describing these neo-liberal, circle jerk parties for the rich and powerful as defining "for the world a comprehensive vision for the future of humanity." Well, yes, they certainly are that! But what kind of vision for humanity are they? Are they sustainable, humane, equitable and monitorable or rather are they exactly the sort of vision that has brought about the type of planetary crisis that brings global media attention to UN Earth Summits?

What else got culled from the original declaration? Here's a small list of items that the W$$D didn't feel like declaring upon second thought:
Para. 11. Where previously as Para. 15 it had recognized the seriousness of "environmental degradation" this language was dropped in favor of Bush-friendly talk of "protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development." Notice the complete shift in tone and the loss of fundamental rights for the environment itself -- now it is just a resource base.

Para. 37. Culled completely was this statement: We also recognize that the debilitating debt burden carried by teh least developing countries in particular, the developing countries as a whole, as well as middle-income countries, constitutes a major obstacle to sustainable development.

Para. 38. Culled was this paragraph underlining the concern about "food security" and sustainable agriculture for poor countries. This, of course, is directly from the Bush administration, who fought all summit long against sustainable agriculture and limiting subsidies.

Paras. 42-43. Culled were these paragraphs on the need for renewable energy, and the environmental consequences of the present carbon and nuclear-based energy industries for the planet:

42. We accept that various energy uses lead to such adverse environmental consequences as desertification, acidification, air pollution and climate change. We therefore commit ourselves to implement all existing international agreements relating to these matters, as well as continue the search for a global long-term commitment to address climate change. In this regard, we recognize the special concerns of Small Island States.

43. We commit ourselves to address the energy deficit affecting the developing countries.

44. Culled entirely is this fundamental statement about planetary environment: We agree to protect and restore the integrity of our planet's ecological system, with special emphasis on preserving biological diversity, the natural processes that sustain all life on earth, as well as addressing the process of desertification. The significant reduction in the rate of current bio-diversity loss at national and global levels is a priority to achieve sustainable livelihoods for all.

56. Gone is this statement: We affirm that armed conflict and warfare are inherently inimical to sustainable development. In its stead, while the word "warfare" was completely removed, "armed conflict" was tacked on as one of many issues in the Corregendum to the document as an issue to give "particular focus" to.

58. We reaffirm our opposition to foreign occupation and assert the right of all peoples to sovereignty and the control of their natural resources. This statement was deleted. It makes it very hard to plunder Africa, South America, Indonesia, and Middle Eastern oil...

And finally, for all those out there who feel that planetary peace demands a global multinational taskforce like the United Nations to oversee, monitor and implement reform agendas, this summit should give you cause to worry. For while the U.N. was hailed as the most universal organization imaginable, three key statements that would affirm that universality with real power were all missing from the final document.

These were:

Para. 50 -- that allowed the U.N. General Assembly the right to pursue the matters of corporate responsibility and the social contributions made by industries,

Para. 64 -- that allowed for the U.N. systematic implemenation and monitoring of the Rio Summit's Agenda 21, the Millenium Development Goals of the WTO, and the Jo'burg Commitment to Sustainable Development and

Para. 65 -- which called for the U.N. "to institute a follow-up mechanism to facilitate, evaluate and monitor the implementation of the outcomes of the W.S.S.D.
All told, then, this Declaration is akin to a declaration to do little else but hand the matter over to the WTO and G8 nations for further economic consideration, a grave disaster and, more or less, a re-affirmed declaration of war upon the planet itself. Kofi Annan ended the Summit by trying to strike the upbeat note, "This is just the beginning." For the sake of the world's poor, for species everywhere, and for the living Earth itself, a technology more awesome than the dream so-far of any global capitalist, we can only hope that the U.N. Sec.-Gen is wrong. Those whom such summits are suppossed to equip and defend can't sustain another one. Let this be the end. If there is any commitment to the world beyond dollars and cents left in the world leadership, please let this be the end.

Posted by Richard
9/07/2002 09:04:59 AM | PermaLink

Sparks Fly at Hearing on Bush Fire Plan

This is an excellent article by Cat Lazaroff (who has written so many) except for two problems:
1) The reproduction of Bush administration ideological terminology -- "fuel load" = forest vegetation and young growth, and "stewardship" = long-term, unregulated logging of the wilderness. The latter is challenged later in the article, but its not pointed out just how devious this recent example of Bushspeak is -- "stewardship" is of course Old Testament language referring to human responsibility to care for the environment, but prior to this use of it to promote the timber industry, it has been used by environmentalists to promote a humane, conservationist approach. Thus, this use by the Bush administration is exactly the opposite of its meaning up until now!
2) A lot of space is given to the argument for clear-cutting the forests by Dr. Wally Covington, another big-time pro-logging scientist favored by the Bush administration. Dr. Covington certainly is a name in his field but that doesn't mean that his tactics aren't highly controversial and scorned by even moderate environmental lobbies! This piece by Sierra Club and John Muir Project director Chad Hanson gives the skinny on the relation between Bush and Covington:


Washington D.C. -- Fire experts, environmentalists and politicians faced off today in House subcommittee hearings over newly introduced legislation to enact the president's so called "Healthy Forests Initiative." While nearly all the speakers agreed that some forest thinning will be needed to reduce the risk of devastating wildfires in the nation's forests, there was little agreement on how that thinning should be achieved.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Interior Secretary Gale Norton delivered several legislative proposals to Congress on Thursday, two weeks after President George W. Bush called on these agencies to support a massive new effort to actively manage forested areas to reduce fire risk. Under the Bush plan, most forest thinning and restoration projects performed in the name of fire management would be exempted from the public and environmental reviews now required by federal law.

The Bush plan would also authorize long term stewardship contracts, under which logging companies would perform forest thinning and restoration projects in exchange for access to federal timber.

Veneman and Norton delivered the administration's four part proposal to Congress while testifying before the House Committee on Resources on fire related topics, including the President's initiative.

"This legislative proposal would give us management tools we desperately need to help get our forests and communities out of the crisis they are in," said Veneman.

Today, the two secretaries testified at a joint hearing before two House Resources subcommittees - Forests & Forest Health, and National Parks, Recreation, & Public Lands.

The secretaries noted that this year's record wildfire season has burned more than six million acres, more than double the 10 year average, and "based on current fuel conditions and weather predictions, the potential for more fires remains high through the fall." The U.S. Forest Service has spent more than $1.25 billion fighting wildfires this year, and other federal, state and local agencies have spent many millions more.

Thousands of people have had to evacuate, hundreds have lost their homes, and 20 firefighters have lost their lives in this year's wildfires. These statistics illustrate the need for the federal government to take a more active role in managing the nation's forests, the secretaries testified.

According to the secretaries' testimony, active forest management includes thinning trees from unnaturally dense stands to produce commercial or pre-commercial products, removing biomass such as downed trees and shrubs, and igniting controlled burns.

Bush Administration Offers Four Part Plan

The first piece of the Bush administration's proposal would aim to reduce forest fuel loads in areas that pose the greatest risk to people, communities and the environment, including forests around community water supplies, the wildland-urban interface, and areas affected by forest disease and insect infestations.

This proposal would extend a blanket exemption from all environmental analysis, public comment, and administrative appeal to fire management projects on millions of acres of federal forest lands with high fire risk. The proposal also mandates "expedited" interagency consultations regarding the impacts these projects might have on endangered species.

The proposal would not apply to designated wilderness areas, but could apply to eight million acres of inventoried roadless areas that are now classified as high fire risk. On these lands, fire management projects would be conducted "notwithstanding the National Environmental Policy Act" (NEPA), the law that requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of their actions.

According to an analysis by the Wilderness Society, "this NEPA exemption, coupled with repeal of the Appeals Reform Act in Section 3, means that the Forest Service could approve logging of old growth forests, road building in roadless areas, and other projects with absolutely no environmental analysis, public notice, or opportunity for public comment."

The next piece of the proposal would authorize the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to enter into long term stewardship contracts with the private sector, nonprofit organizations and local communities. The stewardship contracts would retain contractors to thin trees and brush, and removing dead wood, in exchange for the economic value of the wood they removed. This controversial proposal has been criticized as providing incentives for contractors to remove the largest, most valuable trees.

The Bush administration argues that the proposal would give contractors the incentive to invest in the equipment and infrastructure needed to use smaller trees and brush in products such as particle board, or to produce energy through biomass burning.

The third proposal would repeal the Appeals Reform Act that was a rider to the fiscal year 1993 Interior Appropriations Bill, which imposes certain procedural requirements on the U.S. Forest Service when administrative appeals are made on forest projects. The proposal would allow appeals of forest management decisions, but specifies that any court ruling could "not provide for the issuance of a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction," and would give courts up to one year to reach a final decision.

The Wilderness Society and other critics argue that this provision would allow the Forest Service to undertake and complete a controversial logging or road building project before a court could issue an injunction, rendering the court appeal moot.

A fourth administration proposal would establish guidelines for courts to use when ruling on challenges to fuels reduction projects such as mechanical thinning or prescribed burns, requiring courts to "give deference to any agency finding" that the long term benefits of projects outweigh their short term risks. The Bush administration says these guidelines would ensure that judges consider the long term risks of harm to people, property and the environment when considering appeals based on the alleged short term risks to species or ecosystems.

The departments are also working on a fifth legislative piece, addressing the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan's original promise of a sustainable habitat and forest economy, which will be sent to Congress at a later date. In addition, the departments are working with the Council for Environmental Quality to develop draft regulations and policy guidance to reduce the time and cost of planning and improving collaboration with local governments on hazardous fuels reduction projects.

Three House Bills Support Bush Plan

The Bush plan is also supported by three new bills introduced in the House on Thursday by Republican Representatives Scott McInnis of Colorado, John Shadegg of Arizona and Denny Rehberg of Montana.

The Healthy Forests Reforms Act of 2002, introduced by McInnis, would establish an expedited environmental analysis procedure under NEPA, and restricts the appeals process by mandating time limits and allowing for negotiated settlements. The bill also funds fuel reduction programs through fiscal year 2011 at the levels requested by the Western Governors Association.

"Looking backward, this wildfire crisis is unprecedented in the last several decades. Looking forward, this fiery carnage is going to continue for decades unless we take bold and decisive steps," McInnis said. "My bill preserves the right of citizens to challenge thinning projects administratively and in the courts, but there will be no more endless stalling. Thinning projects will no longer be subject to death by unending delay."

Shadegg's bill, the Wildfire Prevention and Forest Health Protection Act of 2002, allows thinning to prevent wildfire where it is "likely to cause extreme harm to the ecological balance."

"This legislation is designed to break the current gridlock on responsible forest management," Shadegg said, "by allowing projects involving the removal of trees to proceed if they are based on sound science and are intended to improve the health of forest ecosystems. The bill is critical to the future of our forests."

The National Forest Fire Prevention Act, a bill by Representative Rehberg, addresses the risk for catastrophic fire and insect infestation by adopting language written by Senator Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, for the recently passed Supplemental Appropriations Act, and extending that language to all national forests. Daschle's amendment exempted forest fire management projects in his home state from most environmental regulations, including the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Forest Management Act, in addition to NEPA.

"We must have strong, common sense laws to protect the environment, there's no question about that," Rehberg stated. "Yet those same laws should not be so burdensome that they prevent local forest managers from implementing common sense land management solutions."

"Senator Daschle understands that such regulations can negatively affect the health of our forests by preventing active forest management practices from being implemented," Rehberg added. "And that's exactly the reason I introduced this legislation to extend Senator Daschle's South Dakota exemptions to all national forestland at risk of catastrophic wildfires."

Action Needed - But What Action?

During today's testimony, all the experts - whether from conservation groups or the forest industry - agreed that some action must be taken to reduce wildfire risk. But while House Republicans and the timber industry called for widespread forest thinning with few if any restrictions on the areas that could be mechanically thinned, or the size of the trees that could be cut, other experts disagreed.

David Callahan, a retired firefighter from the Pacific Northwest, argued that logging large trees in many cases may make wildfires burn hotter, and noted that most natural forest fires are "a good thing" for the environment.

"We need to remove the premise that logging mature trees is a substitute for thinning," Callahan said. "Thinning the forest will not prevent wildfires."

Todd Schulke, forest policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity, noted that arguments for removing any mature trees - such as logging only diseased trees - ignore the fact that "diseased trees are a natural part of a healthy ecosystem."

In fact, diseased trees form the only habitat for some specialized species of wildlife, which require trees with holes in them, or with softened wood that can be penetrated to find insects or build cavity nests, he added.

But Dr. Wally Covington, a forestry professor at Northern Arizona University, argued that mechanical thinning - in some cases, even of large trees - is necessary to protect healthy forest ecosystems. He noted that prescribed burning does not always remove small trees and brush without killing mature trees, for example.

"You can not safely remove the trees that need to be destroyed … with prescribed burning," Covington testified.

Covington also noted that many of the nation's western forests are now packed with many more trees than they would naturally carry, if humans had not been restricting natural fires for the past century or more. While acknowledging that removing small trees only, and leaving large trees, would prevent the devastating "crown fires" that consume entire forests and leave nothing but scorched earth, Covington argued that achieving that goal is not enough to produce "robust, biologically diverse ecosystems."

"Every tree you leave in excess of natural carrying capacity of the land," Covington said, "comes at the expense of grasses, wildflowers, shrubs." The natural spaces around mature trees in a forest that is regularly swept by small wildfires, Covington said, provide niches for the wide variety of plant species needed to support a diversity of animals.

Representative Jay Inslee of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Forests & Forest Health subcommittee, concluded that one of the biggest obstacles preventing wider acceptance of the Bush fire management plan is its proposal to finance forest management by allowing some companies to cut trees, through so called stewardship contracts.

The administration's proposal asks citizens to trust that the companies and groups entrusted with such contracts will make decisions on which trees to cut based on the needs of the forest, not on economic considerations, Inslee argued.

"This is not a moment where citizens are reacting real positively to that request," added Inslee, alluding to previous Bush administration decisions to overturn environmental laws in favor of economic or commercial interests.

On Thursday, Inslee and colleague Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, released a report challenging the Bush administration's argument that lawsuits and appeals by environmental groups have often blocked forest management projects.

The report, "Comparison of Two Government Reports on Factors Affecting Timely Fuel Treatment Decisions," details data errors and sampling bias found in a recent Forest Service report, and concludes that the agency's report is unreliable.

"This report shows that the attempts by the U.S. Forest Service to cut large trees located deep within our forests for commercial profit under the guise of fire prevention efforts often meet with appeals," Inslee said. "It is regrettable that the U.S. Forest Service has not focused its efforts on preventing fires near homes; this error forms the crux of the problem between the agency and the public."

The Forest Service is not the only federal agency to be accused of a bias toward tree cutting. In his testimony, Callahan noted that during his firefighting days, he worked often with representatives of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency responsible for much of the land around Callahan's home.

"A lot of people in the BLM want to speak out," about better management practices, Callahan said. But "the people that care are overruled most of the time," because of the agency's long history of cooperating with the timber industry, he added.

In the end, separate comments by Professor Covington and the Center for Biological Diversity's Schulke offered a ray of hope for common ground. Both noted that the environmental community and forest industry experts agree that small trees must be thinned to reduce fire risks, and that the only economic way to thin the nation's millions of forest acres is to make those small trees more valuable.

The government could make it more cost effective to harvest trees and brush, both men noted, by supporting biomass power production - a green, environmentally friendly energy source.

For more information on the Bush forest plan, visit:, and

For Representative Inslee and Udall's report on fire management statistics, visit:

By Cat Lazaroff

Posted by Richard
9/07/2002 07:34:33 AM | PermaLink

Friday, September 06, 2002

10 Million Acres at Stake in Bush Forest Plan

Don't let the war on Iraq divert your attention! This is being reviewed by congress right now in connection with the homeland security legislation. Let your friends and representatives know that you do not want the Bush administration to hand the last 10% of old growth forest in America over to the loggers, that you do not want environmental legislation like the Environmental Protection Act weakened or repealed, and that you do not accept that large corporations should be left to oversee themselves and without careful monitoring -- this is the Enron effect after all. Don't let this happen -- the Bush administration let it be known in Johannesburg that the environment means nothing to them. We must create the tipping point now that sends the debate back against them in the other direction...
The Bush administration's plan to protect forests from wildfire would suspend decades-old public-review procedures and some environmental appeals on 10 million acres and curtail the ability of judges to halt controversial logging projects. The administration's sweeping proposal, unveiled in detail yesterday, seeks to reduce thick underbrush and dense stands of trees in fire-prone forests, but it also would overhaul many of the nation's forest-management practices and limit the ability of environmental groups to raise challenges. The proposal marks such a stark departure from the way federal land managers work now that critics were left breathless by its sweep. (09/06/02) From the Seattle Times

New chief of wildlands kindles worry (08/30/02) Oregonian

New wildfire plan watchdog has unorthodox views (09/02/02) Seattle Times

Bush fire policy: Cut the fuel (09/05/02) Capital Press

Democrats work on forest bill alternative (09/06/02) Oregonian

Healthy Forests Initiative (09/06/02) White House

Bush urges quick action on forest-thinning plan (09/06/02) San Francisco Chronicle

Bush Forest Plan Seeks Waivers to Speed Logging (09/06/02) LA Times

Posted by Richard
9/06/2002 09:51:09 AM | PermaLink

Leaflet Your Local Starbucks September 21-28, 2002

Organic Consumers Association and volunteers in the US, Israel, Australia, Austria, New Zealand, Canada, UK, and Mexico are gearing up for the biggest week of action to date in our Frankenbucks Campaign. Throughout the week activists will leaflet and demonstrate at hundreds of stores in what continues to be the largest grassroots campaign of its kind.


150 locations have already been confirmed but the goal is still distant at 400 cafes and over. If you are willing to participate please contact or call 510-525-7054. Please indicate the date, time and location of the Starbucks outlets you will be leafleting, and we will be happy to send you an organizing packet with all the information and materials you need to organize a protest in your town.

Grassroots pressure over the past two years has forced Starbucks to partially give in to our demands (banning GE coffee, offering organic milk as an option in their cafes, reformulating some of their products to avoid GE ingredients, agreeing to brew Fair Trade coffee one day a month) but we need to keep up the pressure to win this campaign.


Thanks for your past involvement in the campaign for a just and sustainable food system.

Simon Harris
National Campaign Director
Organic Consumers Association
Tel: 510-525-7054, Fax: 413-793-0451

Posted by Richard
9/06/2002 06:42:53 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, September 05, 2002

W$$D Summit in Perspective -- Doleful Conclusions

I have finished reading and comparing Agenda Item 13, the WSSD's Political Declaration -- the rhetorical counterpart to the summit's Implementation Plan. The Political Declaration, as I had previously noted, was a very motled and confused document in its first release on Sept. 1. But after the U.S. and other G8 nations had at what the African leadership had come up with previously, the revised Declaration reads like a mandate for big business and big business only.

I'll post an in depth article on this tomorrow -- analyzing exactly what was culled from the original. Basically, everything that had to do with affirming the Rio Summit's principles and a commitment to the environment has been dropped or moved to the bottom of the agenda. Further, while the U.N. is again affirmed as "the most universal global organizational body," it is denied the right to supervise, monitor, or implement any of the WSSD accords -- instead, this is handed over to the IMF and World Bank and to each country's own desire to implement as it sees possible.

This is truly a disaster. People need to understand this and wail collectively a huge vote of No Confidence in the world's regimes, especially within America as the Bush administration is largely to blame for the retreat from the language agreed upon at Rio. To read these papers is akin to reading a political statement that says, "We don't care about you. We don't care about species. You can't make us. Back to business." This is a giant f*** you to the planet.

I am starting to agree with the eco-feminist and noted activist Vandana Shiva, whom after being fired upon by the police with rubber bullets at the start of the summit and denied entrance during the proceedings was seen on the final day sitting facing away from the conference hall hubbub. On her shirt's back: No More Summits!

Posted by Richard
9/05/2002 01:56:20 PM | PermaLink

SPEAK UP FOR WOLVES: Biased ABC News Report Hurts Recovery Effort

ABC News aired a one-sided, prime-time report this week giving voice to those who want to kill endangered gray wolves in the West. Among its many failings, the ABC report didn't note that surveys have consistently shown that people in the northern Rocky Mountains overwhelmingly support the restoration of wolves to the wild or that Defenders of Wildlife compensates ranchers when livestock is lost.

"This outrageous ABC report could do damage to the wolf recovery program at a very critical time. Just as wolves are making a comeback in the Rockies, the government is about to try to strip them of federal protections. With its biased report, ABC may have set back this important effort," Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said.

Tell ABC News that you have informed yourself about this issue here at the Vegan Blog (search: wolves) and that you support the return of wolves to the American West and a sensible governmental policy. To make your voice heard, click here

Posted by Richard
9/05/2002 01:43:35 PM | PermaLink

Marajuana Legal in Canada? Huge Gov't Study Finds it to be "Better Than Alcohol" and "Not Harmful"

A Senate committee recommends legalizing marijuana and putting its distribution in the hands of the state, a controversial position that has touched off a national debate on the drug's use and sparked criticism from the United States. The 600-page report issued yesterday concluded that marijuana is not harmful to health and should be readily available to cannabis consumers. (09/05/02) Toronto Globe and Mail

Pot Taxes could reach $2 billion a year: SFU economist (09/05/02) Vancouver Province{0327264D-A243-44EB-A957-B5EF77E2BAEB}

Pot should be sold like wine or beer (09/05/02) Vancouver Province{A8792B83-4D3C-485F-BCEB-E8CFD0DE0255}

Pot legalization plan panned in P.G. (09/05/02) Prince George Citizen

Posted by Richard
9/05/2002 01:33:57 PM | PermaLink

Letter From Johannesburg

By Tom Turner

One hates to be downbeat, one really does. One likes to seek silver linings, lights at ends of tunnels, that sort of thing. But damn if there's much to praise coming out of this ponderous mess of a conference.

By way of comparison, in Stockholm 30 years ago there was zeal, passion, fire, hope. Delegates seemed genuinely to care, and observers came to promote their own causes whether they were on the conference agenda or not: Vietnam, the SST, nuclear power plants, whaling. In fact it was at Stockholm where the crusade that eventually led to the moratorium on commercial whaling passed in the early '80s began. The momentum generated at Stockholm eventually overwhelmed the International Whaling Commission. It's hard to imagine anything remotely close coming out of Johannesburg.

The final touches were put on the Plan of Implementation yesterday. The best single thing, perhaps, is a pledge to halve, by 2015, the number of people without clean drinking water or sanitation. A noble goal, but 2015 is a long way away and much will change by that time. Other suggested goals — a decisive move toward renewable energy, a recommitment to the precautionary principle, a move away from subsidies for agriculture and nonrenewable energy systems, a rethink of free trade, a reaffirmation of the link between human rights and the environment, and many others — were lost or watered down beyond recognition.

Tom Turner is senior editor at Earthjustice in Oakland, Calif., and a 34-year veteran of the environmental movement. He served as editor of the Friends of the Earth journal Not Man Apart for 17 years and has reported on dozens of international environmental conferences beginning with the U.N.'s first one, held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972. He is author of the forthcoming Justice on Earth: Earthjustice and the People it has Served (Chelsea Green, 2002).

Posted by Richard
9/05/2002 01:24:34 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Colin Powell Upstaged by Protest at the W$$D

With the U.S. bucking Kyoto, denying renewable energy sources, and refusing to conceive of stewardship in any terms beyond self-serving economics, Bush's stand-in Colin Powell took the stage to insist that (to paraphrase) "free trade is the engine of a new vision of sustainable development." He finishes by boldly remarking, "Our ancestors here in Africa would understand what it is that has brought us here to Johannesburg..." Answer: Slavery???

Listen to the Powell be heckled and jeered by protestors when his double-talk and lies are uttered. It begins at about two minutes in to his speech. Beautiful!

Requires Real Player.

Posted by Richard
9/04/2002 07:30:36 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

A Radical Plan to Save the Summit: Don't Save the World, Save Yourselves

The summit is now officially a disaster and a failure. There were low hopes going in and there will be even less coming out.

The United States has been made into the world's enemy, as the E.U., Russia and China have teamed up with developing nations to paint America as the neo-liberal giant that seeks only to rape the environment and labor at any cost in order to make its books come out right.

Of course, this is a lot of posturing by fellow G-8 and advanced capitalist nations and while it makes for good headlines -- especially in European newspapers -- it's not really to be believed. In fact, the US is promoting an agenda that will no doubt be picked up by Blair and co. the moment the summit is over and run with, but for now, at least, points can be scored on the world stage and at home by appearing to stand up to the transnational giant.

The U.S., for its part, has allowed this political game to culminate through the further bunglings of the Bush administration. The administration, the E.U. is correct, could give a damn about the world environment and poverty. What it does care about is market expansion, the development of new global business and trade, and the preservation of already held market share. This is typical for the U.S. and was so under the leadership of Clinton as well. The difference is more diplomatic approach. Whereas Clinton played the Blair game of finesse and humanitarian assurance, Bush, jr. simply commands a stubborn brashness that dictates might makes right. The feeling appears to be that the world can moan all it likes about sustainability but if it doesn't add up to dollars for the U.S. economy then this present Administration isn't interested.

Hence, the U.S. strategy has been to take a hard-line in denying any new amendments to Agenda 21 -- the implementation policy coming out of the Rio summit in '92 -- that would emphasize anti-market economics. By doing so, through the sheer power that America brings to the global table, it has been able to force its fellow nations into compromises that make Kofi Annan's high-mineded moral rhetoric into a laughingstock.

For not only has the U.S. succeeded in blocking any new accords that would strengthen the commitment to preserving the environment, limiting destruction, and to promoting fairness and equity amongst peoples, but it has actually deflated the terms already agreed to in previous years!

So, as Russia, China, and the rest of the known world sign on to the Kyoto protocol, it makes the U.S. look bad but it also means little. For these are the same countries that agreed to reduce the policy language from commanding nations to ratify to "strongly urging them to do so when they are able." The nations of the world, then, amount to the sort of progressive parent that, far from demanding that a child clean up his/her room, takes the kinder approach, and stroking the child's shoulder, asks nicely, "How about you do that when you feel like you are up to it?"

But what does this mean when the child's mess extends into the front yard?

Now, the U.S. has achieved an even more ominous victory, however. While ministers from around the globe are attempting to put another positive spin on their "agreement on energy," America (along with Opec and Japan) has not only done an end-around on lessening the demand for the fossil-fuels and big energy that these nations supply in droves, but it has essentially cut off any talk about real numbers for renewable energy sources and the timetable by which they must begin to be implemented.

This was the summit that was suppossed to put an end to talk and begin the course to action. So far, all there has been is talk and that talk has been about reducing the possibilities for meaningful action and weakening the accords of the past.

In a globalized world, I still believe that transformation must be engaged at all levels and so while local grassroots campaigns are a pre-requisite, it remains important that even such large bureaucracies as the U.N., the World Bank, and the global governments sign on to such discourse, recognize the achievements and desires of the local level and include it in their own plans of action.

But this summit has become the antithesis of the top working with the bottom, even as it uses the language of "togetherness" to re-institute the most oppresive forms of hierarchy and domination. If you read the proposed draft of the summit's Political statement, you get a clear idea of the schizophrenia involved and the meaninglessness of this convention. Like a corrupt monarchy that has been found out and threatened with beheading, the statement extols its sorrow over having failed in the past over and over again. It implores that the leaders of the global world recognize the terrible state of global suffering and the imminence of environmental catastrophe and that these same leaders are now commissioned with the pressing need to change the system in order to save the planet!

But, like all the other documents that come out of this summit, nowhere is there the compulsion to do anything -- and that is perhaps the greatest failure of them all. Even that great document, the Declaration of Independence, threatens its own leadership with the right to be overcome with violence and revolution should it fail. Earth Summit II has all the liberal trappings of Jeffersonian humanitarian radicalism but none of the bottom line. Rightfully or wrongfully, Jefferson threatened himself with the bloodshed he helped to create. I can't say the same for the personages of Johannesburg. Perhaps they're too addicted to caviar and air-conditioning.

So here's my recommendation for the final days of South African Erewhon: You want the people of the world to believe you, you want your delegates back home to celebrate your achievements, sing your political praises and be proud, you want to go down in history with such humanitarians as Dr. King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and John Muir? Then, do this -- attach to your Agenda the final article that if, by the time of Summit III a decade from now, the state of the planet has continued to decline, if populations have continued to rise and resources have continued to fall, if war continues to plague the land and CO2 and related gasses continue to dominate the air, while water becomes more threatened and if billions of people remain poor, starving and sick as the extermination of species continues other words, if in 10 years the song remains the same as the last 30 years of promises, then the game is up and you will hand the reigns of power over on your silver platters.

Don't show us smiling pictures of collaborative accord. Show us that you feel threatened by the great wave of dissent and anger that blooms beneath you. Show us that you recognize that you must do something now or forever hold your peace.

Posted by Richard
9/03/2002 09:09:20 AM | PermaLink

Summit Agreement is Struck, but US Blocks Deal on Clean Energy

Ministers and heads of state agreed a new plan of action last night for tackling poverty and saving the environment, but, in a rebuff for Tony Blair, they did not include a target for increasing renewable energy.

An "unholy alliance" of oil exporting countries and the United States, backed by Japan, succeeded in frustrating all attempts to set a target and managed to include clauses promoting nuclear power and fossil fuels that are the main cause of global warming.

The decision is a body blow to the credibility of the summit, as the target was probably the most important touchstone of whether it would make progress in tackling the twin crises of growing poverty and escalating environmental deterioration. The overall verdict must be that it has largely failed.

But Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, who led the British negotiators, told The Independent last night: "I can genuinely say that I am delighted. We have a very strong plan of implementation."

Margot Wallström, the European environment commissioner, said she was disappointed by the failure to get a renewable energy target. Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace said: "It is called a plan of action, but it is not much of a plan and there does not seem to be an awful lot of action."

Renewable energy was an important yardstick of success because of, all the issues on the table at the summit, it could have done most to address the poverty and the environmental crises facing the planet.

It is widely seen as the best way of bringing electricity to the Third World poor and it would drastically cut the two million deaths a year caused by breathing in smoke from burning wood and dung. It would also save the soil and, by reducing the amount of these traditional fuels taken from the land, it would combat global warming.

In a personal initiative two years ago, Mr Blair persuaded his fellow G8 leaders to set up a task force to look at increasing the use of renewable energy. The group, co-chaired by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, a former chairman of Shell, produced recommendations that would have brought clean renewable energy to one billion people by 2010.

But Opec and the US sank that and all subsequent targets, including a plan backed by all of Latin America that would have quadrupled the world's share of clean renewable energy by the end of the decade. By last night, all that was left was a modest EU target that would have increased renewables by just 1 per cent over the decade, but that was rejected as well. Britain and the EU were unable to hold that line against the assault of the oil exporting countries and the oilmen in the White House. Some of the language of the text closely reflects Vice-President Dick Cheney's controversial energy plan.

Britain was left with just two consolations. This is the first time energy has been included in such a plan; until now, Opec and the US have resisted even discussing it. And it included a paragraph agreeing to phase out energy subsidies "that inhibit sustainable development" – but only "where appropriate".

The collapse leaves as the only significant achievement of the summit the setting of a target to halve the number of people in the world without basic sanitation.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats expressed disappointment. Sue Doughty, a member of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, said: "These targets are worth more than nothing but less than something."

By Geoffrey Lean, UK Independent

Posted by Richard
9/03/2002 07:58:16 AM | PermaLink

Monday, September 02, 2002

Fires Should Open New Debates on Salvaging

As satellites, land managers and scientists examine forests scorched by wildfires, they are learning something that belies this season of spectacular and fast-moving flames: Much of the land was only lightly singed or not burned at all. Fewer than three in 10 acres burned in Washington and Oregon were charred severely enough to kill surface vegetation and extensively damage trees. Satellite images show a third or more of the acreage within the huge Biscuit fire President Bush toured last month remains untouched by fire. The lesson, say many researchers, is that while the media focus on roaring flames that remain a real but limited part of most fires, most flames are far less impressive and destructive. This summer's fires appear to have burned many acres mildly enough to sweep out overgrowth left by decades of fire suppression without turning forests into ruins. In that way, the fires resemble natural blazes that long ago cleared Western forests and may clear the same tinder now targeted by Bush for thinning. (09/01/02) Oregonian

Posted by Richard
9/02/2002 10:45:02 AM | PermaLink

Blair Turns on US with Salvo Over Kyoto Pact

Tony Blair rebuked America last night for failing to lead the world in fighting global warming and withdrawing from the Kyoto climate change treaty.

The Prime Minister, in Mozambique before his arrival in Johannesburg for the final stage of the Earth Summit, said he would launch a scientific study aimed at persuading America and other critics that it would be economically advantageous to join the Kyoto treaty.

America is trying to remove all mention of it from the summit's 30,000-word plan of action. But Mr Blair, firmly committing himself to the aim of reducing greenhouse gases, said last night the treaty did not go far enough. "In truth Kyoto is not radical enough," he said, "yet it is, at present, the most that is politically do-able. And even then the largest nation, the United States, stands outside it." Underlining his most outspoken criticism of US policy on global warming, he added: "What is truly shocking is not the scale of the problems. The truly shocking thing is that we have the remedies.

"Where the wealthy countries have acted it has made a difference. It is not rocket science. It is a matter of political will and leadership. If we wanted to answer the challenge of environmental pollution, we could."

In contrast, Mr Blair said he believed "passionately" that Britain should give leadership on two world issues: the plight of Africa and the destruction of the environment. He said it was important not to exaggerate what the Earth summit could achieve, but not to dismiss it either.

Without the Rio Earth Summit 10 years ago, the issue of climate change would not have made it to centre stage and without the recent Monterrey conference wealthy countries would not have come up with an extra pounds 7.8 billion in aid.

The Montreal protocol on ozone-damaging chemicals had cut emissions of CFCs by 95 per cent in 15 years and the ozone hole was measurably diminishing. In an increasingly inter-dependent world, Mr Blair said, national interests and those of the global community went together.

Kyoto, even if implemented, would deliver a reduction of only one per cent in global emissions. To reduce the effect of climate change cuts of 60 per cent were needed. He said it would "help enormously" in securing support for Kyoto "if we had a far clearer and deeper knowledge of how science and technology could help in energy production and use, of how market incentives could play a part in changing behaviour and how business could not just survive but prosper on the back of good environmental policy".

He said a "systematic attempt" was needed to work out the potential of the work being done.

"If we were exploiting fully the potential of the revolutionary role science and technology could play, a lot of the concerns of nations about the effect of good environmental policy on their economy would be allayed."

It was possible to achieve real progress against huge odds and in the most complicated circumstances with collective will.

By Charles Clover Environment Editor in Maputo

Posted by Richard
9/02/2002 08:17:19 AM | PermaLink

Lambs to the Slaughter by Carol Cook

This forwarded on to me by Steve Best:

Considering the source, I see this as a very important review: an Israeli paper legitimates the Holocaust comparison.
--- Steven Wise

Review in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz (English Edition)--August 23, 2002

Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust
by Charles Patterson, Lantern Books, New York, 316 pages, $20

Not too long ago, The International Herald Tribune reported a new technological breakthrough: Researchers had succeeded in implanting computer chips into the brains of rats. The reviled rodents could now be turned into robots capable of carrying out all kinds of tasks for their human masters - clearing mine fields, for example. The scientists interviewed for the article were pleased about the possibilities, but I felt like I was reading the first scene of a horror film script in which, later on, the technique would be applied to human ! beings.

With the implications of this development reverberating in my mind, I sat down to read "Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust" by Charles Patterson. The title comes from a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, to whom the book is dedicated and whose work inspired Patterson to write it. His thesis is summarized in a quotation from Singer's short story "The Letter Writer": "... in relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka."

Patterson has written a book about man's inhumanity to man and beast, and the linkage between the two: "Throughout the history of our ascent to dominance as the master species," he declares, "our victimization of animals has served as the model and foundation for our victimization of each other. The study of human history reveals the pattern: First, human beings exploit and slaughter animals; then they treat other people like animals and do the same to them."

He traces this pattern from the days when humans lived from hunting and from gathering plants to the domestication of animals about 11,000 years ago. Then he moves on to the development of human slavery in the ancient Middle East, Greece and Rome, and in the European colonies in the Americas - as an extension of exploitation of animals. The meticulously annotated text is thick with references from respected sources down through the ages, from the Bible, with its offer of Divine sanction for human supremacy, to Aristotle's justifications of slavery, to critics of these concepts from Francis Bacon and Charles Darwin, to Carl Sagan and Milan Kundera.

Patterson then moves on to show how the vilification of humans by applying animal names to them set the stage for slavery and genocide: "Calling people animals is always an ominous sign because it sets them up for humiliation, exploitation and murder. It is sign! ificant, for example, that in the years leading up to the Armenian genocide, the Ottoman Turks referred to Armenians as rajah [cattle]." The Japanese referred to the Chinese as ants and pigs. The Nazis depicted the Jews as rats, dogs, pigs, vermin. More recently, the Hutus referred to the Tutsis as insects, he notes.

When the European explorers conquered and colonized the indigenous peoples of Africa and the Americas, they referred to them as beasts, brutes, savages or "lower races." By the 1800s, European scientists were developing racial theories that put white European males at the top of the pyramid. Below them were women, Indians, Jews, blacks.

Against this background, Patterson proceeds to present his thesis: The industrialization of animal slaughter in the United States and the development of American eugenics crossed the Atlantic and inspired both Nazi racial theories and the industrialization of mass murder - the Holocaust.

Patterson doesn't claim his concept is original. He quotes from "Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light," by Judy Chicago, an artist. When she visited Auschwitz and saw a model of one of the crematoria, she realized that "they were actually giant processing plants - except that instead of processing pigs, they processed people who had been defined as pigs."

Finally, she wrote: "I saw the whole globe symbolized at Auschwitz, and it was covered with blood: people being manipulated and used; animals being tortured in useless experiments ... human beings ground down by inadequate housing and medical care ... the elimination of people of opposing political views ... the oppression of those who look, feel or act differently."

Meat-packing and Mass Murder

Modern methods of mass production were first developed in the U.S. meat-processing industry. The meat-loving English and Dutch colonists set up slaughter houses right away. When the country expanded westward along with the railroads, Chicago became the center of the meat-packing industry. By the end of the 19th century, meat-packers like Armour and Swift had set up conveyer belts to speed up the process, with each worker performing a specific task in converting the sides of beef or pork into chops, steaks or salamis. Henry Ford, who visited a Chicago slaughterhouse as a young man, later applied the method in his auto factory.

The Nazis did the same: "It was but one step from the industrialized killing in American slaughterhouses to Nazi Germany's assembly-line mass murder," writes Patterson.

Ford was deeply implicated in the process, charges Patterson, who writes that the anti-Semitic campaign launched in Ford's weekly newspaper, pamphlets and books "helped the Holocaust happen." Hitler was an admirer of Ford and his book, "The International Jew," which was popular in Germany. Another link was the American eugenics movement, which aimed to improve the human race by "better breeding." The American eugenicists helped promote the immigration restriction laws of the 1920s, and led to compulsory sterilization laws for criminals and the mentally ill in more than half the states by 1930. Denmark passed a similar law in 1929 and Germany followed in 1933, when the Nazis came to power. Then came the attempts to breed a master race, eliminating the mentally and physically handicapped, homosexuals, Gypsies and the Jews.

The horrifying similarities between the slaughterhouse and the death camp are detailed in Chapter Five, "Without the Homage of a Tear." The "tunnel of death" of the meat-packing plant is compared with the "tube" that led to the gas chambers of Treblinka. The problems of dealing with the sick, the weak and the injured in both killing operations are explored.

An entire chapter of the book is de! voted to the life and work of Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote (in his novel "Shosha") "... we do to God's creatures what the Nazis did to us." Patterson calls Singer "one of the most powerful pro-animal voices of the 20th century," and reviews many of the texts that exemplify Singer's profound empathy for animals. (Singer, who became a vegetarian in 1962, was once asked if he avoided eating chicken for reasons of health. He replied: "Yes, for the health of the chicken.")

In one story by Singer, "The Slaughterer," a young, sensitive rabbi, Yoineh Meir, is obliged to become a slaughterer. He objects, but is told that he may not be more compassionate than God. Yoineh eventually goes mad, cursing God as "a Man of War, a God of Vengeance," and takes his own life. In the story that supplies the book's title and epigraph, "The Letter Writer," the main character is Herman Gombiner, a Holocaust survivor living in New York who befriends a! mouse in his apartment. When Herman becomes ill and cannot feed her, he worries, and when he recovers, fears the mouse, whom he names Huldah, has died. When she appears, alive and well, he thanks God, crying as he did not when he learned that his entire family had been slaughtered by the Nazis: "God in Heaven! Huldah is alive!"

The remainder of the book is devoted to stories of animal activists who say their advocacy was influenced by the Holocaust, and Germans who lived through the Nazi period and later turned to animal activism. For readers interested in exploring the issues further, there is also an extensive bibliography.

The one thing Patterson does not address, apart from a marginal reference or two, is ritual slaughter. In view of the ongoing concerns of animal rights activists about these methods, I think a discussion of them would have added another dimension to the author's arguments. But all in all, this is a thorough and thought-provoking book. If the linkage of animal rights and the Holocaust seems startling at first, it begins to make perfect sense as one reads on. Some might see this as trivialization of the Holocaust; it isn't. Instead, the chilling parallels Patterson exposes seem to offer even more reason to despair of the human race.

Carol Cook is a member of the Ha'aretz-IHT editorial staff.

                *    *    *    *
For more information about Eternal Treblinka, visit or

For a review copy, contact Anne Sullivan at

Dr. Charles Patterson can be reached at

Posted by Richard
9/02/2002 07:57:51 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Kyoto is Lost at the Earth Summit II!

Readers of this blog are already aware that the Kyoto protocol is merely a symbolic gesture -- it is supported by environmentalists in the spirit of compromise (one has to start SOMEWHERE) but not because activists or scientists truly believe that Kyoto's limits on CO2 emissions come anywhere near the reductions that would be necessary in carbon-based industries to effectively halt the heating of the planet.

Actively reducing emissions in the manner of taking more CO2 out of the atmosphere than we put in isn't even considered.

Thus, Kyoto is a state agreement that was created as a "baby step." It was designed to be something that states who are clearly interested in economy but not ecology could sign onto and promote as a "win-win" policy for all invovled -- it would neither charge the industries in question with the real costs of their activities up until now, that is it would not seek to transform them, but neither would it turn a blind eye to the issue and it would acknowledge it in the spirit of doing something. But again, for those in the know, it was always designed as a "political" agreement and not a scientific agreement. The science on the issue demands something more along the lines of Kyoto (x100).

But with the Bush administration denying the realities of global heating, with Alberta and then Australia seeking to follow suit, and with the Summit turning into a series of neo-liberal brokerage agreements between rich and poor nations, even the relatively meaningless Kyoto pact hung in the balance at Jo'burg. Would leadership demand that it be signed? Or, as rumor had it, would it be taken off the table and postponed for another committee's ratification proposals?

Now, we have the answer...and it is not good. A compromise has been reached on the compromise and nations (like the U.S.) whose ratification had previously been demanded, are now simply "encouraged" by the concerned nation's of the planet to do so.

This from NewsAsia:
Negotiators at the Earth Summit haggling over an action plan for the future of the planet have cleared one hurdle, reaching a compromise on the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

The text in the 71-page Plan of Implementation now says that states which have already ratified the pact, which limits the emission of gases which heat up the atmosphere, "strongly urge states that have not already done so to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in a timely manner."

The draft had called on states to "work cooperatively towards achieving the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change", the parent treaty of the Kyoto protocol. The negotiators' compromise appeared to be a concession to the US after President George W Bush's rejection of the pact last year, arguing that it would hurt US industries and was too soft on countries such as China and India.

Delegates said the change was a result of mediation by Japan.

That agreement, six days into the 10-day summit, leaves around a dozen other disputes to be resolved before world leaders gather in Johannesburg on Monday.

Many of the disagreements centre on setting target dates for action on such subjects as providing clean drinking water for the world's poor, with the European Union supporting timetables and the United States opposed to them.

Another centres on reversing the planet's dizzying loss of biodiversity.

In all, 109 heads of state and government are expected before the summit ends on Wednesday, with Mr Bush the notable absentee.

He is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell in his place, a decision that has angered environmentalists who take it as an sign of US disdain for the environment and the rest of the world.

Posted by Richard
9/01/2002 11:40:26 AM | PermaLink