Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tennessee, USA: Activists Detained For Taking Ash Spill Photographs

Two environmental activists were detained by the Tennessee Valley Authority police for photographing the site of last weeks ash spill. While it does not appear that they will be charged with crimes, they were unable to document the ash spill’s effects on the area and its water supply.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Martial law of the jungle - When defending the environment means calling in the military

some green thinkers are now coming to a surprising conclusion: In exceptional circumstances, they say, the only effective way to protect the environment may be at the barrel of a gun. [...] in certain cases of severe ecological harm, the international community may be justified in mustering troops to intervene, with or without the permission of the host country. [...] "If you consider how people fight over oil and other resources, I don't see any more noble cause than to fight over the preservation of the planet," says Alex Cornelissen, director of Sea Shepherd's Operation Galapagos.


In South Africa, a college for rangers, established about 20 years ago, offers military-style training to park rangers from around the continent. In recent years the urgency has grown. Many contemporary poachers form heavily armed, well-organized gangs, often from neighboring countries. [...] According to estimates, about 1,000 rangers worldwide have been killed in the line of duty in the past 10 years, 130 of them in just one national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [...] After taking office last May, Brazil's new environment minister, Carlos Minc, sent the military to seize cattle on illegally deforested land, and he has suggested that army regiments patrol the Amazon's nature reserves.


possible scenarios in which armed intervention might be called for on ecological grounds [...includes...] an imminent environmental disaster [...] in which spillover effects to neighboring countries were foreseen [...] would be consistent with existing international law, because the goals would include protecting citizens from the repercussions.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fiddling with words - Climate-change diplomacy

IMAGINE that some huge rocky projectile, big enough to destroy most forms of life, was hurtling towards the earth, and it seemed that deep international co-operation offered the only hope of deflecting the lethal object. Presumably, the nations of the world would set aside all jealousies and ideological hangups, knowing that failure to act together meant doom for all.

At least in theory, most of the world’s governments now accept that climate change, if left unchecked, could become the equivalent of a deadly asteroid. But to judge by the latest, tortuous moves in climate-change diplomacy—at a two-week gathering in western Poland, which ended on December 13th—there is little sign of any mind-concentrating effect.

All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.
- Chou En-Lai

Monday, December 22, 2008

How Eta went to war over the environment

Eta has declared war on a high-speed rail link to be built through the heart of some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe. Two weeks ago the new cause claimed its first victim - Ignacio Uría, 71, a businessman shot dead by two Eta gunmen as punishment for his involvement in the railway project. Eta has gone green, in characteristically deadly fashion.

I suspect "fraud ecowar". The rebels could be taking nature's case hostage to continue their fight for independence. Wouldn't a high speed railway be a good thing for the environment!?

"Eta is not interested in ecology. The social movement around Eta is strongly left-wing, anti-globalisation and so on, but Eta itself does not have any ideology that is not strictly pro-Basque independence" - Anna Garbati, a veteran Bilbao reporter

However, there are two previous examples of such activism: the campaigns against a local nuclear power plant in the 1980s, in which five died, and a motorway in the 1990s, in which four were killed. Both are seen as historic victories for the movement.

Somalia's agricultural region faces dire future

Somalia's humanitarian situation has been deteriorating in recent months, amid an increase in attacks on the country's transitional government by opposition fighters.

People living in the country are losing hope as politicians in the government, which was once seen as the best possible chance for Somalia, argue among themselves.

In Somalia's agricultural region the situation could not be more dire, as Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow reports.

The fight against dirty energy

December 2008: Activists pledge 'all-out war' to block power plant
Environmentalists are vowing to block a proposed $6 billion coal-fired power plant in Surry County, saying it would increase air pollution, would contribute to global warming and is not needed.

Late September 2008: Gore urges civil disobedience to stop coal plants
Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmental crusader Al Gore urged young people on Wednesday to engage in civil disobedience to stop the construction of coal plants without the ability to store carbon.

Early September 2008: Climate Change a Viable Defense in British Court
A group of Greenpeace activists dubbed the “Kingsnorth Six” were found not guilty of criminal damage by a British jury earlier this month, despite fessing up to defacing a coal-fired power plant in an attempt to shut it down. Their creative legal team argued that the damage was justified under a law that excuses property damage inflicted to prevent greater property damage, which the defense said would occur as a result of climate change.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Niger, a war for what's beneath the desert

A battle is unfolding on the stark mountains and scalloped dunes of northern Niger between a band of Tuareg nomads, who claim the riches beneath their homeland are being taken by a government that gives them little in return, and an army that calls the fighters drug traffickers and bandits. screenwriter badly needed... this plot won't make another news block buster!

Niger's northern desert caps one of the world's largest deposits of uranium, and demand for it has surged as global warming has increased interest in nuclear power. Growing economies like China and India are scouring the globe for the crumbly ore known as yellowcake. A French mining company is building the world's largest uranium mine in northern Niger, and a Chinese state company is building another mine nearby.

Uranium could infuse Niger with enough cash to catapult it out of the kind of poverty that causes one in five children here to die before their fifth birthday.

Or it could end in a calamitous war that leaves Niger more destitute than ever. Mineral wealth has fueled conflict across Africa for decades, a series of bloody, smash-and-grab rebellions that shattered nations. The misery wrought has left many Africans to conclude that mineral wealth is a curse.


The hardships of global warming and desertification, which eats away grazing land, further impoverished the Tuareg, forcing many to abandon herding. Yet as its fertility degraded, their land became increasingly sought after as the global price of uranium rose steadily. This paradox would prove explosive.

"Conflict over resources could reemerge"


"Aging populations in the developed world; growing energy, food, and water constraints; and worries about climate change will limit and diminish what will still be an historically unprecedented age of prosperity.


In terms of size, speed, and directional flow, the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way — roughly from West to East — is without precedent in modern history. [...] First, increases in oil and commodity prices have generated windfall profits for the Gulf states and Russia. [...] If current trends persist, by 2025 China will have the world’s second largest economy and will be a leading military power. It also could be the largest importer of natural resources and the biggest polluter.


Resource issues will gain prominence on the international agenda. Unprecedented global economic growth—positive in so many other regards—will continue to put pressure on a number of highly strategic resources, including energy, food, and water, and demand is projected to outstrip easily available supplies over the next decade or so. [...] Lack of access to stable supplies of water is reaching critical proportions, particularly for agricultural purposes, and the problem will worsen because of rapid urbanization worldwide and the roughly 1.2 billion persons to be added over the next 20 years. [...] Climate change is expected to exacerbate resource scarcities. Although the impact of climate change will vary by region, a number of regions will begin to suffer harmful effects, particularly water scarcity and loss of agricultural production. [...] Agricultural losses are expected to mount with substantial impacts forecast by most economists by late this century.


Types of conflict we have not seen for awhile — such as over resources — could reemerge. Perceptions of energy scarcity will drive countries to take actions to assure their future access to energy supplies. In the worst case, this could result in interstate conflicts if government leaders deem assured access to energy resources, for example, to be essential for maintaining domestic stability and the survival of their regimes. However, even actions short of war will have important geopolitical consequences. Maritime security concerns are providing a rationale for naval buildups and modernization efforts, such as China’s and India’s development of blue-water naval capabilities. The buildup of regional naval capabilities could lead to increased tensions, rivalries, and counterbalancing moves but it also will create opportunities for multinational cooperation in protecting critical sea lanes. With water becoming more scarce in Asia and the Middle East, cooperation to manage changing water resources is likely to become more difficult within and between states.

And that's just from the summary. Chapters 4: Scarcity in the Midst of Plenty? and 5: Growing Potential for Conflict no doubt has plenty more for Ecowar. The report appears rather US centric and conservative though.

Also see...
BBC / US Global Trends report: Key points
Global Trends 2025, a new report written by the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) ahead of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, envisages a future world marked by diminished US power, dwindling resources, and more people.

The NIC, an independent government body, emphasises that its report is not about "crystal-ball gazing" but offers a range of potential futures, including the following key trends.

Blog "Tragedy of the Commons" / Global Trends 2025
Reports like these really cause me concern. This is not some crazy doomer on a wacko peak oil message board. This is a consensus of top American Intelligence Community officials.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Highlights: CNN's Planet in Peril - Battle Lines

CNN has been so kind to produce the Ecowar TV-series: I have been watching a bit of their Planet in Peril - Battle Lines series lately.

World's most valuable resource, a curse for most Nigerians
Hundreds of billions of dollars has been made from the Niger Delta's oil reserves and many people have gotten very rich. Conversely, the average Nigerian has suffered as a result of the country's oil prosperity. [...] there have been more than 6,000 oil spills in the Niger Delta -- that is equal to more than 10 times the amount spilled from the Exxon Valdez in 1989. Yet, there is no international outcry and rarely are the spills reported

Surveying elephants with jubilation and horror
over the last four decades, the number of Central African elephants has dwindled from nearly two hundred thousand to several thousand: the pace of the loss has been hugely shocking and disturbing. The global demand for ivory combined with war in neighboring Sudan has nearly killed off the Central African elephant.

Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks
"The Arctic sea ice melt is a disaster for the polar bears," according to Kassie Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. "They are dependent on the Arctic sea ice for all of their essential behaviors, and as the ice melts and global warming transforms the Arctic, polar bears are starving, drowning, even resorting to cannibalism because they don't have access to their usual food sources."

Legal battle over forest is victory for Paraguayan Indians
A small tribe of Indians in Paraguay who have had virtually no contact with the outside world won a legal battle this week when rights groups stopped a Brazilian company from continuing to bulldoze the forest to clear land for cattle ranches.

Global warming could increase terrorism, official says
Climate change "will aggravate existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions," Thomas Fingar said. "All of this threatens the domestic stability of a number of African, Asian, Central American and Central Asian countries."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

100 nations ban cluster bombs

Amnesty International / Landmark cluster bomb treaty signed in Oslo
Ninety two states signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions - which bans the production, stockpiling, use and export of cluster bombs during a ceremony in Oslo on Wednesday.

100 nations ban cluster bombs
The first steps have been taken to banning cluster bombs, a weapon which kills and maims sometimes years later. Representatives of 100 countries gathered in Norway to sign a treaty calling for cluster bombs to be outlawed all over the world.

Afghanistan Says It Will Sign Cluster Bomb Treaty
In a surprising last-minute change of policy, the government of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan agreed Wednesday to join about 100 nations signing a treaty banning the use of cluster munitions, Afghan officials said.

The decision appeared to reflect Mr. Karzai’s growing independence from the Bush administration, which has opposed the treaty and, according to a senior Afghan official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, had urged Mr. Karzai not to sign it.

Cluster bombs... essentially a cheap and deadly pollution of enemy territory.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lawyers call for international court for the environment

A former chairman of the Bar Council is calling for an international court for the environment to punish states that fail to protect wildlife and prevent climate change. [...] "The time is now ripe to set this up and get it going [...] Its remit will be overall climate change and the need for better regulation of carbon emissions but at the same time the implementation and enforcement of international environmental agreements and instruments."

To begin with we could enforce the Geneva Conventions.

Another Darfur Casualty: Trees

On top of the human toll, the conflict in Darfur is afflicting the environment [...] on Mount Marra, the highest peak in the area, there were about 100 trees for each acre of land in the 1990s, on average; by 2001 that was down to 50, and it is now about 20.

Desertification helped spark the war in Darfur in the first place. To boil it down in its simplest terms, the mostly nomadic Arab tribes began clashing with the settled African clans over shrinking grazing lands and scarce water in Darfur

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