Archive | Environment

My Friend Was Murdered for Trying to Save the Amazon

by SARAH SHENKER

Paulo Paulino Guajajara, known as Kwahu, who was killed by illegal loggers.

“They’re watching us,” the Guardians whispered, as we walked in the dark. “But we’re watching them, and this is our forest. We know it inside out. We’ll catch them.” We were heading deeper into the forest, towards an illegal logging hotspot.

I was on an operation with the Guardians of the Amazon, indigenous people from the Guajajara tribe with one clear objective: to protect their land. They do this not only for their own families, but also to protect their uncontacted neighbors, people from the Awá tribe, who share this territory. I was invited to join them as part of my work for Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples, who support the Guardians’ work and help amplify their voices on the global stage.

The anger and the urgency among the Guardians was palpable. We couldn’t even wait until morning; the loggers were in the forest now. So we headed out into the night, eyes adjusted to the darkness, with only the low, dim, on-and-off light of a few torches covered in cloth and pointed down at our feet. Any more light risked being seen, and the loggers are armed, aggressive, and ruthless.

At the time of this visit last April, the loggers had already assassinated three Guardians. Just a few days ago, I received news that my friend Paulino Paulo Guajajara had been fatally shot, and another friend, Tainaky Tenetehar, had been seriously wounded; he only just escaped from loggers, who had ambushed them while they were out hunting.

Paulino on a mission with the Guardians, wearing Sarah’s hat.

The hat Paulino is wearing in this picture used to be mine. We cut two eye holes in it and, when we passed through particularly dangerous areas, he’d pull it down over his face so as not to be recognized by loggers. He said that this hat could save his life, as he could be targeted any minute, and that it was well worth the sweat. When the coast was clear, he’d pull it back up with his trademark grin.

Paulino paid with his life for trying save his tribe’s forest, the Arariboia Indigenous Territory, in the north-east Amazon. It is being destroyed at a terrifying rate: President Bolsonaro’s racist words and genocidal proposals to steal indigenous land are encouraging illegal loggers to operate with renewed zeal, confident that they can make quick cash and get away with it. The number of invasions of indigenous territories, and attacks on communities, has sky-rocketed since Bolsonaro took office.

“The President has made it clear that he won’t protect even one more millimeter of indigenous land. They want to kill us all and take our land,” Tainaky himself told me. We saw countless patches of newly chopped-down forest, where dozens of trees felled by the invaders lay like corpses on the side of the paths, ready to be transported and sold on the black market.

Paulino was with us too that day, and he was upset by what we saw. “It makes me so mad to see this! These people think they can come here, into our home, and help themselves to our forest? No. We won’t allow it. We don’t break into their houses and rob them, do we? My blood is boiling, I’m so angry,” he told me.

Paulino was wearing the hat I gave him the day he was killed, but this time it didn’t protect him. Paulino and Tainaky didn’t think they were under threat when were ambushed because they weren’t looking for loggers at the time.

The Guardians respect and protect their forest as an integral part of their daily life because it gives them their food, shelter, medicine — it’s their everything. “We indigenous people know our forest better than anyone else. We’ll fight as long as we live,” Tainaky said. “There’s no other option.”

Satellite image of the Guajajara’s territory, Araribóia, showing their land as an island of green in a sea of deforestation.

If you look at Araribóia in satellite imagery, you are struck by the contrast in color at its borders. It’s an island of green amid a sea of destruction. It’s no surprise; indigenous peoples look after their land better than anyone else. They have done so for generations and, unlike many other societies, their forest stewardship does not require detailed planning, million-dollar projects, debates in international fora or the Paris climate agreement.

We set up camp at a junction where two logging paths converged. There were snapped twigs on the forest floor — breaks which the Guardians could identify as being just hours old. The loggers were nearby. We slept around a fire — just enough flames to cook the one slab of remaining meat, but not enough to be seen. At dawn we continued, going ever deeper into the forest. I knew we were getting closer: there were constant signs of intruders.

One result of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency is that there are more eyes on the forest: of those wanting to steal it, but also of those wanting to protect it. It’s buzzing with all the attention, and the fatal fires now ravaging vast areas are now drawing many more. All these eyes on the Amazon are provoking fights, grabbing headlines and building resistance. All of us can be allies in this resistance, but we will never truly know what people like the Guardians of the Amazon face on a daily basis. I will never truly know what Paulino went through.

Hours passed on our mission, and eventually we found the loggers’ camp. We approached cautiously, in a line, as silent as we could be. But nobody was there. The loggers had fled in a rush, leaving behind some clothes, cooking utensils, a pumpkin, and half a dozen eggs. The Guardians were quick to set the loggers’ camp alight, and burnt it to the ground.

The invaders had almost definitely been tipped off by one of their spies. They would rather flee and abandon “their” logs than cross paths with the forest’s defenders. They know the Guardians’ operations are succeeding in gradually pushing the loggers out.

Around the world, people are uniting with Brazil’s indigenous peoples to #StopBrazilsGenocide. During Bolsonaro’s first month in office, thousands took part in the biggest ever international protest for indigenous rights. The resistance is stopping Bolsonaro in his tracks.

For the future of Arariboia and other indigenous lands — the most biodiverse places on Earth, and lifelines for us all — let’s keep our eyes on the forest, and support the indigenous eyes IN the forest. We honour the life of Paulino and others like him; they will never know how grateful we all are, and we will never understand how much we really owe them. They’re the ones on the front line, day and night, of this fight for indigenous peoples, for nature, and for all humanity.

Posted in Education, Environment, Health, Human Rights0 Comments

Our Vanishing World: Insects

By Robert J. Burrowes

Global Research,

About 12,000 years ago, late stone age humans precipitated the neolithic (agricultural) revolution that marked the start of the steady rise to civilization. Coincidentally, this occurred at the same time as the beginning of what is now known as the Holocene Epoch, the geological epoch in which humans still live.

However, since the industrial revolution commencing in about 1750, just 270 years ago, humans have been destroying Earth’s biosphere with such tremendous ferocity that the Earth we inherited at the beginning of the Holocene Epoch is vanishing before our eyes. And life is vanishing with it.

While this catastrophe first gained significant public attention with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962, efforts in response to her effort to raise the alarm, credited with inspiring the modern environmental movement, have paled in comparison to the ongoing human effort to silence Spring.

In fact, we are destroying the biosphere with such ruthless efficiency that the global extinction rate is now 200 species per day, with another million species ‘under threat’. Moreover, according to the recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services researched and published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – the scientific body which assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services this provides to society – ‘Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history.’

So severe is the crisis through which we are now living that the normally sober tone of scientific papers is vanishing too, with words such as ‘biological annihilation’, a ‘frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation’ and the ‘sixth mass extinction’ event in Earth’s history are being used with increasing frequency. See, for example, ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’.

So how extreme is the threat?

Well, despite the number of elite-controlled intergovernmental processes and corporate scientists paid to promulgate delusion about our timeframe, an increasing number of scientists are now warning that existing and accumulating evidence indicates that human extinction is likely to occur by 2026 (assuming that we can prevent nuclear war and prevent the deployment of 5G in the meantime). Unfortunately, too, the full extent of this unfolding catastrophe is readily masked if the many interrelated factors – emotional, political, economic, social, climatic, environmental, military, nuclear, geoengineering and electromagnetic – synergistically shaping this outcome are not each and all considered. See ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’.

For example, it is poor science to measure climate impacts in isolation from the cascading impacts they generate ‘downstream’ (such as the adverse impact of temperature increases on insect populations in rainforests and what this means for the rainforest habitats they occupy) and to predict outcomes for humanity based on the climate impacts alone. If enough insects are gone – whether through destruction of habitat, extensive pesticide use, 5G electromagnetic radiation, climate impacts… or a combination of these and other factors – before we reach the critical climate ‘tipping point’, then human food chains will collapse rapidly followed by the human population whatever the state of the climate at the time.

However, rather than reiterate the comprehensive evidence in relation to the synergistic threats to human survival here, let me instead present the evidence only in relation to the decimation of the global insect population – variously given such labels as ‘insectageddon’ and ‘insect apocalypse’ in an attempt to convey the gravity of the crisis – including what is driving it and what it means.

The Importance of Insects

So how important are insects? According to one recent study conducted by Caspar A. Hallmann and eleven associates, insects are vital to ecosystem functioning:

‘Insects play a central role in a variety of processes, including pollination, herbivory and detrivory [an organism, such as a bacterium, fungus or insect, that feeds on dead plant or animal matter], nutrient cycling and providing a food source for higher trophic levels such as birds, mammals and amphibians. For example, 80% of wild plants are estimated to depend on insects for pollination, while 60% of birds rely on insects as a food source. The ecosystem services provided by wild insects have been estimated at $57 billion annually in the USA. Clearly, preserving insect abundance and diversity should constitute a prime conservation priority.’ See ‘More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas’.

To underscore the importance of insects, in their study Bradford C. Lister & Andres Garcia simply note that ‘arthropods comprise over two-thirds of terrestrial species’. See ‘Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web’. And, as Robert Hunziker observes: without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses. See ‘Insect Decimation Upstages Global Warming’.

However, despite their crucial role in maintaining the habitable biosphere, insects have been in decline for several decades. And the decline is accelerating.

The Decline of Insects

Any study of insect populations readily confirms their rapid decline. For example, in the recent study by Lister and Garcia, they note that ‘Arthropods, invertebrates including insects that have external skeletons, are declining at an alarming rate. While the tropics harbor the majority of arthropod species, little is known about trends in their abundance.’ Hence they compared arthropod biomass in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest with data taken by Lister back in 1976. They found that ‘biomass had fallen 10 to 60 times’ and their analyses revealed ‘synchronous declines in the lizards, frogs, and birds that eat arthropods’. Moreover, they noted, over the past 30 years forest temperatures have risen 2.0 °C and their study indicated that ‘climate warming is the driving force behind the collapse of the forest’s food web’. Ominously, they observe: ‘A number of studies indicate that tropical arthropods should be particularly vulnerable to climate warming. If these predictions are realized, climate warming may have a more profound impact on the functioning and diversity of tropical forests than currently anticipated.’ See ‘Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web’ and ‘Insect collapse: “We are destroying our life support systems”’.‘Decimated’: Germany’s Birds Disappear as Insect Abundance Plummets 76%

Why? Well although climate warming is disrupting the entire biosphere at an accelerating pace, the rate is generally slower in tropical habitats. Nevertheless, the evidence still clearly suggests that tropical ectotherms (organisms reliant on environmental heat sources) may be particularly vulnerable to the warming climate. Citing an earlier report based on research by Daniel H. Janzen – see ‘Why Mountain Passes are Higher in the Tropics’ – Lister and Garcia note that tropical species that evolved in comparatively aseasonal environments have ‘narrower thermal niches, reduced acclimation to temperature fluctuations, and exist at or near their thermal optima. Consequently, even small increments in temperature can precipitate sharp decreases in fitness and abundance. These predictions have been verified in a variety of tropical reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.’ See ‘Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web’.

In another recent report ‘Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers’, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris A.G. Wyckhuys present ‘a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe, and systematically assess the underlying drivers’. In essence, their research reveals ‘dramatic rates of decline’ with the main drivers being i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanization; ii) pollution, mainly by synthetic pesticides (glyphosate, neonicotinoids and others) and fertilisers; iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and iv) the climate catastrophe. ‘The latter factor is particularly important in tropical regions, but only affects a minority of species in colder climes and mountain settings of temperate zones.’

Moreover, they note, the general studies of insect declines are ‘in line with previous reports on population declines among numerous insect taxa (i.e. butterflies, ground beetles, ladybirds, dragonflies, stoneflies and wild bees) in Europe and North America over the past decades. It appears that insect declines are substantially greater than those observed in birds or plants over the same time periods and this could trigger wide-ranging cascading effects within several of the world’s ecosystems.’

But perhaps the most alarming report is the one written following research conducted by Caspar A. Hallmann and his associates. Noting widespread concern about insect loss, they observe that ‘Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services.’ Employing a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (with 96 unique location-year combinations) their analysis estimated ‘a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study’. Moreover, the decline was apparent regardless of habitat type. ‘This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.’ See ‘More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas’.

Just one cascading impact of the rapid decline of insects in Germany is the ‘decimation’ of the bird population. See ‘“Decimated”: Germany’s birds disappear as insect abundance plummets 76%’.

In summary, from the study by Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys: More than 40 percent of the world’s insect species are on the fast track to extinction. See ‘Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers’.

Why are insects declining?

In essence, apart from the causes of insect decline noted above, such as destruction of habitat, poisoning (using glyphosate, neonicotinoids and other pesticides) – see, for example, ‘Trump EPA OKs “Emergency” to Dump Bee-killing Pesticide on 16 Million Acres’ – and the climate catastrophe, insects are also adversely impacted by light – see ‘Light pollution a reason for insect decline’– ingestion of plastic – see ‘Microplastic ingestion by riverine macroinvertebrates’ – wars, nuclear contamination – see, for example, ‘Fukushima butterflies highlight heavy cost of nuclear disaster’ – and will be further and horrifically impacted, along with all life on Earth, if 5G is deployed. For an earlier study identifying the existing problem of electromagnetic radiation on life, see ‘Bees, Birds and Mankind: Destroying Nature by “Electrosmog”’, but for recent updates on the extraordinary hazards of 5G to all life, see ‘5G and the Wireless Revolution: When Progress Becomes a Death Sentence’ and ‘Western Insanity and 5G Electromagnetic Radiation’.

In essence, without sufficient diversity and density of insects the existing biosphere will collapse and homo sapiens will join the fossil record. And we are rapidly approaching that particular tipping point.

Part of the problem is that far too much attention is being directed at the climate catastrophe while ignoring the vast evidence from other disciplines offering highly instructive research not only in relation to climate impacts but to other human behaviours that are negatively impacting ecosystem functioning.

This has a range of negative impacts, including that it deludes people into seeking outcomes that are hopelessly inadequate if we are to address the full extent of the crisis in our biosphere.

Has anything being done?

Not much. The elite’s corporations have enormous political power so have little trouble resisting efforts to contain their destruction of the biosphere, including of insect populations.

Hence, while scientists routinely offer fine suggestions, such as the following one, they are also routinely ignored.

‘A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide. In addition, effective remediation technologies should be applied to clean polluted waters in both agricultural and urban environments.’ See ‘Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers’.

But, to reiterate, it is corporations that have political power and that also control the media narrative; not scientists.

***

So what can we do?

Given that the insect apocalypse is deeply connected to other issues of critical importance to human survival, as always it is vital that this issue is addressed strategically from a holistic perspective. For that reason, we must approach the issue by addressing fundamental drivers but also several vital symptoms that arise from those drivers. Let me explain what I mean.

The fundamental question is this: Why are humans behaving in a way that destroys Earth’s biosphere? Surely, this is neither sensible nor even sane. And anyone capable of emotional engagement and rational thinking who seriously considers this behaviour must realize this. So why is it happening?

Fundamentally it is because our parenting and education models fail utterly to produce people of conscience, people who are emotionally functional and capable of critical analysis, people who care and who can plan and respond strategically.

Given the preoccupation of modern society with producing submissively obedient students, workers, soldiers, citizens (that is, taxpayers and voters) and consumers, the last thing society wants is powerful individuals who are each capable of searching their conscience, feeling their emotional response to events, thinking critically and behaving strategically in response. Hence our parenting and education models use a ruthless combination of visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence to ensure that our children become terrified, self-hating and powerless individuals like virtually all of the adults around them.

This multifaceted violence ensures that the adult who emerges from childhood and adolescence is suppressing awareness of an enormous amount of fear, pain and anger (among many other feelings) and must live in delusion to remain unaware of these suppressed feelings. This ensures that, as part of their delusion, people develop a strong sense that what they are doing already is functional and working (no matter how dysfunctional and ineffective it may actually be) while unconsciously suppressing awareness of any evidence that contradicts their delusion. See ‘Why Violence?’‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’,‘Do We Want School or Education?’ and ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

So if we are going to address the fundamental driver of both the insect apocalypse and destruction of the biosphere generally, we must address this cause. For those adults powerful enough to do this, there is an explanation in ‘Putting Feelings First’. And for those adults committed to facilitating children’s efforts to realize their potential and become self-aware (rather than delusional), see ‘My Promise to Children’.

Beyond this cause, however, we must also resist, strategically, the insane elite corporations that are a key symptom of this crisis by manufacturing and marketing a vast range of insect (and life)-destroying products ranging from weapons (conventional and nuclear) and fossil fuels to products made by the destruction of habitat (including rainforests) and the poisoning of agricultural land (to grow the food that most people eat) while now planning the imminent worldwide deployment of 5G. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

But we can also undermine this destruction, for example, by refusing to buy the products provided by the elite’s corporations (with the complicity of governments) that fight wars (to enrich weapons corporations) to steal fossil fuels (to enrich energy, aircraft and vehicle-manufacturing corporations) or those corporations that make profits by destroying rainforests or producing poisoned food, for example. We can do this by systematically reducing and altering our consumption pattern and becoming more locally self-reliant as outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ or, even more simply, by committing to The Earth Pledge (below). In a nutshell, for example, if we do not buy and eat poisoned food, corporations will stop poisoning our food and this will save vast numbers of insects (and many other life forms besides).

You can also consider joining those working to end violence in all contexts by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children(see explanation above)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Conclusion

In response to a range of synergistically impacting behaviours, homo sapiens is on the fast track to extinction. Just one critical and largely ignored variable in this rush to extinction is our decimation of the world insect population denying us an ever-expanding range of ecological services.

On this count alone, we have already crossed a dangerous tipping point that will cause increasing problems over time. Whether we can stop short of the ultimate tipping point depends on what you decide.

Posted in Environment, Health0 Comments

Don’t Forget: Nuclear Weapons Are an Existential Threat

A new study shows just how bad a nuclear war could get. We need a plan to eliminate this risk permanently.

by: Olivia Alperstein

No nation on earth can afford the catastrophic regional and global consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. (Photo: A B53 nuclear bomb at the Pantex facility in Texas/NNSA/flickr/cc)

No nation on earth can afford the catastrophic regional and global consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. (Photo: A B53 nuclear bomb at the Pantex facility in Texas/NNSA/flickr/cc)

There’s a growing awareness now that climate change is an existential threat to humanity. Inspiring movements are demanding solutions, and politicians are scrambling to offer them.

That’s good. But there’s another existential threat that gets a lot less attention: nuclear war. And a new study suggests it’s time to pay attention—and eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.

The study, published this October in Science Advances, warns that “rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals” could rapidly cause a “global catastrophe.” It examines the possible repercussions of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, but it’s relevant to anyone who lives on this planet—and especially in a heavily nuclear-armed country like ours.

The study paints a grim picture. In a conflict between Indian and Pakistan, it says, up to 50 million people would die if 15-kiloton weapons are used. Almost 100 million would die if 50-kiloton weapons are used. And about 125 million if 100-kiloton weapons are used.

American decision-makers at every level of government need to heed this study’s findings and work to advance commonsense policies to reduce and eliminate the nuclear weapons threat—before it eliminates us.

Casualties would occur not only in the nuclear explosions themselves, but also due to smoke emissions and other environmental damage resulting from the aftermath of a nuclear exchange.

Because of the dense populations of cities in Pakistan and India, even a war with the lowest-yield weapons could kill as many people as died in all of World War II. But unlike World War II, these casualties would occur within a single week.

“Perhaps for the first time in human history,” the authors conclude, “the fatalities in a regional war could double the yearly natural global death rate.”

The study’s release is particularly timely, given that India and Pakistan are currently locked in another tense standoff over Kashmir. But the authors also point out that their analysis could be used to model potential impacts of a nuclear war between any two nations.

Indeed, India and Pakistan aren’t the only countries increasing tensions and heightening the risk of a nuclear exchange.

A new nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia is giving young people like me a firsthand, time travel-free look at the Cold War era we were too young to experience. This year, President Donald Trump asked Congress to fund a new so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapon, which is touted as being “more usable.”

But if this study shows anything, it’s that no nuclear weapon should be considered “usable.” Any nuclear exchange anywhere is likely to have catastrophic consequences for the earth’s climate and human health everywhere.

The world can’t afford to ignore these disturbing findings, which emphasize the urgent need to prevent nuclear conflict and to reduce—and eliminate—nuclear arsenals.

Pakistan and India have only a fraction of the nuclear weapons possessed by the United States and Russia—and only a fraction of their potential destructive power. Right now, the United States and Russia are currently engaged in a super-high-stakes game of chicken of their own.

We’ve come very close to nuclear war in the past. Human health and survival are at stake in preventing what we cannot cure. No nation on earth can afford the catastrophic regional and global consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. 

There is no such thing as a small nuclear war. American decision-makers at every level of government need to heed this study’s findings and work to advance commonsense policies to reduce and eliminate the nuclear weapons threat—before it eliminates us.

Posted in USA, Europe, Environment, Politics, Russia0 Comments

Pesticides Trigger Cancer?

Carcinogenicity Assessment Flawed for Four Out of 10 Pesticides, New Review Shows. Irrelevant data used to dismiss tumours in animals exposed to pesticides

By GMWatch

Global Research,

A new review of carcinogenicity assessments of pesticide active ingredients shows 40 percent were not carried out in compliance with existing European guidelines, leading to possible continued exposure of farmers and consumers to cancer-causing pesticides.[1] In 30 percent of the cases, significant details were missing from the dossiers, raising uncertainties about how European authorities came to the conclusion they did.

The review, “Chronically underrated – A review of the EU carcinogenic hazard assessment of 10 pesticides”, released today by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Germany and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), analysed the carcinogenicity sections of the draft Renewal Assessments Reports (RARs) of ten pesticides.[2] The review, performed by senior toxicologist Dr Peter Clausing, focused on how the sections describing carcinogenicity studies in rats and mice in the EU assessment documents complied with the applicable guidelines and guidance documents of the EU and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Susan Haffmans, senior advisor on pesticides at PAN Germany, said,

“After discovering a considerable number of flaws in the carcinogenicity assessment of glyphosate, it was the logical next step to investigate whether similar problems occurred with other pesticides. Analysing these ten RARs has made it clear that at least three of the pesticides should have been classified as ‘presumed’ human carcinogens, rather than just ‘suspected’ human carcinogens.”

The carcinogenicity classification triggers the regulatory fate of a pesticide active ingredient. Pesticides classified as “suspected” human carcinogens can be marketed, while those classified as “presumed” human carcinogens cannot.[3]

The new review shows that:

  • For three pesticides, the outcome of Dr Clausing’s review was similar to that of the European authorities: chlorothalonil, diuron, forchlorfenuron;
  • For three pesticides, the outcome of Dr Clausing’s review differed from that of the European authorities and concluded that the classification should be upgraded: folpet, pirimicarb, and thiacloprid;
  • For one pesticide, Dr Clausing’s review found that severe data gap should have been identified by the European authorities and a flawed decisive carcinogenicity should not have been accepted: phosmet;
  • For three pesticides, Dr Clausing’s review found that reports were not sufficiently informed to allow any conclusive external review: captan, chlorpropham, and dimoxystrobin.

Abuse of historical control dataThey Profit, We Die: Toxic Agriculture and the Poisoning of Soils, Human Health and the Environment

The new review found – in line with the long-standing concerns of GMWatch – that the most frequent flaw in carcinogenicity assessments was the abuse of historical control data. Historical control data are drawn from control animals in experiments other than the one under examination, carried out at different times and in different conditions. Due to the large number of variables introduced by these differing conditions, the data obtained from historical controls cover a very broad range of values.

In the abuse of such data identified by the new review, this broad range of values was wrongly used to state that any cancers seen in the animals exposed to the pesticide fall within this range and thus do not represent a real carcinogenic effect of the pesticide.

According to good scientific practice and official guidance set by the OECD for regulators to follow, the most valid control group is the one within the experiment under examination – and historical control data should not be used to dismiss tumours found in treatment (exposed) groups of animals. An exception can be made in certain highly restricted circumstances, but these hardly ever apply in such cases of invalid dismissals.

Specifically, the new review found that historical control data were wrongly used by industry and regulators to dismiss study results for dimoxystrobin, folpet, phosmet and pirimicarb.

Rise of cancer

Genon K. Jensen, Executive Director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) commented,

“The current rise of non-communicable diseases including cancer means that Europe cannot afford the health price of flawed pesticides classifications. Committing to a rigorous implementation of European laws should be a founding block of reaching Europe’s zero-pollution objective to prevent diseases and protect people, starting with farmers, from substances toxic to their health.”

PAN Germany and HEAL called on the European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen to pay particular attention to a more rigorous application of existing pesticide legislation and guidance documents. In her recent confirmation hearing at the European Parliament, the Commissioner-designate for health Stella Kyriakides already agreed Europe needs to reduce dependency on pesticides and stimulate the take-up of low-risk and non-chemical alternatives.[4]

Posted in Education, Environment, Health0 Comments

Trump EPA’s Review Fails to Acknowledge Paraquat Weed Killer’s Links to Parkinson’s Disease

Agency Considers Reapproving Lethal Pesticide Banned in Much of World

By Center For Biological Diversity

Global Research,

The Environmental Protection Agency today released two scientific analyses of paraquat that detail the weed killer’s lethal risks to humans and wildlife but discount its strong links to Parkinson’s disease.

The agency opened a 60-day comment period on the assessments, which are part of a reapproval review for the pesticide. Paraquat is banned across much of the world but used widely and in growing amounts in the United States. By law all pesticides must be reapproved by the EPA every 15 years.

“A pesticide this toxic has no place near our food or the people who help to grow and harvest it,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA should follow the lead of nearly every other major agricultural country in the world and ban this dangerous stuff for good.”

The EPA’s analysis discounted considerable evidence that paraquat has been shown to more than double the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in farmworkers and others suffering occupational exposure.New Study: United States Uses 85 Pesticides Outlawed in Other Countries

A separate environmental analysis estimated that approved uses of the pesticide could expose small mammals like chipmunks and bats to more than 600 times the levels known to cause reproductive harm. The analysis found that small songbirds are potentially being exposed to more than 50 times the concentration known to cause death.

Paraquat is one of only two pesticides still used in the United States that is either banned or being phased out in the European Union, China and Brazil. From 1990 to 2014 there have been 27 deaths and more than 200 incidents of harmful exposure involving paraquat in the United States. There has also been at least one death from paraquat ingestion in the United States each year since 2012.

Despite this paraquat use in the United States is higher than it’s been in the past 25 years, with use rising nearly 200 percent since 2009. The increase has been triggered by its use on superweeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, commonly sold as Bayer’s Roundup.

U.S. farmers currently use more than 8 million pounds of paraquat each year, including on peanuts, citrus, wheat, soy, corn, almonds, artichokes, garlic, pears, strawberries, grapes and sweet potatoes.

“It only takes a teaspoon of paraquat to kill a person, so it’s clear 8 million pounds of this stuff is doing extreme harm to our health and the environment,” said Donley.

In July U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation to ban paraquat.

Posted in Environment, HealthComments Off on Trump EPA’s Review Fails to Acknowledge Paraquat Weed Killer’s Links to Parkinson’s Disease

U.S. war machine pushes the planet toward climate catastrophe

By Marcus Nells

This article is based on a talk given at the August 24 “Eco-Socialism Conference: For the Planet to Live, Capitalism must End,” hosted and organized by the Albuquerque branch of the PSL.

Anyone concerned with climate change and the ecological crisis we face has to be concerned with the United States military for several reasons.

The most obvious reason is that the U.S. military’s carbon footprint is gigantic. If the U.S. military was a country, it would be a bigger greenhouse gas emitter than 140 other countries, and there’s only 195 countries in the world!

This should not come as a surprise. It takes a lot of oil and gas to keep the U.S. empire’s 800 military bases running, not to mention their navy and air fleets which are scattered across the globe. In 2017 alone, the military purchased 260,000 barrels of oil per day. Just one of its jets uses about 3,334 gallons per hour, about what the average car driver uses in seven years.

On top of that, U.S. military bases—both foreign and domestic–are among the most polluted places in the world. Jet and rocket fuel frequently contaminate sources of drinking water and aquifers, like right here in Albuquerque, NM. All three military bases in New Mexico have contaminated the water in nearby areas, and all three have refused to correct the problems. The U.S. Navy recently dumped 94,000 gallons of hazardous fuel into a Virginia waterway that empties straight into the Atlantic Ocean.

Retired congressperson John Dingell recently stated that, “almost every military base in the U.S. is contaminated.” In fact, the military has 39,000 contaminated sites on over 19 million acres of land in the United States alone! Nine hundred of those sites are designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as Superfund sites. And we haven’t even begun talking about the bases outside of the United States.

The Department of Defense produces more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.

The United States has conducted more nuclear tests than all other countries in the world combined. These tests have made parts of the planet almost uninhabitable, like parts of the Marshall Islands.

What is worse than the U.S. empires far flung bases are their actual wars. From the so-called Indian Wars to the genocidal war against Iraq, the U.S. military leaves a path of destruction that endures for generations, from the annihilation of native ecosystems and agricultural systems to the physical liquidation of millions of human beings.

It is abundantly clear that the U.S. military is the most destructive force, militarily and environmentally, in the world.

While the U.S. military is the single largest organizational consumer of hydrocarbons in the world, recently it has been running around boasting about “greening” some of its operations. No one should be fooled by this. We know that the answer isn’t a green capitalist war machine. The answer is no capitalist war machine!

To understand why a green war machine is not part of a response to climate change, we have to understand what the ruling class mobilizes the military for in the first place.

The U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are deployed for one reason and one reason alone: to threaten, bully and punish any state or movement that exercises too much independence and dares to stand in the way of corporate profits. The military is the fist that allows the global system of capitalism to keep going. In other words, the military’s function is to preserve the system of accumulation and exploitation that is destroying the planet. Greening it won’t change it’s function.

If the effects of climate change are not reversed, it will lead to greater instability, which will bring a militarized response from the ruling elites. They are building walls around the United States to keep the global masses out. They are arming themselves to the teeth to preserve the United States at the center of global power in scenarios of global climate crisis. The military budget annually is now almost $1 trillion. A new scramble to dominate and exploit the resources opened up by receding ice and permafrost is now underway.

This preparation for conflict is giving rise to a new arms race. The U.S. is withdrawing from all Cold War era weapons treaties. They are upgrading their nuclear stockpile and weaponizing space. This is very serious.

The potentially devastating impacts from climate change mean we have to radically reorganize society so that working people are in charge, not the rich, and we must do this quickly! There is no way to fathom a path toward climate justice, sustainability and people’s power without taking on the global security threat of the U.S. military.

Posted in USA, EnvironmentComments Off on U.S. war machine pushes the planet toward climate catastrophe

Why Greta Thunberg Inspires Me

I appreciate her reliance on scientific evidence, her unique and direct form of communicating and simplifying complex issues and the way she models a low-carbon lifestyle.

by: Rachel Plotkin

The Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has become an inspiration to millions of people for a multitude of reasons. (Photo: Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)

The Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has become an inspiration to millions of people for a multitude of reasons. (Photo: Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)

Some of my best moments this summer involved swimming across lakes. Despite how much I love the long-distance exercise, each swim was preceded by a ridiculous amount of time standing on the shore, working up the momentum to dive in. My mind knew the swims would be wonderful and refreshing, but every time my body somehow failed to translate that into action for almost as long as it took to do the swimming.

The Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has become an inspiration to millions of people for a multitude of reasons. But what I personally love about her is the way she highlights that moment between thinking and putting her being into motion.

I appreciate her reliance on scientific evidence, her unique and direct form of communicating and simplifying complex issues and the way she models a low-carbon lifestyle. But, it’s the image of Greta, who at the age of 15 painted a sign and walked to the Swedish parliament to sit alone in an effort to raise awareness about climate change, that swells my heart. It captures a moment of turning fear for the future into physical action.

I’m an activist myself, although I haven’t always been.

In my 20s, when I began to realize the impact that my own mainstream life was having upon the planet, I felt overwhelmed. All I wanted to do was hide under the covers.

It was actually a failed protest that first showed me the power of activism. The mere act of putting my body into motion on behalf of what I cared about, and being with other people who did the same, made the weight I was carrying feel immensely lighter.

To loosely quote the American writer Wendell Berry, we protest not only to have public success, but to preserve the qualities in our hearts and spirits that would be destroyed by acquiescence.

Greta’s school strikes have touched the world and sparked an international movement. They have raised the profile of the climate crisis to where it deserves to be: front and centre.

Most of my friends and family would not consider themselves to be activists. They have varying degrees of concern about climate change but don’t know what to do to address these concerns. They hope that technology will fix things or they turn away from the depressing issue, focusing instead on the many and varied challenges of day-to-day life.

To this end, Greta has given ordinary people concerned with the climate crisis a gift.

Greta and her peers have invited adults to join the youth-led strike for climate action on Sept. 27.

The singer Joan Baez said action is the antidote to despair. This strike gives us a chance to come together as community and take physical steps together toward a more viable future.

Posted in USA, EnvironmentComments Off on Why Greta Thunberg Inspires Me

Plastic Apocalypse: Alarming Levels of Plastic Found in Children

By Zero Hedge

Global Research,

New studies are being published that detail high levels of dangerous microplastics had been detected in some of the most remote regions of the world. Another study warned microplastics are turning up in human stool. Now there are new reports that show high levels of microplastics have been found in blood and urine samples of children. 

The study, conducted by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute, found an alarming 97% of blood and urine samples from 2,500 children tested between 2014 and 2017 had traces of microplastics.

Der Spiegel, the German weekly magazine, published the findings over the weekend, which were part of a national study focused on “human biomonitoring” of 3 to 17-year-olds, found traces of 11 out of 15 plastic ingredients in the collected samples.

“Our study clearly shows that plastic ingredients, which are rising in production, are also showing up more and more in the body. It is really worrying that the youngest children are most affected as the most sensitive group,” Marike Kolossa-Gehring, one of the study’s authors, told the magazine.

Researchers found perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also used in cleaning products, waterproof clothing, food packaging, and cooking utensils, was present in the blood and urine samples.

Half the plastics ever produced have been made in the last 15 years, & the substance is taking over Earth: Researchers just discovered microplastic in the remote Arctic: https://t.co/PNSVoeLuTA

That’s bad, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. pic.twitter.com/EaKeFnWHiD
via WIRED

— Tomthunkit™ (@TomthunkitsMind) September 17, 2019

PFOA has been described as a dangerous chemical that is toxic to the liver. The EU will outlaw the substance next year.

In at least 20% of the 2,500 children tested, microplastics were above safe government limits. Children from low-income regions were more susceptible to ingesting plastics than ones from the middle class and wealthy areas.

“It can not be that every fourth child between the ages of three and five is so heavily burdened with chemicals that long-term damage cannot be reliably ruled out,” said Hoffmann, adding that “the Federal Government must make every effort to protect people from harmful chemicals.”

Der Spiegel said the study hadn’t been published, and the results were only made available by the government upon request by the Green Party.

Hoffmann said there’s not enough research on how microplastics affect the body, and how exactly they’re ingested.

As far as environmental and health impacts of microplastics, these three studies could suggest a silent plastic apocalypse has infected Earth.

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All images in this article are from the authorUkraine Crisis Report: Violation of the Donbass Ceasefire Agreement, BRICS and IMF-World Intervention

Posted in EnvironmentComments Off on Plastic Apocalypse: Alarming Levels of Plastic Found in Children

‘World Has Never Seen a Threat to Human Rights of This Scope,’ UN Rights Chief Says of Climate Emergency

“The window of opportunity for action may be closing—but there is still time to act.”

byAndrea Germanos

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, listens to the meeting introduction before delivering opening remarks while hosting a debate on key human rights issues in the country at ICS—Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa on April 29, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo: Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

“We are burning up our future—literally,” the United Nations human rights chief said Monday, as she called the climate crisis a “rapidly growing and global threat to human rights.”

In fact, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, “The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope.”

Bachelet’s warning came in her remarks to the Human Rights Council on the opening day of the body’s September session in Geneva.

No corner of the globe is untouched by the impacts of the warming planet, said Bachelet, noting that the crisis is already worsening hunger, conflict, and extreme weather. Among the current manifestations are the burning of the Amazon rain forest, the full impact of which “may never be known.”

While the fires’ impact may “catastrophic” on “humanity as a whole,” their worst effects, Bachelet said, “are suffered by the women, men, and children who live in these areas—among them, many indigenous peoples.”

The high commissioner also pointed to Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas last week. The storm “accelerated with unprecedented speed over an ocean warmed by climate shifts, becoming one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever to hit land,” she said, and took “a terrible toll on human life.” But worse could be yet to come for the Bahamas and other Caribbean nations, she said, as rising sea levels may submerge portions of the countries and unleash “an inestimable loss for humanity.”

Laying out some of the impacts of the crisis, she said:

WHO expects climate change to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050—from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone. In many nations, chaotic weather patterns and other manifestations of our environmental emergency are already reversing major development gains; exacerbating conflict, displacement and social tension; hampering economic growth; and shaping increasingly harsh inequalities.

Environmental human rights defenders are performing “a great service… to humanity,” said Bachelet, yet they face violence and abuse, particularly in Latin America. One activist she noted by name was Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. Bachelet said she was “disheartened” by the verbal abuse levied at Thunberg and other young activists, “who galvanize support for prevention of the harm their generation may bear.”

“The demands made by environmental defenders and activists are compelling,” Bachelet added, “and we should respect, protect, and fulfill their rights.”

Bachelet stressed the urgency of climate action, saying, “The window of opportunity for action may be closing—but there is still time to act.” She pointed to the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit later this month as a moment when states should commit to “the strongest possible action to prevent climate change, and to promote the resilience and rights of your people in dealing with environmental harm.”

“Effective action on climate requires bringing the uncommitted and unconvinced into a shared, just, and truly international effort,” said Bachelet. “Human rights can help galvanize that movement.”

Posted in Environment, UNComments Off on ‘World Has Never Seen a Threat to Human Rights of This Scope,’ UN Rights Chief Says of Climate Emergency

Nestlé and the Privatization of Water

Nestlé’s Power within the Swiss Government. Swiss Development Aid

By Franklin Frederick

Global Research

Last February, the Government of Switzerland announced the creation of a Foundation in Geneva, under the name ‘Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator’ (GSDA). The purpose of this new foundation is to regulate new technologies, from drones and automatic cars to genetic engineering, which are examples mentioned by the Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis at the public launch of this initiative. According to Cassis, new technologies are developing very fast and this Foundation must ‘anticipate’ the consequences of these advances for society and politics. The Foundation will also be a bridge between the scientific and diplomatic communities, hence its strategic placement in Geneva, which houses several international organizations, from the UN to the World Trade Organization.

Image result for Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

The Swiss Foreign Ministry will contribute 3 million Swiss francs – just over 3 million dollars – to the Foundation’s initial phase from 2019 to 2022. The city and the Canton of Geneva will each contribute 300,000 Swiss francs for the same period and contributions from the private sector are also expected.

As President of this new Foundation, the former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (image right) was chosen. The Vice-President is Patrick Aebischer, the former President of the Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology – EPFL is the French acronym. Patrick Aebischer has also been a member of the Nestlé Health Science Steering Committee since 2015, founded in 2011 by Nestlé and located right on the EPFL campus.

The choice of Peter Brabeck and Patrick Aebischer – both with strong connections to Nestlé – to run this new foundation has a very clear rationale. It primarily represents the recognition of Nestlé’s power within the Swiss Government – a former Nestlé CEO is, by definition, competent to drive this initiative. More upsettingly, Peter Brabeck’s choice is yet another example of the ever-closer “partnership” between governments and large transnational corporations, leading to the establishment of an international corporate oligarchy that is gradually taking over power within Western democracies.

Amply documented, Nestlé as a private corporate entity has battled various form of State regulation, the best-known case being the regulation of infant food marketing standards, particularly milk powder. The conflict between Nestlé under the direction of Peter Brabeck and the IBFAN – International Baby Food Action Network – is well known. (See the Muller report)

But the biggest irony – and the biggest danger – is that Brabeck’s choice to chair this Foundation indicates that the real purpose of this initiative is precisely to prevent any form of regulation by the government that might impose  limits on profits from the technological advances of the private sector.

It is also not expected that this Foundation will defend any protection of the public sphere or the environment against possible threats posed to society by new technological advances. On the contrary, Brabeck’s choice indicates that this Foundation’s primary objective is to defend and support  the private sector. What can be expected from this Foundation are proposals for self-regulation by the private sector in  cases of overly explicit conflicts, which is nothing effective. Since this Foundation is an initiative of the Government of Switzerland – certainly after talks with the private sector – and is located in Geneva, it will have an enormous influence  and I believe that organized social movements must carefully follow the future steps of this Foundation, as it embodies a huge threat to democracy.

Image result for Christian Frutiger

Just a few months after the launch of this new Foundation, the Government of Switzerland announced that Christian Frutiger (image left), Nestlé’s current Global Head of Public Affairs, will soon take over the Vice-Presidency of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC – which is the Swiss Government Agency responsible for development aid projects in other countries. Another example of the growing collaboration between the private sector and the government, but this time in a much more sensitive area: development cooperation.

This constitutes yet another example of the growing influence and presence  of Nestlé within the Government of Switzerland. This presence is neither new nor recent, and it is important to remember that the SDC not only supported the creation of the Water Resources Group – WRG – the initiative of Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Pepsi to privatize water, topics on  which I’ve written a few articles – (see this) as the SDC Director himself is a member of the WRG Governance Board.

The contradiction of the fact that Switzerland has one of the best public sanitation and water distribution services in the world, but uses Swiss citizens’ tax money to support water privatization in other countries through the SDC partnership with Nestlé, does not seem to be a problem.

The budget of Switzerland’s international cooperation for the period 2017-2020 is around 6.635 billion francs – a little over 6.730 billion dollars. As Deputy Director, Christian Frutiger will have a great deal of influence over decisions regarding the application of part of this budget. Most importantly, as Deputy Director, Frutiger will be directly responsible for the SDC’s ‘Global Cooperation’ Division and for the WATER program. Christian Frutiger started his career at Nestlé in 2007 as a Public Affairs Manager after working at the International Red Cross.

In 2006, Nestlé’s “Pure Life” bottled water brand became its most profitable brand and in 2007, with the purchase of the Sources Minérales Henniez S.A. group,

Nestlé became the leading company in bottled water within the Swiss market. In 2008, just a decade after its release, “Pure Life” became the world’s top-selling brand of bottled water. Within this context, it was only natural that Christian Frutiger’s work at Nestlé should focus on the topic of WATER.

In 2008, the Nestlé espionage scandal broke out in Switzerland. A  Swiss TV journalist denounced in a program that Nestlé hired security firm SECURITAS to infiltrate spies within Nestlé-critical groups within Switzerland, particularly the ATTAC group. Proven espionage took place between 2002 and 2003 but there is evidence of spying until 2006. ATTAC filed a lawsuit against Nestlé and SECURITAS, and in 2013, the Swiss court finally condemned Nestlé for organizing this espionage operation, indicating the involvement of at least four company directors in the operation.

The fact that Nestlé organized an illegal espionage operation within Switzerland and was condemned by the Swiss courts for doing this had no effect on the company’s relations with the Swiss Government and especially with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, as one would expect. No one asked Nestlé’s CEO Peter Brabeck then if his company was capable of such actions within Switzerland itself, what could we expect from the behaviour of the same company in other countries of weaker democratic guarantees?

Infiltrating undercover agents under  false identitites to spy the ATTAC gorup is, to say the least, grossly unethical. But it seems that ethics was not one of the criteria that the SDC took into account when hiring Christian Frutiger who, throughout this episode, kept silent, never apologized to the people who were spied on by the company he worked for, and did everything to minimize the impact of the problem, which means that he complied with his employer’s lack of ethics. But the appointment of Frutiger as Deputy Director of the SDC points to much deeper and far-reaching problems, especially with regard to WATER, as it seems clear to me that his choice for this position is all about this topic.

Peter Brabeck’s appointment to chair the new foundation of the Swiss Government in Geneva and Christian Frutiger’s appointment as Vice-President of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation reveal a link between the private sector and the Swiss Government to deepen the privatization policies – especially water – and corporate control over public policies. But this articulation goes beyond the Government of Switzerland, it will take place above all at the level of the international agencies and organizations present in Geneva as Christian Frutiger will be responsible for the contacts with many of these organizations. These new roles also indicate that the transnational corporate sector is very consciously organizing and articulating itself at various government levels to ensure that its demands and policy proposals are met.

Not much reaction from the major Swiss NGOs should be expected in the face of all this, especially as SDC is the main financier of almost all of them, which explains the deep silence around Nestlé and its actions within Switzerland. A recent example of this silence occurred in Brazil at the World Water Forum held in Brasilia in March 2018. Since this Forum is in fact the Forum of large private enterprises,

Nestlé and WRG were present within the official Swiss pavilion, along with organizations such as HELVETAS, HEKS/EPER and Caritas Switzerland, three of Switzerland’s largest private development agencies and all supported by SDC. HEKS/EPER – which are German and French abbreviations – is linked to the Protestant Church of Switzerland, as Caritas Switzerland is linked to the Catholic Church.

During the Forum, 600 women from the Landless Movement occupied Nestlé’s premises in São Lourenço, Minas Gerais for a few hours, to draw attention to the problems caused by the company and the water bottling industry. None of these Swiss organizations expressed any solidarity with the Landless Movement, none condemned Nestlé’s practices, nor did they even mention on their return to Switzerland that this occupation had taken place. But HEKS/EPER and Caritas Switzerland claim to fight for the human right to water and “support” social movements – but not when they stand against Nestlé. In São Lourenço, located in the Circuito das Águas region in MG, and in many other places in Brazil, there are problems with Nestlé’s exploitation of water and citizen’s movements trying to protect its waters. HEKS/EPER has an office in Brazil but has never approached the groups that fight Nestlé in Brazil.

The SDC does not consider problems with Nestlé in many parts of the world – not just in Brazil – as a reason to re-evaluate its partnership with the company. There are very well-documented problems with Nestlé’s bottling operations and water pumping in the U.S.A, Canada, and France, for example – countries considered to be established democracies. What is common among all of these countries is that the governments always stand in favor of the company and against their own citizens. In the town of Vittel, France, the situation is absurd: studies by French government agencies indicate that the aquifer from which the Vittel population draws its water and from which Nestlé also collects bottled water as “VITTEL” is at risk of depletion. The aquifer is not in a position to withstand the long-term demands of the local population and Nestlé’s bottling company. The solution proposed by the French authorities: to build a pipeline about 50 km long to seek water in a region neighboring Vittel to meet the needs of the population – leaving Nestlé free to exploit the Vittel aquifer waters!

In Wellington County, Canada, a local group called Wellington Water Watchers was created to protect its waters from Nestlé exploration, which has the support of the local government to renew its permission to continue bottling water. In Michigan, U.S.A, the problem is similar. None of this seems to bother the Swiss Government, the SDC, or Christian Frutiger – and if such problems occur in these countries, what couldn’t happen in countries that are much more fragile in their social and political organization? As current Head of Public Affairs of Nestlé, Christian Frutiger has done his best to ignore completely the problems created by his employer in many countries.

As I write, Europe is suffering from an intense heat wave. There is water rationing in France, and fire hazards in many places. Big cities like Paris suffer from record-high temperatures never recorded before, and water consumption only tends to increase. On the other hand, glaciers are melting at an increasing rate and water is becoming increasingly scarce. Groundwater sources, many of them fossil water, are an important reserve for the future and should remain untouched. But the greed of bottling companies like Nestlé are acquiring more water sources. The picture is the same all over the planet – the remaining unpolluted waters are increasingly in the hands of a few companies.

In Brazil under the Bolsonaro government, the situation is even worse, with an environmental minister whose task is to facilitate the taking of Brazilian natural resources by foreign capital. It is important to remember that the main shareholder of the AMBEV group is the Swiss-Brazilian citizen Jorge Paulo Lemann, who has excellent communication channels with the Swiss Government. AMBEV is also part of the WRG which has already opened its first office in Brazil to support the privatization of SABESP, the public water company in the state of São Paulo. (see more here).

What is happening in Switzerland is just the tip of the iceberg – the visible part is the international articulation of big corporations, and the taking over of public space for political decisions by the world corporate oligarchy. We have to be vigilant and well organized to defend our waters, our earth and our society from the corporate attack on the common good.

Posted in EnvironmentComments Off on Nestlé and the Privatization of Water

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