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The Arctic Sunrise has been seized. Here’s why:

The message is clear: Norway, it’s time to choose people over oil. 35 activists from 25 countries around the world are in the Barents Sea to demand an end to Arctic drilling.

Greenpeace activists protest Arctic oil drilling 17 Aug, 2017 © Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace 

Today, activists from the Arctic Sunrise on inflatable boats and kayaks entered the exclusion zone of Statoil’s Korpfjell well, Norway’s most northern oil drilling site to date, and attached a giant globe to the rig Songa Enabler.

The globe carried written statements from people from all over the world, with a message to the Norwegian government to stop the oil drilling.

Globe with messages from people around the world urging the Norwegian government to end its Arctic oil expansion. 17 Aug, 2017  © Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

The activists halted the operation of the rig, and after several hours of demanding an end to the drilling in the Arctic, the Norwegian Coast Guard interfered with the peaceful protest, arresting the Arctic Sunrise ship, the activists and crew members.

Norwegian Coast Guard arriving to seize the Arctic Sunrise and arrest activists and crew members 17 Aug, 2017 © Greenpeace

Just 10 days before ratifying the Paris Agreement, in June 2016, the “environmentally friendly” Norwegian government granted new oil licenses. Now, a year later, Statoil has just started to drill for oil in the northernmost area ever licensed by Norway.

4 people in kayaks have reached Statoil’s rig, the Songa Enabler. They are bringing a huge globe with messages from people around the world urging the Norwegian government to end its Arctic oil expansion. 17 Aug, 2017  © Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

But this won’t stop us. It’s time to get ready for our new battleground: the courtroom—where Greenpeace Nordic, together with Nature and Youth, will face Actic Oil this November.

With your witness statements we will achieve it. Add your name to the more than 350.000 others and become part of the evidence that the people know a better world is possible.

Diego Gonzaga is a content editor for Greenpeace US.

The world is on fire

A huge wildfire is raging in Greenland. 150 km from the Arctic Circle and just 50 km away from Greenland's ice sheet, large swathes of tundra have been burning for over a week.

Nobody has seen anything like this in recent times.

Sentinel-2 imagery from 3 August,  Anton Beneslavskiy

Satellite imagery of Greenland, 50 km from the ice sheet, 3rd August 2017

In the last few years, catastrophic fires have been increasing around the world. From Indonesia to Canada, across South America and Africa, from Southern Europe into Siberia, and now Greenland too. Many are fatal. 

As you read this, over 1.6 million hectares of Russia are on fire. Forest fires of this scale are unmanageable and blazes like these have become the new normal in Russia.

Forest Fires in Siberia, 2014Forest fires blazing in Siberia, 2016

Why do they keep getting worse?

Lack of forest management, insufficient funds for prevention and firefighting are partly to blame. But climate change is the real problem. The fire season in the boreal forests is getting longer every year. Hotter, drier weather spells make fire spread faster.

Fires like these aren’t just devastating because of the loss of forests, they also directly contribute to furthering climate change. As well as being massive emitters of carbon dioxide, satellite images show how the smoke from forest fires in Siberia travels north and reaches the Arctic. Black carbon pollutes the ice and makes it melt even faster.  

Smoke from forest fires in Siberia on August 7 satellite image (MODIS imagery by Terra and Aqua satellites processed by NASA)Smoke from forest fires in Siberia on 7th August 2017, NASA satellite image

It’s a feedback loop of destruction. Increased wildfires lead to more rapid climate change which in turn, leads to more wildfires.

Forest fires are one of the most significant sources of CO2 emissions after fossil fuels. We can’t afford to ignore this problem if we want to effectively stop climate change.

 Volunteers are fighting fire in the Republic of Buryatia, Russia in 2016, Maria Vasilieva/GreenpeaceVolunteer firefighters in Russia, 2016 

The impact of wildland fires on climate change hasn’t been properly acknowledged yet. The global threat posed by wildfires is underestimated. If we want to win this fight, we need to change government policies and raise the public's perception of the problem. That starts with awareness. Share this blog to make the world listen.

Why are there pesticides in our eggs?

In case you missed the news this week, here’s what we know so far: during the first week in August, the Dutch food safety authority (NWMA) announced that they discovered tens of thousands of eggs contaminated with fipronil - a toxic anti-lice pesticide, banned in food production in the EU. Dutch and Belgian police have since made arrests at the homes of buyers of the fipronil-laced pesticides.

Eggs in ALDI Supermarket in Germany

Millions of eggs could be contaminated. The full extent isn’t known yet, but 180 Dutch farms have been temporarily closed and major German retailers like Lidl and Aldi have been pulling eggs off their shelves. Authorities in Germany are testing other products made with eggs; like pasta, mayonnaise and cakes.  

This is just the latest in a long-line of global food safety crises. Industrialised farming has been linked time and time again to outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, listeria, bird flu, swine flu and Mad Cow disease.  

Dutch and Belgian authorities may have known about the egg contamination two months ago, but the public is only learning about it now. Why did they take so long to react?

This is the result of a greedy industrial system bending the rules because of poor government oversight. We exist in a broken food system where suppliers cut corners at the expense of public health just to make more profit. Outbreaks like these seem to be happening more and more. All of this points to a deep-seated disease in the industrial agricultural system.

Chicken farm in Northern Germany.

Our insatiable demand for beef, pork, dairy and eggs has created a massive industrial livestock system globally that’s about high volume at any cost. Too often, that system needlessly puts public health at serious risk. It fosters inhumane conditions for animals, encourages runaway deforestation for feed and grazing, causes pollution of rivers and oceans and contributes massively to the climate crisis. It is a disaster for our planet.

The solution is not just avoiding this product or that product. The best way to protect ourselves and our families from outbreaks is to change this broken system once and for all. We need more transparency. Authorities must put public safety and consumer protection above all else.

We can all play our part. Find out where your food comes from. Read what the label says. Try to buy from trusted ecological farms, retailers or markets. Grow more of your own food, if you can. Eat fewer animal-based products like beef, pork, dairy and eggs, which are often linked to these food scares. Embrace a diverse diet with more plant-rich food.

Ecological Farm in Slovakia

Together, we can fix food.

Christiane Huxdorff is a sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Germany’s Food campaign.

Davin Hutchins is a senior campaigner with Greenpeace International’s Meat and Dairy campaign based in the United States.

72 years after Hiroshima, where is Japan’s...

Even with the passing of the UN’s Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, Japan still remains an outlier, betraying the hopes of atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It started with just 12 of them. With a bold mission, this group of activists set sail to Amchitka island off Alaska to protest the detonation of an underground US nuclear test. It was September 1971, and though the mission was initially unsuccessful, it was the beginning of what became Greenpeace, and just one of the many issues – the elimination of nuclear weapons - that the environmental organisation would campaign endlessly against.

The “original” Greenpeace crew on-board the Phyllis Cormack on their voyage to Amchitka Island The “original” Greenpeace crew on-board the Phyllis Cormack on their voyage to Amchitka Island

Fast forward to 2017, and what was once a hard-fought battle and one of Greenpeace’s legacy issues, has now become a successful defeat. On 7 July, the United Nations adopted the "Nuclear Weapons Treaty" with an overwhelming majority - an epoch-making agreement that prohibits not only the development, experiment, manufacture, possession, and use of nuclear weapons, but also the "threat to use". Nuclear and chemical weapons, and anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs were also banned. The Treaty will be open for signature by states on September 20th.

To our disappointment, however, Japan did not join the 122 countries, or two-thirds of the United Nations member countries, that stood up to stop nuclear weapons. The peculiar absence of Japan, whose preamble explicitly recognizes “unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) as well as those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons” begs explanation.  

Greenpeace activists hold up flags of the nuclear nations along with a 5 meter high mock nuclear bomb outside the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (1996)Greenpeace activists hold up flags of the nuclear nations along with a 5 meter high mock nuclear bomb outside the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (1996)

The Government of Japan expressed a concern that the Treaty that was negotiated only among non-nuclear weapon states could create “a more decisive divide” between the states with and without nuclear weapons. From a standpoint of realpolitik of the Cold War era, Japan is under an American nuclear umbrella, and as such, would violate a Treaty prohibiting the "threat to use" if it were to be a signatory. Therefore Japan sides with the nuclear weapons states (the US, Russia, China, France, UK, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries that rely on the US nuclear umbrella.

The adoption of this historic Treaty by an overwhelming majority of the UN membership, nonetheless, represents a hard-won victory for people such as the Hibakusha (Japanese word for the surviving victims of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), victims of American nuclear tests and their descendents, and grassroots activists who worked tirelessly against the European nuclear deployment and uranium mining in Australia. The Treaty is a long lasting legacy of their testimonies, protests and actions of the past decades, and keeps a hope alive for realization of the nuclear free world.

Protest at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. (2016)Protest at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. (2016)

Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima atomic bomb victim who now lives in Canada, told delegates of the Treaty negotiations:

"I want you to feel the presence of not only the future generations, who will benefit from your negotiations to ban nuclear weapons, but to feel a cloud of witnesses from Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

“We have no doubt that this treaty can – and will – change the world.”

Peace doves released on the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombingPeace doves released on the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing

On the 72nd anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, we stand in solidarity with the survivors and those across the world who have campaigned against nuclear weaponry and call for Japan to join the Treaty. The elimination of nuclear weapons has been the cause that Greenpeace campaigned so passionately and heavily for since 1971. As the only country in the world hit by a nuclear attack, Japan’s commitment to the Treaty would not only be a long-fought win for the country’s tainted history, but also an important step towards a future world that is ultimately safe and nuclear free.  

Yuko Yoneda is the Executive Director at Greenpeace Japan.

Scientists are telling BP and Total to stay...

One of the first images of the Amazon Reef 28 Jan, 2017  © Greenpeace

Researchers, naturalists, explorers and broadcasters are joining the call for oil companies to leave the Amazon Reef alone. The latest call to protect the reef came as an open letter highlighting the importance of this unique environment, and warning of the threat from an oil spill nearby.

BP and Total are trying to get permission to drill for oil near the Amazon Reef, but this group of experts called for the companies’ plans to be put on hold, saying that “The priority should be to protect the reef and surrounding waters in order to conduct further research.”

This letter adds more pressure on BP and Total to cancel their plans to drill. So far, over a million people have signed the petition against oil drilling near the Amazon Reef, and more than 29,000 people have written to BP’s CEO in protest.

A fascinating puzzle

One of the first images of the Amazon Reef 28 Jan, 2017  © Greenpeace

For ocean scientists, the Amazon Reef is a fascinating puzzle, full of new discoveries and surprising twists. In just a few days of exploring the reef, researchers believe to have found not only three potential new fish species , but also dozens more that had not been spotted in the area before.  Scientists believe the Amazon Reef is also home to large numbers of critically endangered fish—yet another reason why an oil spill nearby would be devastating to the environment.

This first expedition only covered a tiny fraction of the 600 mile-long reef, so with most of this ecosystem still unexplored, the biggest discoveries are likely still to come.


But BP and Total’s dangerous oil drilling plan could devastate this special place before we’ve had a chance to study it properly. There’s little evidence that the oil companies have taken the risk of a spill seriously, and they haven’t been able to show that they could deal with an accident in the strong currents and deep, murky waters near the mouth of the Amazon River.

Want to help stop BP and Total? Sign the petition to protect the Amazon Reef

Mal Chadwick is a digital campaigner for Greenpeace UK 

The UN just took a major step forward for...

I’ve just returned from a meeting of governments at the United Nations in New York, and come bearing even more exciting things than Duty Free gifts. The UN just took another step closer to a new Treaty protecting marine life on the high seas. The “high seas” are waters which don’t belong to  any one nation, but are  everyone's responsibility to protect. That may sound wishy-washy if you haven’t been following this as closely as me, but the implications are huge.

 Dolphins in Alboran Sea 12/07/2017  © Pablo Blazquez / Greenpeace Dolphins seen swimming in the Alboran Sea, 2017

This is an important step towards protecting half the surface of our planet.

With consensus that action needs to be taken, the next step is to develop this new Treaty that protects marine life in these waters; waters which cover two thirds of the world’s oceans. It’s a major agreement to aim for.

“The truth is, the sea has a special relationship with all of us.  It keeps us alive. But that relationship is now under threat as never before.” Said UN Secretary General Guterres earlier in June introducing the UN Ocean Conference. The progress made at that conference helped build the necessary resolve for action last week in New York.

It has been inspiring to see some of the poorer countries -- from the Pacific, to Africa, to Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean whose people’s ways of life, and in some cases, very existence is threatened by ocean degradation -- standing up to a handful of wealthy nations, which are profiting from the current lack of protection rules to pursue their short-term interests. Supported by European countries, Australia, New Zealand and even by previously skeptical nations such as Canada and Norway, the “Davids” of the ocean have been fighting till the very end against these few Goliaths, saying “enough is enough”. And they won.

Protest with Banner at Alboran Sea 12/07/2017 © Pablo Blazquez / Greenpeace Activists hold a banner that reads: "UN Act Now!", 2017

Being amongst the delegates at the meeting in New York, you could really feel the eyes of the world on proceedings, especially with young people on social media sending messages of hope and calling for urgent action for ocean protection and #OceanSanctuaries. We delivered many messages directly as a reminder of what this is all about: protecting our fragile blue planet for present and future generations. And they listened.

Now we need to conclude this “Year of the Ocean” with the UN General Assembly launching the negotiations for a new Ocean Treaty in 2018.

The science is clear, we have to act now. But after this week of seeing what people power can do,  with your continuing support I am confident that we’ll succeed.

Veronica Frank is a Political Advisor at Greenpeace international

Winning on the world’s largest tuna company...

It took two years of relentless campaigning and nearly 700,000 concerned people from around the world, but today we are sharing the good news that together we convinced the world’s largest tuna company to clean up its act!

Tuna giant Thai Union, which owns brands such as John West, Chicken of the Sea, Petit Navire, Mareblu, and Sealect, has committed to a series of changes to its business that will help to protect seafood workers, reduce destructive fishing practices, and increase support for more sustainable fishing. This marks a major shift for the corporation, and sends a signal to the entire fishing industry to do better for the oceans and seafood industry workers.

Greenpeace volunteers label John West tuna cans with "THIS IS NOT JUST TUNA" in a Tesco store to raise awareness of the #JustTuna campaign.Greenpeace volunteers label John West tuna cans with "THIS IS NOT JUST TUNA" in a Tesco store to raise awareness of the #JustTuna campaign.

How did this happen?

As the world’s biggest tuna producer, one in five cans of tuna sold globally are canned by Thai Union. Greenpeace’s global campaign to transform the tuna industry has included targeting its brands for several years through tuna rankings, along with assessments of foodservice companies, supermarkets, and other brands supplied by the company.

Almost two years ago, we launched a global campaign, calling on Thai Union to bring the tuna industry out of the shadows where a cycle of overexploitation, devastation and appalling labour practices flourish in the name of profit. Alongside our allies, unions, concerned members of the public and our supporters, we pushed the company toward a brighter future for our oceans, seafood workers and ocean-dependent communities.

From our ships on the high seas, to supermarkets, industry conferencesand company headquarters, thousands of people including massive labour unions and human rights organizations joined our call for Thai Union to source more sustainably and responsibly. Together, we pushed companies supplied by Thai Union to sell better products and commit to policies that help workers and our oceans, including tackling practices like transshipment that fuel illegal activity and human rights abuses.

Greenpeace activists delivered a global petition, representing over 680,000 individuals, calling on Thai Union to be a leader in sustainability and social responsibility by ensuring that their products and supply chains are free from human rights abuses and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices.Greenpeace activists delivered a global petition, representing over 680,000 individuals, calling on Thai Union for more sustainable tuna.

So how has Thai Union changed?

Thanks to the mounting pressure, starting immediately, the company will begin making the following changes across its global business.

  1. Reduce fish aggregating device (FAD) use by an average of 50%, and double supply of verifiable FAD-free caught fish globally by 2020. FADs are floating objects that create mini ecosystems and result in the catch and killing of many marine species, including sharks, turtles, and juvenile tuna.

  2. Shift significant portions of longline caught tuna to best practice pole and line or troll caught tuna by 2020 and implement strong requirements in place to help reduce bycatch. Longline vessels are known for catching and killing non-target species like seabirds, turtles, and sharks.

  3. Extend its current moratorium on at-sea transshipment across its entire global supply chain unless strict conditions are met by suppliers. Transshipment at sea enables vessels to continue fishing for months or years at a time and facilitates illegal activity.

  4. Ensure independent observers are present on all longline vessels transshipping at sea to inspect and report on potential labour abuse, and ensure human or electronic observer coverage across all tuna longline vessels it sources from. Much of the abuse that plagues fishing vessels takes place out of sight without authorities to report to.

  5. Develop a comprehensive code of conduct for all vessels in its supply chains to help ensure workers at sea are being treated humanely and fairly, beginning in January 2018.

An audit will be conducted by an independent third party next year to measure progress, and in the meantime, we will all be watching and waiting for positive results.

Greenpeace crew retrieve a FAD in the Indian OceanGreenpeace crew retrieve a FAD in the Indian Ocean

Calling on other major tuna buyers

Thai Union cannot and should not be taking this on alone. Not only will the vessels catching the fish need to fully cooperate for these commitments to turn into real action and positive change, but all major buyers and sellers of tuna need to recognize that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Supporting more sustainable and socially responsible fisheries, particularly those that are small-scale, is an essential part of any sound tuna sourcing policy. Customers should not have to choose between bad or better, all tuna should be responsibly-caught to help address the oceans’ overfishing crisis.

Thai Union’s commitment is not the end of the story to transform the fishing industry, but the continuation of a growing movement to stop out of control companies from wreaking havoc on ocean ecosystems and people’s lives. We need to continue to hold companies accountable and all do our part to reduce the threats to our oceans.

Sarah King is the Senior Oceans Strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

Want to help protect our oceans and push for better tuna fisheries? Urge your favourite brand or supermarket to ensure it’s sourcing more responsibly-caught tuna, avoid brands poorly rated in Greenpeace’s tuna rankings, eat less tuna to help struggling populations to recover, and when in doubt, choose vegan “tuna”- yes, that’s a thing!

Help us take the fight to the rest of the seafood industry and support all of Greenpeace’s important campaign work here.

Historic day at the UN: Nuclear weapons are now...

Today at the UN Headquarters in New York, a global treaty banning nuclear weapons has been adopted. 

This is an historic moment: according to the treaty, to possess and develop nuclear weapons is now illegal under international law.

ctivists release peace doves during the Hiroshima atomic bombing 60th anniversary in Japan, 2005. © Greenpeace / Jeremy Sutton-HibbertActivists release peace doves during the Hiroshima atomic bombing 60th anniversary. (2005)

The treaty will be open for signature by states on September 20th.

Over the last three weeks, 140 countries have engaged in final negotiations of the new treaty.  The nine states with nuclear weapons (US, Russia, China, France, UK, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) have been boycotting the meeting in an attempt to rob the process of its legitimacy. NATO members have also stayed outside of the negotiations, and on the wrong side of history. Their absence is sadly significant; unless a country ratifies the treaty, it is not bound by it. 

And yet, despite the efforts by nuclear armed states and those supporting them to derail negotiations, a significant milestone has been reached: the vast majority of UN member states have now declared that weapons intended to inflict catastrophic humanitarian harm are prohibited under international law. Up until today, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited in a comprehensive and universal manner. Biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions have all been previously banned and today, nuclear weapons joins this list of shame.

 Voting on the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. July 7, 2017. Credit: Xanthe Hall / ICANVoting on the treaty to ban nuclear weapons, UN, July 7, 2017 © Xanthe Hall / ICAN

The new treaty will make it harder for their proponents to describe nuclear weapons as a legitimate and useful means to provide security. It creates a global norm against nuclear weapons. This new norm will not only put pressure on nuclear-armed and non-nuclear weapon states to reject nuclear weapons permanently, it could also set the stage for future progress towards the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in nuclear armed states, should their domestic political situation change (read more about this here).

The text of the new treaty is blatantly clear: it prohibits states from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, or acquiring nuclear weapons; It prohibits states from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons. It prohibits states from allowing any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons in their territory. Read the full text here.

Greenpeace salute our civil society allies, led by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) who have been relentless campaigning to make this treaty - which was thought of as wild fantasy when it was first proposed - into a legal reality. We join their call for all governments to ratify the new treaty and join hands in ridding the world of this evil, and now illegal, human invention.  

When future generation look back on today’s decision, they will hopefully remember it as the moment when, finally, nuclear weapons were considered as a threat to security, not an avenue to it. From today onwards, the struggle will continue for the treaty to be ratified by all the world’s governments and for the thousands of nuclear weapons still in existence around the world, to be eliminated. It will be a long road but with a strong nuclear ban treaty in place confirming that nuclear weapons are illegal, today is a good day for peace.

Lyle Thurston, ship doctor on the first Greenpeace voyage, departing Vancouver in 1971, to halt nuclear tests in Amchitka Island. © Greenpeace / Robert KeziereLyle Thurston, ship doctor on the first Greenpeace voyage, departing Vancouver in 1971, to halt nuclear tests in Amchitka Island. 

Jen Maman is the Senior Peace Adviser at Greenpeace International

Violence against Indigenous peoples destroys...

In May this year, two brothers, Vázquez and Agustín Torres, were murdered near Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico. They were Wixárika (Huichol) leaders, working to preserve their land from incursion by cattle ranchers and drug cartels. This tragedy of greed and corruption serves as an alarm bell for activists attempting to preserve our natural world.  

Murdered Wixárika leader, Miguel Vázquez Torres (Photo by Nelson Denman) Murdered Wixárika leader, Miguel Vázquez Torres (photo by Nelson Denman) 

The worldwide crisis on Indigenous land is as urgent as climate change or biodiversity loss. Approximately 400 million Indigenous peoples, with 5,000 distinct cultures, represent most of the world’s cultural diversity. Their land is threatened by mining and logging companies, ranchers and farmers, oil exploration, and now by the drug cartels too.

In spite of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, few nations actually recognise the land rights of Indigenous peoples. Their land is lost to resource extraction without legally mandated prior informed consent. Since Indigenous lands contain vast biological diversity, these communities are fighting not only to preserve their cultures but also to preserve what is left of Earth's wild ecosystems.

Political capital in Mexico 

Miguel Vázquez Torres, commissioner of Wixárika public lands, and Agustín, an attorney in the land claim battle, were members of the Indigenous San Sebastian Teponahuaxtlán community. They led a campaign to recover 10,000 hectares, a meagre 4% of Wixárika ancestral lands. They had invited ranchers to engage in peaceful dialogue and had asked the Mexican government to provide security to avoid violence while resisting the cartels.

Drug cartels now infiltrate Wixárika land, seeking remote regions to grow illegal crops. In 2001, drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán confiscated Wixárika land for cannabis plantations. After El Chapo was captured in 2014, the Sinaloa and Nueva Generación (New Generation) cartels took over, and poppy plantations replaced marijuana, serving the US heroin market. Since ranchers and drug dealers shared the desire to eliminate Wixárika resistance, some believe the two groups collaborated in the violence.

During European colonisation, the 240,000-hectare Wixárika territory on the west coast of Mexico was confiscated, primarily by ranchers. Armed settlers, often assisted by police, have resisted Wixárika efforts to retrieve their land.

Wixárika (Huichol) community Sept. 22, 2016. (Photo by Abraham Pérez) Wixárika community during reoccupation of ancestral lands, Sept. 22, 2016 (photo by Abraham Pérez) 

After a 50-year struggle, Nayarit courts ruled to return 10,000 hectares of land to the Wixárika. Vázquez Torres set up a dialogue to ease the fear of ranchers and petitioned the government to create a transfer fund for ranchers, to avoid violence. When the government refused the fund and failed to provide security for the scheduled transfer, Wixárika leaders mobilized 1,000 community members to occupy a single abandoned farm.

Angry ranchers established roadblocks, trapping court officials, journalists and the Wixárika. Public lands commissioner, Santos Hernandez revealed that officials were afraid to travel in the region due to the threat of violence. "They [ranchers and cartels] are watching all of us and our families,” he told the Center For World Indigenous Studies. In January 2017, Isidro Baldenegro, an environmental leader in the Tarahumara community, was gunned down in Chihuahua.  

In the Mexican Congress, House Minority Speaker Clemente Castañeda's resolution for government security in the Nayarit/Jalisco region passed into law in February 2017, but to no avail. The government stalled. In May, Vázquez and Agustín Torres were shot and killed.

“We solicited the governor of the state," said Fela Pelayo, head of Jalisco congressional commission for Indigenous Affairs. "We said that the situation was delicate, and ... now, after eight months of inaction, we have two Indigenous leaders dead.”

“Indigenous people don’t represent political capital for the political parties," Vázquez Torres told a journalist before he was killed; "that’s why they don’t have us on their agendas.”

The human family

Munduruku Mother and Children Portrait in the AmazonMunduruku mother and her children in the Amazon 

All around the world, Indigenous people are fighting to protect their land. From the Sami in Scandinavia, to the Ainu of Hokkaidō in the Sea of Japan; from Tibetans and Mongolians occupied by China, to the Degar and Khmer Krom in Vietnam; from the Balinese, Sasak, Nuaulu and over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, to the Arctic Inuit, and thousands more on every continent.

Over 60 uncontacted tribal peoples remain in the Brazilian Amazon. Protecting their independence would also preserve millions of hectares of tropical rainforest. In the 1950s, land belonging to Guarani and Kaiowa peoples were sold for plantations. Reduced to living in poverty in cities and settlements, the suicide rate among Indigenous Peoples rose to 22 times that of other Brazilian citizens. When Guarani and Kaiowa people returned to live on their ancestral land in 2004, loggers, ranchers and farmers attacked them. In 2011, elder Nizio Gomes was shot and killed. 

In 1964, Texaco (now Chevron), discovered oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They began drilling in 1967. Twenty-five years later, they left behind a nightmare of contaminated water and land, causing rates of cancer to increase among the Indigenous population. The Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa and Huaorani peoples launched a 30,000 member class-action lawsuit against Texaco in 1993. In 2014, after 20 years in court, the plaintiffs won a $9.5 billion judgement in Ecuador's highest court. Chevron bought Texaco, left Ecuador, and refused to pay the judgement. The case was dismissed in a US court, but earlier this year the case against Chevron moved to Canada. Chevron has spent $2 billion on lawyers to defend themselves, but not one cent has gone to their Indigenous victims.

The Guarani and Wichi people of Argentina have survived conquistadors, slave traders, missionaries, juntas and death squads. In 2004, they took on big business too. The governor of Salta, in northern Argentina, Juan Carlos Romero, granted permission to bulldoze and burn 18,000 hectares of previously protected forest for soy plantations, on behalf of agribusiness giants Monsanto and Cargill. The Wichi and Guarani people invited Greenpeace to help them restore their homeland.

 Forest Action Against Deforestation in ArgentinaIn Argentina, a forest area the size of a football pitch disappears every three minutes.

I travelled to Argentina in the summer of 2005 for the campaign and witnessed an entire horizon ablaze with fires. Ranks of bulldozers swept across the land like wartime tank divisions, obliterating the home of the Wichi people and the homes of fox, tapir, ocelot, jaguar, anteaters, wild pigs, toucan, raptors and parrots.

When the Wichi and Greenpeace occupied bulldozers and gained media attention, prominent celebrities stepped forward, including football star Diego Maradona, who invited Wichi elders onto his television show. In October, 2006, Argentina’s president, Néstor Carlos Kirchner, finally intervened to preserve the Wichi homeland. "We asked the president to put people and the forest ahead of multinational corporations," said Guarani campaigner Noemi Cruz. "For once, we won.”

Destructive development 

Political economists rationalise seizing Indigenous land for industrial development with the theory that this will lift people from poverty. In reality, industrial resource extraction drives people from modest, secure lives in productive ecosystems into poverty in urban slums, while the money flows to rich developers and multinational corporations.

Violence against Indigenous peoples reveals the limitations, perhaps complete failure, of the World Bank and free-trade economic theories. Globalisation has not benefited masses of people, but has widened the gap between rich and poor. The challenge of 21st century society remains to discover a credible, honourable balance among economy, ecology and social justice. 

COP21: UN Equator Prize to Munduruku Leaderships in ParisIndigenous leaders receive the Equator Prize during the COP21 in Paris

During the 2015 climate conference, a gathering of Indigenous leaders - Sami, Mongolian, Lakota, Salish and others - met outside Paris in the town of Millemont. In a statement to world leaders on "The Critical State of Our Mother Earth," they wrote:

"Our sacred Mother Earth – who gives life to all living things – is critically wounded, degraded, poisoned and depleted by the misguided activity of our human family. Colonialism, industrialism, consumerism and warfare are primary drivers of this relentless assault on our beloved Mother Earth...

“We must remind ourselves and our Human Family, through living, sacred prayers, songs, ceremony and our ancient prophecies, that Mother Earth is our sacred provider of life, not to be treated as an endless storehouse, a limitless dump for our waste, and to satisfy our appetite for the material dimension of life."

Wixárika leaders and brothers, Vázquez and Agustín Torres, gave their lives for this sacred prayer.

Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Resources and Links:

2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: UN

Huichol leader assassinations, 2017: Intercontinental Cry, Reuters, and Indianz.com.

Cartels: "En territorio huichol la siembra de amapola desplaza a la de cannabis," La Jornada

State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, 2010: UN report

Guarani-Kaiowa in Brazil, death of Nizio Gomes: Toronto Globe and Mail

Colombian army and settlers killing Guahibo people: London, New York Times News Service, 1973. British Petroleum buying army in Colombia: New York Times, 1996.

Paraguay genocide and slave trade: The Nation, Sept 24, 1973; Akwesasne Notes, Autumn, 1976; and Nationalia, June 2017

Canadian mining companies in Latin America: Global news, MiningWatch Canada, 2007

BP’s next disaster? Not on Spongebob’s watch!

BP are at it again. 

The company that devastated the Gulf of Mexico with its Deepwater Horizon disaster wants to drill for oil near the pristine Amazon Reef. What could possibly go wrong?  🤔

Home to pink corals, sunset-coloured fish and over 60 species of sea sponge, the Reef has been described as an ‘underwater rainforest’ near the mouth of the Amazon River - and we’re only just discovering how special it is.

But if BP’s extreme drilling causes a spill, it could spell disaster for the Reef and the wider area. We can’t let this happen.

So starting today, we’re turning up the pressure on BP - working together to defend the Reef from risky, spill-prone oil drilling.

And now we’ve got some help from an unlikely source. The Amazon Reef has a new champion - a celebrity advocate who’ll stand up to BP and fight for justice.

His name? Spongebob Squarepants. 


(Or watch on Youtube)

As a lifelong coral reef resident, Spongebob knows all about caring for our oceans - and he’s got plenty of campaigning experience too. And with over 60 species of sea sponge living on the Amazon Reef, for him this is personal.

So check out the video and share it far and wide - it’s a fun way to introduce new people to the campaign, and definitely not your run-of-the-mill Greenpeace message!

But the video is just the start. Over the next few weeks, we’ll work together to expose BP’s reckless drilling plan, and put pressure on them to leave the Amazon Reef in peace.

If you’re in, make sure you join the campaign at amazonreefs.org.

 Mal Chadwick is a Digital Campaigner at Greenpeace UK

Articles last updated at Aug 21, 2017 13:46:03pm.
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