grass-roots

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Philosophy, Politics and Historical Problems of Volunteering

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This is a general and quick post in response to Frequently Asked Questions about the problems of choosing where to invest one’s time and labour when volunteering in foreign places with good intent. It started as a reply to a comment – part of a long thread about a conservation project in the Amazon – then expanded slightly to become this first draft of a short reply to questions concerning volunteering.

Where and what is good agency put into which structures? It is an endless journey through the soul and the corridors of political thinking, philosophical reflection, historical recognition and ethical considerations – and it is also that first single step of your journey. It begins in the mind, unfolds in the imagination and will have a material impact on the place you go to.

Over the years we have spend a lot of time and energy helping people finding their ways in Ecuador and Peru, we have spend a lot of time suggesting projects, providing contacts and so on. However, in the end, people mostly go and do their own thing anyway. However, if you have only 4-6 months time and want to connect sooner, and should you really want to do something in or around Tena, Napo, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, or in San Francisco in Peru, and if working on a small scale and community level with people outside of NGO structures, doing down-to-the-ground, bottom-up work, with lovely families, if that is your thing, then do get in touch.

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Carbon Trading is Making a Killing and Destroying the Environment

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Press Release: Carbon Markets Violate Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Threaten Cultural Survival

“Indigenous Peoples are being forced to sign over their territories for REDD to the Gangsters of the Century, carbon traders, who are invading the world’s remaining forests that exist thanks to the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples,” denounced Marlon Santi, President of the CONAIE, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, one of the most powerful native organizations in the world. “Our forests are spaces for life not carbon markets.”

Indigenous leader kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to surrender carbon rights for REDD in Papua New Guinea

New York, USA — As carbon traders hawk permits to pollute at the Second Annual Carbon Trading Summit, Indigenous Peoples denounced that selling the sky not only corrupts the sacred but also destroys the climate, violates human rights and threatens cultural survival.

“Carbon trading and carbon offsets are a crime against humanity and Creation,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network. “The sky is sacred. This carbon market insanity privatizes the air and sells it to climate criminals like Shell so they can continue to pollute and destroy the climate and our future, rather than reducing their emissions at source.”

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In a permanent state of exception the Earth is to be a garden as a rule

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Assuming that there is a global crisis – financial, climate change and starvation – and assuming that something could be done about it – what would it be? The initial reaction has been to push for more of the same – more debts to be created in order to keep economic power in the same hands. Maybe a few policy changes to avoid too extreme corruption and self-aggrandisement, removal of some draconian measures, but that’s about it. Spend more, that is way to go. It sounds so simple and in a sense it is: wiping the rich people’s slates clean so that they can lend more money for the poor to spend. If it makes you think of spiralling further down into an abyss we’re on the same wave length.

In order, then, to get the American people to spend more money that they don’t have - the total outstanding credit card debt carried by Americans reached a record $951 billion in 2008, constituting a next level in the financial collapse of a system based on ever-increasing debt – president Obama is suggesting “a $410bn (£290bn) spending bill due to be voted on this week“. Part of this bill seeks to lift some of the extreme anti-Cuban legislation that was introduced during the administration of Bush the Second.

There is no doubt about it, Obama – the man in the White House – gives good speeches, but even an old World Banker takes note of the fact that Obama’s grand plan to save the world and “the hardest working people on Earth” (he says it as if it a good thing??) from their predicaments is insubstantial (These videos gives you an insight from the inside – if you really want to know about all the little sheenanigans of a failed system or just want to see the Emperor of the Free World sit before you in his shiny new clothes. Characteristic of times of crisis he looks and sounds like a rhetorical stooge with a nationalistic appeal “the greatest force of progress and prosperity [and climate change?!]“)

Anyway, the Cuban news is a tangent that invites viewing the world from a Latin American perspective.

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Seeds, sovereignty, and the Vía Campesina: Plants, property, and the promise of open source biology

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Colonos recommends this paper by Jack Kloppenburg, “Seeds, sovereignty, and the Vía Campesina: Plants, property, and the promise of open source biology“, prepared for the Workshop on Food Sovereignty: Theory, Praxis and Power, 17-18 November 2008, St. Andrews College, University of Saskatchewan, draft dated 22 November 2008, 34 pp.

Here is a very interesting excerpt (pp. 16-17):

“The specific mechanism Michaels goes on to propose is a “General Public License for Plant Germplasm (GPLPG)” that is explicitly modeled on the GPL developed by the FOSS movement for software.
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Food Energy Nexus: Livelihoods and Sovereignty

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Colonos would like to draw your attention to an interesting project by some good people unfolding in India, called Food Energy Nexus, which presents itself in this way:

“Millions of people living in the so-called developing world starved as the price of food soared in 2007-2008. Globally, the poorest are broadly women and children of colour, who were among the hardest hit by the rising food prices.

The drivers behind the latest food crises are complex with no single answer. But a range of actors including the IMF, NGOs, FAO has correlated biofuels with food price increases. Other factors have also significantly contributed to food price increases, such as increased demands for meat, supply dynamics, unseasonable droughts and rises in the price of oil.

netherlands_world_p_321169i

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Indigenous Mobilisation for Life – CONAIE Communiqués

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colonos is here reproducing two CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) updates in Spanish on the ongoing “mobilisation for life” which has brought thousands of indigenous activists, peasants and their allies onto the streets, walking from all over the country to the capital, Quito, in protest against the new Mining Law. As was to be expected, the demonstrations have been violently repressed, and at least four people, including a journalist, have been arrested in the North of Ecuador where clashes are said to have been most aggressive.

Please see the preceding post in this blog for an action alert.
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Mining Action Alert

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Action Alert: Ask the Ecuadorian Government to Protect Human Rights During Upcoming Anti-Mining Demonstrations

The Ecuador Solidarity Network, an organization based in Canada and the United States, is joining human rights and indigenous peoples organizations in calling on President Rafael Correa to respect human rights during nation wide protests against large-scale mining that will begin on Monday January 19th.

The protests will spread from the Amazon and reach Quito, Ecuador’s capital, on January 20th. Anti-mining protests earlier this month were met with police violence in the Southern provinces of Azuay, Loja, Zamora Chinchipe and Morona Santiago. A number of activists were beaten and detained, and one leader was critically injured after being shot in the head.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and a number of farmer and environmental organizations are protesting against the recent approval of a mining law by Congress, opening the country to large-scale metal mining. Canadian mining companies would benefit from many of the concessions. The CONAIE and other organizations contend that the new law will allow large-scale mining in protected areas and contaminate critical community water supplies. The CONAIE is also protesting against government plans to drill for oil in the Yasuni National Park, the rainforest home of two indigenous communities in voluntary isolation.

Following recent statements from the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH) and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the Ecuador Solidarity Network calls on activists around the world to support the human rights of protesters demonstrating against large-scale metal mining in Ecuador. The CONAIE emphasizes that the demonstrations will be peaceful and calls on President Correa to not use police or military forces against protesters.

E-mail President Rafael Correa and President of Congress Fernando Cordero and ask that the government take preventative action to ensure that protesters’ human rights are respected. We also denounce any attempt by right-wing organizations in the U.S. or Canada to opportunistically use the upcoming mobilizations to attack President Correa for motives that have nothing to do with indigenous rights or environmental protection.

Please send emails to:

Presidencia de la República, Presidente Rafael Correa:

presidencia @ presidencia . gov . ec

Presidencia Legislativa, Presidente de la Comision Legislativa y de Fiscalizacion, Fernando Cordero Cueva:

presidencia @ asambleaconstituyente . gov . ec

Please send a carbon copy of the messages to

ecuadorsolidarity @ gmail . com

Media Contacts:

Ecuador: Jennifer Moore, Ecuador Solidarity Network (593) 8-877-8928 / jenmoore0901 @ gmail . com

Canada: Jamie Kneen, Mining Watch (613) 761-2273

Correa’s Idiosyncracies, Ecuador’s Collectivities & Pachamama at Winter Solstice

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There has been a lot of talk around the world and colonos even get emails from students studying the “very interesting environmental aspect” of the new Ecuadorian Constitution, which gives (human rights-like) rights to Pachamama, which is an Andean (and in some part of the Amazon) term for Mother Earth. (It is derived from Aymara and Quechua.)

Inside Ecuador, however, there is a growing resistance to the project of Correa’s government, largely due to a lack of environmental sensitivity as perceived by the social movements – the environment is systematically subordinated to capital interest – and a lacking recognition of collective rights. Indeed, the new constitution stresses the sacred nature of private property, as has previously been quoted in a post in this blog about the ways in which the constitution was presented in a misleading (half arsed) manner by The Guardian (which should be an autogenerated links below if we’re lucky!?).

In other words, there is a large discrepancy between how foreigners, especially opportunist socialists and social-democracts, perceive and, importantly, choose to represent the politrix of Rafael Correa and his government and how social movements, from peasants through urban anarchists to the people of Amazonia, perceive and resist the programmes of Correa.

As noted again and again – central to much of the criticism we’ve been on about all along – the new constitution also weds Ecuador to the IIRSA project, which is a World Bank project for the integration of infrastructures in Latin America to make it easier for global capitalism to move resources (out), goods (in), labour (around) and people (out if they complain) for the purposes of profit maximisation, asphaltation, bridge building hysteria and river way raping. The Ecuadorian part of IIRSA is first and foremost the Manta-Manaus/Manaos corridor or node in the IIRSA network of commodity trails that threaten to severely further disfigure the Andes and put an end to the world’s largest rain forest, the Amazon or Amazonia.

Anyway, there are a few current articles that make for interesting reading to keep up to date on the Ecuadorian developments, led by the idiosyncratic Correa:

According to several current and former officials, Correa often makes impulsive decisions in isolation and is reluctant to listen to dissenting views.

“This government is all about Correa and he has closed all space for debate, leading many of us no choice but to leave,” said a close ally who still supports Correa but quit a top post over policy disagreements. “He is ending up alone surrounded only by people who tells him what he wants to hear.“”

Another article deals with financial issues, such as dollarization and the price of oil and how it all hangs together from the perspective of (wanker) financial science:

“Ecuador needs an oil price of $95 to cover all the spending in its budget, according to Barclays. The government had a surplus of $508 million in the first half of the year, Correa said Sept. 20.

“Correa’s only choice for growing the economy is the public sector,” said Bernal at Bulltick. “The lower the price of oil goes, the more the need for Correa to deliver on the fiscal front. Ecuadoreans will only live with Correa as long as they have expectations of growth.”

Then a really useful overview of things provided by an uncommon bed fellow of colonos, Socialist Worker:

“A MORE serious conflict is developing over government environmental policies that benefit mining companies. To crack down on anti-mining protests, Correa has ordered the use of brutal military force, a move bitterly condemned by the social movements.

Even Correa own coalition, Alianza País, is having internal contradictions. Recently, he issued a warning by declaring that he will dissolve the party if more internal infighting continues. He also took the opportunity to define his political project as “an ideological project of the nationalist left.”

But Correa’s nationalism is in opposition to indigenous people’s conception of their own nation, one that stretches across national boundaries from the Amazon to the Andean region. To the extent that indigenous people assert their historic claims to their lands, they are seen as a political threat by both multinational corporations and Correa.

The stakes in this conflict were raised on October 12–Columbus Day, traditionally seen as day of resistance by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In neighboring Colombia, indigenous groups staged a levantamiento (uprising) to protest government repression and demand more cultural and political rights. The uprising in Colombia inspired indigenous people and their allies throughout the region–including in Ecuador.”

There is also a short piece on Plan Colombia, which is part of the War on Drugs by the Evil Empire and therefore, one might hope, will face some sort of reforms under Obama bin Ltd., and, then, finally some sort of list by Reuter’s, who as usual has been pasting capitalistic-financial propaganda about all the horrible and out of order things anyone left of Henry Kissinger might dare to think or, God help it, act. Just read it in the inverse, as it were :)

Happy Winter Solstice!

winter_solstice

Climate Change Denial, Holocaust Denial: Death Sentences Through History

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There is a new movement of denials – although the Holocaust deniers are still around, the far right have found a new thing to deny – this time that the Earth is heating up due to excessive energy consumption and wars for more oil to burn going to more wars for more oil and gas and water control…

The Bush family – who made their fortune with great help of the Nazis – controls a huge region in Paraguay, neighbouring the Christian Tongil sect/movement’s leader, Mr. Moon, which is incidentally the second largest fresh water reserve on the planet and protected by the US military.

Now why do you think that they bought that? Because they like the Paraguayan countryside, or because they know that the water is running out? And how would they know that the water us running out? Well, their business models depend on oil and war and all those things that destroy the water, so it isn’t very difficult to see how that realisation came about. Even people like Bush might care for their own children. If they can make such decisions wittingly, then they can be tried for crimes against humanity, as NASA’s James Hansen, himself a conservative/republican, advocates.

This quick post was prompted by an incoming link from yet another climate change denier. I left a comment in the blog, but seeing as it was held for moderation I imagined that it might not pass the filtering process, so I better paste the comment here. It is a response to some distortion by a Conservative in the City, claiming that Al Gore started the advanced the environmental movements against climate change – which is either completely ignorant and dimwitted or a deliberate denial of history of social movements.

Ever since Gory Al produced his Toyota advertising piece, yes, indeed, there has been a scam moving across the planet suggesting to governments and people that we can produce and shop our way out of this predicament, if we just buy small Toyota cars and energy saving light bulbs.
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Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador

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This is a letter from some of the people that Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s neo-capitalist, authoritarian president, calls “infantile” and “romantic”, probably because they didn’t go to the fancy white man’s schools that the fine president attended to learn that most anti-human of trades called economics, which is some sort of brain washing thing where you are taught that the human being is an entirely self-interested, rational agent who just wants to go shopping and doesn’t care for her community.

The letter is from the Waorani women who are getting systematically killed by the oil industry, which is enjoying strong protection from the Ecuadorian state, led by Correa:

“Manuela Omari Ima, who is the new chairperson of Waorani women’s organization, Amwae, has first hand experience in the devastating consequences of oil exploration. “The indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been decimated in just a few decades,” she says. “The Waorani people alone numbered around 16,000 at the end of the 1960s, when the oil exploration began. Today, there are no more than about a thousand of us left… I don’t know how much longer we can survive under the current conditions. Perhaps the industry will out-live us – judging by how it has wiped out other tribal peoples in the Amazon. Maybe the earth will have nothing left to give when the companies leave.”

Altogether, an estimated 90% of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region of Ecuador have been wiped out over the past few decades, according to the FDA. Contamination from the oil industry, forced relocations, militarized violence and civilization-borne diseases are the critical factors behind the process of extinction.”

Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador

Lago Agrio, 6th of November 2008

We, as women, made this document in paper and in your language. We cannot speak to you because we live far away and because you don’t understand our language.

Look at this paper Mr. President, it contains our words, the words of the Waorani women.

We want to live in a large territory, our culture is based on a large territory, it is ours, not because the State decided so, but because God gave it to us, therefore we talk of our land, our children, our language. As our ancestors told us: without land, we cannot live.

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Reflecting on “Hope in Common”, by David Graeber

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This is a very nice and informative piece of writing. Not in need of an ideology or a reference to the right -ism, the message is ever so stronger. Colonos do, however, have a few reservations, but let’s save them for later and for now just enjoy Graeber’s musings on our current predicaments:

Hope in Common, by David Graeber

We seem to have reached an impasse. Capitalism as we know it appears to be coming apart. But as financial institutions stagger and crumble, there is no obvious alternative. Organized resistance appears scattered and incoherent; the global justice movement a shadow of its former self. There is good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism will no longer exist: for the simple reason that it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet. Faced with the prospect, the knee-jerk reaction—even of “progressives”—is, often, fear, to cling to capitalism because they simply can’t imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.

The first question we should be asking is: How did this happen? Is it normal for human beings to be unable to imagine what a better world would even be like?

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The Asian Brown Cloud: Global Climate Chaos and Tropical Glaciers

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The United Nations have released a report on the phenomenon dubbed as the Asian Brown Cloud, which is a thick soup of human waste engulfing Asia, and which has been widely reported:

“A dirty brown haze sometimes more than a mile thick is darkening skies not only over vast areas of Asia, but also in the Middle East, southern Africa and the Amazon Basin, changing weather patterns around the world and threatening health and food supplies, the U.N. reported Thursday.

The huge smog-like plumes, caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and firewood, are known as “atmospheric brown clouds.”

When mixed with emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for warming the earth’s atmosphere like a greenhouse, they are the newest threat to the global environment, according to a report commissioned by the U.N. Environment Program.”

In the report itself it reads:

“One of the most serious problems highlighted in the report is the documented retreat of the Hind Kush-Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers, which provide the head-waters for most Asian rivers, and thus have serious implications for the water and food security of Asia”

This taken together with the alarming development all over the world, but particularly with regards to tropical glaciers in South America, mainly Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, it is looking more and more like game over soon. There really isn’t much time left. The Asian Brown cloud, first reported on in 2002 has now grown to a full scale threat of immanent disaster. Water is running out, the Himalayan glaciers whose decay are accelerated by the Asian Brown Cloud feed around 2 billion people with water to drink and to grow crops. Now go figure…

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Raw Power: Correa’s Totalitarian, Industrial, Extractivist Ecuador

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Over the last few years Ecuador has been undergoing a series of transformations that misleadingly have been labelled as (neo-)socialism with an environmental sensibility. The main architect behind the project, which is really nothing other than industrialist, progressivist routines of old, is called Rafael Correa.

Slick, charismatic and essentially an authoritarian opportunist, yet European and U.S. journalists have either hailed him as a poster boy for 21st Century Socialism or warned against him for that very reason.

Nothing could be further from the truth (if it really is out there).

At best he is a social-democrat whore to heavy industry who calls environmentalists and indigenous peoples things like “extremists”, “romantic”, and “infantile” and strikes down upon their popular protests with military might in the best of capitalist manners:

“The people mobilized in Dayuma and were repressed. There was a mobilization in Cuenca against mining projects and the president got on the radio and said, ‘If twenty of these crazy ecologists are protesting, I’ll call 20,000, or 200,000, residents to confront them.’ What is this? What sort of regime is this? This is socialism of the 21st century?”

I shall not dwell much further on this issue of misleading labels – it is an obvious opportunism in itself and should serve as a warning against the writings of people like Greg Palast, who obviously forgot to investigate during his journalistic, jet set, in-out visit to Ecuador last Christmas (and who has seemingly also removed critical comments from the original article!).

The nature of Correa’s political project goes against the nature of the environment: one of his key projects, the Latin American integration project, IIRSA, will essentially destroy what is left of the Amazon. This has been addressed again and again by colonos with reference to the Manta-Manaus corridor and can easily be found by clicking around in this blog a bit or simply by googling IIRSA.

Correa’s political, rhetorical moves, however, are so smart that many people (unfamiliar with radical, grass-roots analyses) believe him and thus embrace his government and projects, but it is time to wake up for people outside of Ecuador to the realities that anyone working on grass-roots levels have known all along: there is nothing environmentally friendly about Ecuador’s new constitution, neither about its current government! Rather, Ecuador’s president – in himself – constitutes a severe threat to the Amazon!

Another clear example is ITT. The Taegheri and Taromenane peoples [in voluntary isolation] live in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini area. This is the Huaorani people’s territory. Ecuador’s indigenous people, in accord with international agreements and the 1998 constitution, asked for this area to be protected. The President, who is very intelligent, said, “Great. Let’s leave the oil underground and see how many countries will supplement the $500 million a year we would lose.” He knew that this would be very difficult to accomplish.”

Essentially we’ve here been summing up on what we have been reporting on for more than two years now, and in the same breath also been introducing an interview with Monica Chuji – a Kichwa activist and politician – that is best read in its entirety with no further ado:


Whither Ecuador? An Interview with Indigenous Activist and Politician Monica Chuji
Written by Daniel Denvir for UpsideDownWorld
Thursday, 06 November 2008


Monica Chuji is an indigenous Kichwa activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon. She served as an Assembly Member from President Rafael Correa’s Alianza País party in the National Constituent Assembly, drafting Ecuador’s new constitution. Prior to Chuji’s election to the Assembly, she was Correa’s Secretary of Communication and spokeswoman. In September, she broke with Correa and left Alianza País, the culmination of months of increasing conflict between the President and Ecuador’s social and indigenous movements.

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Christiania evictions spark riots in Copenhagen: A Brave New World in the Duck Pond

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Christiania evictions spark riots in Copenhagen, is not a story by colonos, it just came in on the wire and is reproduced here with no comments, really, unless, that is, THAT THIS is typical of the racist, culturally cleansing Danish government and their coercive police force.

Christiania is a place that they just don’t like, because people are different there. Remember that this is the duck pond country of The Ugly Duckling, where if “you are not from around here” you better get out.

Since the current and far-right founded government began their cultural cleansings with their shocking win and alliance with the racist, anti-muslim, national social-democratic, far-right, Danish People’s Party, in 2001, there has been a war on christiania. Alongside Denmark’s participation in the war on the Afghan people the country has undergone a dramatic cultural turn for the worse. The people have responded eloquently to Prime Minister, Anders Fjogh Rasmussen:

The government in their first few weeks in office announced a cultural genocide when they listed 250 research institutions and projects to be shut down. That was just the beginning. Meanwhile there is a rise of extremist christians as well.

Violence and gang war is now on the daily agenda in a city that suddenly has to sustain a large cannabis market that was previously run by happy hippies in an unholy marriage with Hell’s Angels type bikers. This used to unfold in a fairly organised and mostly peaceful manner in Christiania’s Pusher Street, for all to see and observe and know about, but the market came up for grabs when it was pressurised, as part of the cultural war, out of the Free Town (Fristaden, as Christiania is also called). There was a culture similar to that of the Dutch coffee clubs, but in a lovely park by the water where many cafes and restaurants and social and ecological projects constinue to thrive, but nowadays with the ever present threat of raiding riot cops. Consequently, the cannabis market now unfolds around the city where rival gangs make neighbourhoods their own battlefields.

As violence has become everyday the authoritarian government, of course, has responded by investing more powers in the police, who have, with increasing force, introduced security zones in the inner city where civil liberties are routinely suspended in the form of stop and search interventions without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The Brave New World has come to the Duck Pond. Of course it is very convenient to evict the cannabis market from Christiania, because the consequent warfare was obvious and serves as a perfect excuse to erode civil liberties and step up spending on policing in general.

In the 1970s Denmark’s social-democratic experiment was still a model and example, although it had many problems, it was certainly better than the extreme right-wing regime of today. It came to an end in 1982 when the country has its first round of the neoliberal waves of destruction that have brought the planet into a financial and ecological crisis. This is round two.

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Jatun Sacha Foundation and Bioprivateering: Dodgy Business as Usual

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As a curious reader of the blog stats is has once again been brought to my attention that there is widespread interest for information about the Jatun Sacha Foundation’s involvement in what is sometimes wrongly called biopiracy. There was never anything privately owned in the first place, as was the case when pirates liberated goods from the capitalist (slave) ships, hence bioprivateering is more to the point.

Colonos have previously posted about Jatun Sacha twice (1/2) and when looking in the stats today I noticed that quite a few people were clicking on the external link to see some proofs of the allegations. So I thought I’d save people some clicking and reading and excavate with a bit of gimping some of the relevant paragraphs of the Rafi Communique, September-October 1995 for all to easily see:

from:

Biopiracy Update: A Global Pandemic

Download PDF Download PDF (2 MB) – about 348 seconds on a 56k modem

Cases from Thailand, Gabon, Ecuador, and Peru

RAFI is now called www.etcgroup.org