Using the power of photojournalism to expose social, economic and ecological injustice

Posts by photolangelle

I am a current member of the National Press Photographers Association – Orin Langelle

The National Press Photographers Association calls on all politicians who visit migrant child detention facilities to insist on being accompanied by visual journalists and to insist that Immigration and Customs Enforcement permits unfettered access to those facilities for all journalists.

We also call on news media organizations to decline to publish handout photographs from the government or others when full and meaningful visual access is denied.

When important issues face a nation, and the truth must be ascertained, images – taken by journalists who adhere to strict codes of ethics – truly matter. The only photographs the nation has seen from inside those facilities have come from the government.

This is unacceptable. We believe that access to those facilities by journalists is both appropriate and warranted. The nation should not be relegated to relying solely on governmental depictions when it comes to such matters of public concern.

On all issues, especially an important issue such as this, the public has a right to and a need for independent, verified visual journalism – not government-controlled images. As our Code of Ethics states, photojournalists and those who manage visuals in news organizations should “resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities,” “strive to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public,” and “defend the right of access for all journalists.”

Through its advocacy efforts, NPPA has a long history supporting visual journalists, and the First Amendment exercised for the public good. In 2010, we pressed the administration for access to the scene of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In 2013, NPPA helped lead a media coalition protesting limits placed on news photographers covering Obama at the White House.

When anyone prevents us from serving the public through our images, we speak out. While we understand that images drive pageviews, that should not justify the use of images made available by the government while barring access to the press.

To that end, we commend those news organizations which have already stated that they will not publish government handout photos. We implore journalists and elected officials to join us in a call for full, unfettered and meaningful access to cover the immigration and asylum processes including those detention facilities as well as other governmental functions to which the public is entitled to be fully informed.

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This was shot at Silo City near Buffalo, NY. I usually only post serious photographs. If you want me to be serious, ok. Is the end of the line approaching for biodiversity, ecosystems and life itself on planet Earth? Have a nice day.                              photo: Orin Langelle

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Audio interview and articles below photo.

Judi Bari, center, walks with support of two friends in northern California. (1994)  photo: Orin Langelle

On 24 May 1990, in Oakland, California, Bari’s car was blown up by a pipe bomb placed under her seat. While still in critical condition with a shattered pelvis and other major injuries, Bari was arrested by the FBI for allegedly transporting explosives. It is hard to deny that the bombing of Bari and her subsequent arrest was due to her successful work to unite environmentalists and workers.

24 May 2018 marks the 28th anniversary of her bombing.

From Orin Langelle:

In 1991 my good friend, Steve Taylor (now the Press Secretary for Global Justice Ecology Project), and I took a trip from St. Louis to California, Oregon and back. Along the way, we visited many movement people and interviewed them. Judi Bari was one of them. The beginning of our interview with Judi (below) starts with her singing an a cappella rendition of “Lullaby and Good Night.”  This version of the song shows off Judi Bari’s great sense of political humor.


I wrote the first article below, and the second post, “JUDI BARI LIVES”  is from Karen Pickett, a close friend of Judi’s.  Karen’s article first ran in Oread Daily from an article for the Earth First! Journal.  Karen is a good friend, board member of Global Justice Ecology Project and has too many other affiliations to name!

The Bombing of Judi Bari—Reflections Twenty Years After (this one’s for you, Judi)

By Orin Langelle, first published in Climate Connections on 24 May 2010

I’ll never forget May 24, 1990.  I was living in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Pacific, Missouri when a brief television report came on saying that a car carrying two environmental activists had been bombed in northern California.  My stomach tightened because I new that tensions were high in that area due to a call for environmentalists to come to “Redwood Summer” in an attempt to stop the logging of some of the last standing ancient redwoods.Within an hour my phone rang—it was the office of the Industrial Workers of the World, then in Chicago.  “Judi and Darryl’s car was just bombed outside of Oakland.  We don’t know their condition.  We really don’t know anything yet.”  And as a precaution I was urged to “go outside and check your car for any possible tampering—we don’t know if this is a hit to many organizers or just Judi and Darryl.”  I checked my car and it was okay.

That was the start of many more phone calls.  Thankfully Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were alive, but Judi was severely injured and both were arrested.  Then nausea set in.

Photos of the pipe bombed car in Oakland, CA. Photos courtesy:

The following days were days of disbelief and what the fuck was going on?

The FBI arrested Judi and Darryl for “transporting explosives.”  Not anyone that knew Judi and Darryl bought that one; I know I certainly didn’t.

Both Judi and Darryl were prominent Earth First! organizers.  Judi gained notoriety in California for bringing environmentalists and loggers together, pointing out that the real enemy was industry (capitalism) that was exploiting both the workers and the environment for profit.  In the weeks following the bombing, industry and the government would attempt to employ a divide and conquer strategy and drive a wedge between environmentalists and workers by spreading disinformation to the public that Bari and Cherney were “terrorists.”

I remember my friend Steve and I staying up all night, getting out a special edition of the newsletter of Big River Earth First! that expressed the Big River’s collective disgust at the bombing and arrest.

Shortly thereafter, EF! activists in southern Illinois (soon to be Shawnee EF!) held a press conference where they turned all their weapons of terror over to the FBI.  The “weapons” consisted of paper, pens and typewriters (not many computers back then).

Big River Earth First! from Missouri went to the Federal Building in St. Louis and held a rally where we told the media that it was ludicrous to think that activists preaching non-violence would be carrying bombs or would blow themselves up.  I photographed that rally, and due to a deadline rush, immediately sent my undeveloped film to the Earth First! Journal, then published in Arizona.  The film was never received.  (Now go to 2010 real time where the Arizona state abbreviation should now simply be nAZi.)

Judi’s pelvis was shattered by the pipe bomb that exploded under her seat.  She was told she would never walk again.  She did.  And she lived until March 2, 1997 before breast cancer claimed her life—but not before suing the FBI (winning posthumously) and speaking on numerous occasions from California all the way to Maine.

I first met Judi in the Jemez mountains of New Mexico in 1989 during the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous, an EF! Annual gathering that brings hundreds of radical environmentalists together from across the U.S. and usually a few from various parts of the globe.  I believe there was an immediate comrade-ship formed because I told Judi how I was impressed with how she brought an analysis forward that looked at the interconnections of ecology and working class solidarity.  In the months that passed she and I exchanged letters and phone calls…

After May 24, 1990 many things changed in many ways for many people.  Many of us from Big River EF! had been planning to go to go to Redwood Summer and put ourselves on the line.  Instead however, a timber sale was announced by the U.S. Forest Service that was to take place in the Shawnee National Forest of southern Illinois.  The Fairview area, slated to be cut, was rich in biodiversity, a haven for songbirds and loved by the many locals who went there to watch the birds or just plain escape the pains of the 20th century.

A southern Illinois regional environmental group invited Earth First! to come in and defend the area.  Tents were set up in the logging road and an encampment spread throughout the timber sale area.  Tree sitting platforms were made.  One of our road blockades consisted of an old beat up sedan that, for some reason or another we dubbed “The Biscuit.” Outreach went to the local surrounding communities.  We declared that our actions were in solidarity with Redwood Summer as well as the Mohawk uprising in Kanehsatake (Kanienkehaka), Canada.

For almost three months we held the area (at that time the longest EF! blockade in history).  The local postmaster even gave us a postbox so we could receive mail.  At one time we had to put up a sign declaring, “Please no more food donations today—we have enough organic food already donated.”  The major daily newspaper in Springfield, IL, the states’ capital, went so far as to say that what was going on in the Shawnee National Forest, “was a popular uprising.”  Almost every night the occupation was the lead story on TV across a four state region (at least until George the 1st started bombing Baghdad).

Eventually Forest Service special agents arrived from across the U.S. and the invasion of law enforcement and bulldozers began.  The day they moved in, my friend John, who turned thirty years old that day and was wanted by the Forest Service for entering a closure area illegally, turned himself in by using a kryptonite bicycle lock to lock his neck to a logging skidder (sort of a bulldozer).  The Forest Service responded by putting an aluminum shield around his head and cutting off the lock with an acetylene torch while John sang, “God Bless America.”  (FYI:  that played well in the press.)

The cutting really never began that year as a Federal Court granted attorneys representing the environmental activists a temporary restraining order forbidding the cutting of  Fairview until further review.

To many of us on blockade, this also was for Judi while giving the finger to the federal authorities.

In the summer of 1991, on a trip to the west coast, Steve and I visited Judi and I interviewed her for independent radio.  At the end of the interview Judi sang a capella a parody of “Lullabye and Goodnight” that ended “Lullabye and goodnight for the Earth is dying…go to bed now, lay your head, in the morning you’ll be dead. Lullaby and goodnight, while toxic wastes are seeping, Lullaby and goodnight, what the fuck are you doing sleeping.”  Not only was Judi an organizer, she sang and played fiddle as well.

In fall of 1991 Faiview fell to the chainsaws that were guarded by the elite shock troops of the Forest Service.

I moved to Vermont around that time.  My partner, Anne Petermann (now Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project), Judi and I continued to remain in contact.  Anne and I traveled to California several times to see Judi.  She even came to Vermont a couple of times.  We discussed many different issues from eco-feminism to the questioning of work for others’ profit to politics to revolutionary ecology…

Once we went to Albion to see Albion Nation and support the struggle there that Judi was involved in.

Another time, upon waking up in the morning in Judi’s Willits, CA home, Anne and I got up and stepped outside.  I’ve never smelled ‘skunkweed’ so pungent—all around us.  Judi also was one of the first organizers to try and unionize marijuana pickers in Northern California under the Industrial Workers of the World.

During the years after the bombing and before Judi’s death, Anne and I became close to Judi.  Judi was some someone who could give advice when asked and was someone who we stood by.  Sometimes it wasn’t easy as Judi could be as cantankerous as a rattlesnake.  But most times it was very easy.

Judi had a sense of humor despite the crippling effect the bombing had on her body and the chronic pain she was in.  One time, when was asked by a reporter if she equated EF! with the Weathermen (a late 1960’s and early 70’s group that went underground and attacked the U.S. imperialism with bombs).  Judi laughed and said, “No, we’re like the Yippies!”  The Yippies or Youth International Party in the sixties were also outraged at U.S. imperialism and the Viet Nam war, but were pranksters who thumbed their noses at the establishment with colorful stunts.  One year they ran a pig, Pegasus, for President.  Unfortunately Nixon beat out the pig and lashed out with savage bombing campaigns of North Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.

When Judi told Anne and me that she had incurable breast cancer we could hardly believe it.  Here was a woman that was not only a brilliant organizer, but had been bombed and crippled for her skills, then walked when she was told she would never walk again.  Here was a woman who stood up against the sick system that was complicit in her bombing.  Here was a real revolutionary ecologist.

After that, Anne and I spoke with Judi several times as she put her life in order during her illness.

A week before she succumbed to cancer, Anne and I spoke very briefly with her and set up a time at the end of the week where we could all have an extended conversation.

Anne and I wanted to say good-bye.  Judi passed from the Earth she loved before that call and we never got that chance.

That weekend, when the memorials and sad parties were held in California, some of Anne’s and my close friends gathered here in Vermont.  David Rovics and crew sang Judi’s parody of  “May the Circle be Unbroken”, which was “Will the fetus be aborted.” –this song was what authorities gave as one of ludicrous theories of why she was bombed.

As David sang, a joint was passed around to those present.  It was a special joint of not just pot, but also mushrooms that had been sent by Scottish EF!ers who were blockading another Roman, er English motorway.  The mushrooms had been picked off an ancient witches’ burial site that was in the path of the bulldozers.

As the IWW organizer Joe Hill said before he was executed in 1915 by the state of Utah,  “Don’t mourn for me.  Organize!”  These were some of Judi’s last words also.

¡Judi Bari, Presente!


Published May 12, 2010 by Oread Daily

It’s been almost twenty years since a bomb sent Judi Bari to the hospital seriously injured.  About Judi, Nicholas Wilson noted, “The common denominator was her indignation over injustice, whether in the form of war, racism, sexism, political repression, economic exploitation, or the unnecessary destruction of ecosystems.”

That was Judi.

When the then  labor activist Judi Bari joined Earth First! and brought the IWW back to timber country in 1988, real grassroots opposition began to grow in timber country. Judi was charismatic and she worked for a an alliance between workers and environmental activists. So it is no surprise that both before and after her death, she was the target of national PR campaigns and covert actions aimed at discrediting and neutralizing her, the Earth First! movement, and radical environmentalism in general. The public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, representing logging corporations, was shown to be involved.

Judi was downright scary to the corporate powers. They shed no tears when she was stricken with breast cancer and left this world in 1997.

But to paraphrase a tune about Joe Hill, someone who would have loved her, “she never really died.”

The following is from Earth First! Journal:

Remembering Judi Bari

20 Years Ago an Explosion Filled the Sky and Changed Earth First!

by kp

I can barely believe it was 20 years ago, because the events are so fresh in my mind. Of course, I’ve always said that I was about as close to the bomb exploding in Judi Bari’s car on May 24, 1990 as I could have been without being in the car myself. I was at work in Berkeley, and got a call from Kelpie, my roommate and fellow activist, that something terrible had happened. Judi and Darryl Cherney had been taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, Califonia badly injured by a bomb explosion. I had been at a Redwood Summer organizing meeting  at the Seeds of Peace house just the night before, and Judi, Darryl and fellow musician George Shook were planning to go to Santa Cruz for a Redwood Summer roadshow event on the University of California Santa Cruz campus. A few minutes before noon, Judi made a lane change, triggering the motion device attached to the pipe bomb that had been planted unseen under her driver’s seat. The force of the explosion drove the seat springs up into her body, pulverizing her pelvis and nearly killing her.

When I got to the hospital—before the crowds arrived and after driving like a proverbial bat out of hell on city streets—I was taken downstairs by FBI agents and Oakland police to answer questions. Initially, this seemed routine. Ask questions—that’s what the police are supposed to do after a bomb nearly kills someone, right? Because I figured they were Bay Area cops and wouldn’t necessarily know what had been transpiring behind the Redwood Curtain, I told them this seemed to be the culmination of what had been unfolding in our lead-up to Redwood Summer. Our campaign, dubbed “The Timber Wars,” was heating up and activists had been receiving increasingly frequent and virulent threats—Judi in particular. The conversation, however, quickly began to stink like a 4-day-old dead fish when they started asking me personal questions; I yelled at the officers that my friend was critically injured upstairs, and stated that I was leaving and not answering any of their questions. I was then taken to the Oakland Police Department (OPD) where I was held incommunicado for hours. An attorney tried to get into my holding pen, being barred from seeing me, while the crowd at both the hospital and the OPD (where Darryl was held, somewhere else in the department bowels) grew to over a hundred people in just a couple hours. (This was all before “instant messaging,” texts and all that.)

Well, it was more than fishy—it was downright conspiratorial, and what unfolded over the next few days boggled the mind, since we hadn’t known we were being tracked so closely by the FBI, despite the fact that it had been a year since they dragged Dave Foreman out of bed in his skivvies and arrested Peg Millett, Mark Davis and Mark Baker for monkeywrenching in Arizona. Both Judi and Darryl were arrested for transporting the bomb, and the FBI and OPD held a press conference to proclaim Judi, Darryl and Earth First! terrorists as they tried mightily to erode any support EF! might have. Didn’t work. Eight weeks later, they were forced to withdraw the charges, but the attempts by the FBI to try to frame the two— particularly Judi—continued as they destroyed evidence, manufactured evidence, fed false information to the press, harassed every activist they could find and used their iron fist to try to crush the movement. Sound familiar? Precursor of the Green Scare. But there were no fires, much less any kind of violence perpetrated by anyone associated with EF! As Judi observed wryly at one point, the FBI would have people believe that “not only are Earth First!ers terrorists who carry bombs around in our cars, but we are stupid, violent terrorists who hide live anti-personnel bombs under our own car seats.”

Fast-forward to 2002 when the lawsuit put together by Judi finally burst into a federal courtroom—twelve years after the incident, and tragically, five years after Judi died from breast cancer. Judi worked on the case until her dying day, literally, and made her friends and colleagues promise that we would carry on the case. We did, and thanks to heroic efforts of a scrappy team of radical lawyers, we won! The jury found that the FBI and OPD violated Judi and Darryl’s First and Fourth Amendment rights: free speech and protection against illegal search and seizure. The jury’s decision was unanimous and 80 percent of the award was for violations of the First Amendment, recognizing the FBI’s deliberate smear campaign against Earth First! and against Judi and Darryl.

Judi’s victory against the FBI is an important and unprecedented mile marker to remember, as is the bombing itself. We commemorate it 20 years later because it is important that we never forget, and that we remember to never give up and to keep a bold resistance to strong arm tactics as well as to assaults on Mama Earth. Equally important is recognizing what Judi brought to Earth First!, which goes beyond her challenge to the FBI. She brought us lessons from her background as a labor organizer and analysis that helped evolve our radical thinking both philosophically and strategically. We are reprinting her zine, Revolutionary Ecology, where she discusses biocentrism in the context of radical thought: e.g., Biocentrism Contradicts Capitalism, Biocentrism Contradicts Communism, and Biocentrism Contradicts Patriarchy. Check it out.

Judi is an icon, but she would bristle at being canonized. She is symbolic of a revolutionary, irreverent and bold approach to biocentrism, and she had her share of shouting matches with other movement icons; in fact, she reveled in it.

Recognizing the roots of biocentrism not only in ancient native wisdom but “in context of today’s industrial society, biocentrism is profoundly revolutionary, challenging the system to its core,” as Judi puts forward in her booklet Revolutionary Ecology. While it’s easy to see that “biocentrism contradicts capitalism,” and that “modern day corporations are the very worst manifestations of this sickness,” her essay purports that biocentrism contradicts communism even though her background in revolutionary was rooted in Marxism. This is because, really, all leftist ideologies call for the redistribution of spoils from the rape of the Earth. She saw the possibility of ecological socialism that would organize human societies in a manner that is compatible with the way nature is organized.

The world around us changes, sometimes at breakneck speed. The context of movement building is always in flux and demands that we always evolve our thinking and strategic organizing. At the same time, it is valuable (and smart) to weave in institutional memory and not lose the wisdom embodied in the revolutionary thinking of our companeras that are no longer around getting in our face, reminding us of their views. Viva Judi!

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Be realistic, ask for the impossible slogan in Paris uprising, May 1968

To me it is very important to remember the events of May 1968 – not only in Paris but in the U.S. as well. Events that occurred fifty years ago were a glimmer of hope that strengthened an anti-war and anti-imperialist youth movement. This movement eventually helped bring other critical issues to the forefront including race, women’s rights, and the environment. For many reasons, there are no mass movements in the U.S. today that are as vibrant and militant as they were fifty years ago. The anti-corporate globalization movement from the 90s and early 2000s is still recuperating from the draconian police state in the U.S. that keeps intensifying as I type. While ‘Black Lives Matter’ provides another important glimmer of hope, most people today organize around single issues and do not incorporate a vision that unites all of the issues confronting us with a view addressing their common root causes. As a result, peoples all around the Earth suffer, the ecosystems and life support systems that enable life on Earth are further degraded, and climate chaos runs rampant.

Now is time to be realistic and demand the impossible. – Orin Langelle

(More information and analysis follows)

This photograph was taken on 3 November 2004, in the streets of Burlington, VT, U.S. Incumbent Republican President George W. Bush was named the winner of the presidential election that occurred one day earlier, defeating challenger John Kerry. Outraged over the election results, students and radical activists took over the streets all day and evening, causing traffic jams throughout the town. photo: Orin Langelle

Daniel Warner writes in his article From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes for CounterPunch:

“For those who struck in 1968 at Columbia, Berkeley and Paris, just as for Martin Luther King Jr., there was a larger picture. King spoke of a society that was imperialistic at home and abroad. The lack of social justice in the United States, for King, was intertwined with America’s unjust foreign adventures. Student demonstrations in 1968 were against the university as part of a societal/political injustice. The university was a small manifestation of that injustice.

“I would hope that today’s French students, as well as students elsewhere, would be able to mobilize around other issues than university admissions and guaranteeing employment. There are more than enough issues to be outraged about today, and their solution requires the energy and determination of the young. That activism is what should be highlighted as the legacy of May 1968 and any comparisons with May 2018.”


from Wikipedia:

The volatile period of civil unrest in France during May 1968 was punctuated by demonstrations and massive general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories across France. At the height of its fervor, it brought the entire economy of France to a virtual halt. The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution; the national government itself momentarily ceased to function after President Charles de Gaulle secretly fled France for a few hours. The protests spurred an artistic movement, with songs, imaginative graffiti, posters, and slogans….

The unrest began with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions, values and order. It then spread to factories with strikes involving 11 million workers, more than 22% of the total population of France at the time, for two continuous weeks. The movement was characterized by its spontaneous and de-centralized wildcat disposition; this created contrast and sometimes even conflict between itself and the establishment, trade unions and workers’ parties. It was the largest general strike ever attempted in France, and the first nationwide wildcat general strike.

The student occupations and wildcat general strikes initiated across France were met with forceful confrontation by university administrators and police. The de Gaulle administration’s attempts to quell those strikes by police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in Paris’s Latin Quarter, followed by the spread of general strikes and occupations throughout France.


from The Guardian:

France’s 1968 uprising, 50 years on: ‘It’s harder for the youth today’

‘If there’s one thing in common … it’s young people’s despair,’ says Antoine Guégan, whose father Gérard staged campus sit-ins in 1968.

“It’s terrifying to see that this is becoming the norm for riot police to be sent into universities,” said Guégan, who is doing a doctorate on representations of slavery in American cinema and teaches at the campus while studying at another university in Paris’s suburbs…

“If there’s one thing in common between 1968 and today, it’s young people’s despair,” he said. “But it’s a different kind of despair, because the social and economic context is not the same. In 1968, there was a global movement, there was rock music, new sexual freedom, a different culture and a desire to change the old world. Today’s youth is facing a moment of stagnation, with little to lean on, which makes the struggle harder.”

One of Gérard Guégan’s favourite slogans from May 1968 was “Be realistic, ask for the impossible”. He said: “We were constantly thinking of what we called dreams, and what could be called utopia … Everyone was convinced that something massive was happening.”

– Angelique Chrisafis is The Guardian‘s Paris correspondent


Note: The quote “Be realistic, ask for the impossible”, is one of Ernesto Che Guevara’s most most popular quotes. Che Guevara image (below) is a world wide symbol of resistance, especially in Latin America.

The 2003 march on the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico. When the march had to stop due to chainlink fences blocking the marchers from the WTO meetings, a South Korean farmer committed suicide. photo: Orin Langelle

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Sitting (zooming in):

Packentuck and/or Cedar Falls in the Shawnee National Forest.                                photo: Orin Langelle

Thanks to John Wallace and Sam Stearns for taking me to this peaceful falls (with two names) last week where we had a chance to talk about the past, present and future of the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

Standing (zooming out):

Packentuck and/or Cedar Falls.                                                                              photo: Orin Langelle

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Global Justice Ecology Project‘s Kip Doyle and Anne Petermann made this video for International Women’s Day. Many of the photographs are by me along with most of the captions.

As Emma Goldman says, “The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.”

– Orin Langelle

LANGELLE PHOTOGRAPHY and the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art
are components of Global Justice Ecology Project’s Global Justice Media Program


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Please view the exhibit here HERE


January 26 – February 24, 2018 at CEPA’s FLUX Gallery (1st Floor), 617 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14203

Shut out – Indigenous Peoples’ protest at United N Climate Conference. (Bali, Indonesia 2007)

CEPA Gallery is pleased to present, Portraits of Struggle, a selection of photographs spanning four decades by award winning photographer and activist Orin Langelle. Continued on CEPA’s Portraits of Struggle page.


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CEPA Gallery presents Portraits of Struggle, a selection of photographs spanning four decades by award winning photographer and activist Orin Langelle.

An opening reception with the artist will take place on Friday, January 26, 2018 from 7-10pm.

See more at CEPA’s Portraits of Struggle page.

Spree Magazine previews Portraits of Struggle.


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Marchers at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark point at Corporations and Bankers as the drivers of climate change. photo: Langelle (2009)

This article is by Dave Bleakney, 2nd National Vice-President Canadian Union of Postal Workers. It was originally translated and published in a German daily, OXI, about the recent UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Congress of the Parties 23 (UNFCCC COP 23) in Bonn. The German translation follows the English below.

I chose the image above as part of my goal of illustrating articles on this website with relevant historical photographs in an effort to ensure that movement history is never forgotten nor the lessons lost. – Orin Langelle

Deutsche unten

COPPING OUT AT COP, Avoidance and possibility in a burning world

During the recent Bonn summit a taxi driver provided a clear summary. Asked what he thought of COP 23, he replied “the climate is in crisis, but here, this is about money”. He had provided what had been missing inside. As we race toward certain and expanding catastrophe, he underscored that profiteering off a destructive cycle production, consumption, shipping, the unnecessary transport of products over vast distances and continuous growth models form the basis from which these discussions are framed. It is as though the elephant in the room is never acknowledged, with few exceptions.

How does this appear? In North America you can try this experiment. Turn down the volume of your TV and watch the myriad of commercial advertisements where someone is unhappy until they possess a certain product and suddenly, presto! Everything is great and everyone is happy. The same rubric repeats, again and again. Buy and smile. Smile and buy. Crave to belong as if this will somehow connect us together and create momentary windows of happiness while the earth burns. A crude system of modern feudalism has engulfed the planet where a handful of men – eight, to be precise – own half the planet. In this obscene reality a man can be worth more than a nation. Political leaders and major institutions act as though by convincing a handful of rich sociopaths we can save life on the planet.

Yet power does not, and never has, surrendered anything without a fight or creation of something new. Our uncomfortable future demands that climate criminals should not be enabled with our caps in hand with appeals to do the right thing – certainly those outcomes have been far too modest to date. The rules of the game must change that would remove them from their pedestals of power and our addictions to things we really do not need (and often having them increases the cycle and need for more) while altering the current definitions of value including patriarchal approaches thousands of years old of competition and “winning” at the expense of another.

At COP we are like hamsters on a wheel, living off the ripples of colonialism and wealth accumulation while discussing the speed at which the wheel turns through a series of silos and frameworks. What is needed is to get off that wheel and reconnect with our essence, the earth, and one another.

In this madness, the darker your skin the more you pick up the slack now resulting in myriads of climate refugees fleeing a crisis created while a minority of the planet went shopping. Under current conditions this phenomenon will play out over and over. Hungry people intent on survival will be blamed and shamed, even attacked for doing the only thing left to them: escape to a better place. When people are hungry, what can you expect? Famine breeds war and conflict. The world’s greatest militarist, the United States, built on dispossession has essentially been at war with someone on a continuous basis for nearly two centuries of conquest, often aided by one ally or another. Since 2001, that nation alone has spent $7.6 trillion on the military and Homeland Security in an ongoing war economy.

Little was accomplished at COP, a few very modest breakthroughs (or diversion) lacking any enforcement mechanisms or meaningfully incorporating a gender or Indigenous analysis into the core of action. While climate talks are essential, they are rendered ineffective by living in this bubble. One former UNFCCC official told me that people know this but are locked into a series of “frameworks” and disconnected silo building that does not dare upset the apple cart, a centuries-long mercantilism built on exploitation, greed and accumulation at the expense of the other and all living systems. This same system that uses the atmosphere as a chemical sink for profit. The oil continues to flow and the coal dug.

No longer can it be business as usual where the new normal is unprecedented and frequent catastrophic weather conditions (which can only get worse) and will be normalized for new generations. A tweak here and there won’t cut it.

Indigenous peoples appear to have a better grasp of living with the earth rather than against it as their lands continue to be exploited for resource extraction and profits. Indigenous voices are tolerated, welcomed even, but rarely is this wisdom applied to our reality. In the Canadian context, this vision is met by a system where Indigenous colonized peoples are undermined by super mines, pipelines and general disrespect.

It does feel good to see any progress whatsoever and we hang our hat on that. Political cachet can be earned by playing to domestic audiences as part of this theatre. No better example exists than the myth of Canada as a progressive nation and its new proposed phase-out of coal policy. Through carbon offsets, which shall keep the coal burning until at least 2060 and exports continuing after that date (hardly a victory). While presented as progress it is ineffective, and a diversion which obscures the continuing plan to build pipelines and keep dirty Canadian oil flowing. The tyranny of oil extraction and the use of the atmosphere as a chemical sink for profit remains while the human and animal population subsidize this senseless tragedy.

Who will take on international transport, shipping and aviation? If these sectors were a country they would be the seventh largest polluter where products that could be produced locally at less environmental cost are shipped vast distances.

What does this mean for workers? As we say, don’t oppose, propose. The Union I represent, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers know that a just transition out of destructive practices requires better approaches that we all need to be a part of. We live in a society where some work too much and others have no possibility at all. Incorporation of other more holistic and sustainable values allows us to step outside the box and refocus. Our Delivering Community Power initiative, driving Canada Post to be an engine of the next economy including the use of renewable non-polluting energy, transforming and retro-fitting post offices to produce energy at the local source and eliminate carbon from delivery systems– the latter which has already happened in over 20 cities in Norway (and is growing). Putting more postal workers on the street and less cars also means more face to face contact and added community value by checking in on senior citizens who are isolated. Postal workers have put climate change on the bargaining table. By incorporating Indigenous and feminist values of nurture and care into our future we shift the nature of work and become meaningful actors in solutions. This approach was energized and inspired by the LEAP Manifesto which calls for a restructuring of the Canadian economy and an end to the use of fossil fuels. This is framed by respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship. We cannot leave it to corporations and politicians. We are all part of this solution now and have the opportunity to claim the space to do it.

The indigenous Ojibwe have a saying about the seven generations. They say that for every move we make, it must always be done with a view on how it could impact people seven generations from now. The leaders of this planet would do well to listen to that advice.

We require a new kind of COP. There will be no shopping on a dead planet and reassembling the deck chairs of the Titanic will not help. Creativity and better value systems can.


Dave Bleakney (Canadian Union of Postal Workers) über den Bonner Klimagipfel, die Notwendigkeit Spielregeln zu ändern und feministische und indigene Ansätze in die Bekämpfung des Klimawandels zu integrieren. Ein Gastbeitrag.

Ein Taxifahrer fasste den vergangenen Klimagipfel in Bonn sehr treffend zusammen. Auf die Frage, was er über den Gipfel dachte, antwortete er: »Das Klima ist in der Krise, aber hier geht es um Geld.« Und genau das ist das Problem. Was der Taxifahrer meint ist, dass es im Hinterkopf der Beteiligten nicht etwa die drohende Klimakrise ist, sondern die Profite aus destruktiven Produktionszyklen, Konsum, Verschiffung, Wachstumsmodellen und dem Transport von Produkten über weite Strecken. Bis auf wenige Ausnahmen wird dieses Problem ignoriert.

Wie äußert sich das? In Nordamerika ist es beispielsweise so, dass man die Lautstärke des Fernsehers runterregeln kann und auch ohne Ton sehen kann, dass eine Vielzahl an Werbungen anhand eines Schemas ablaufen: Jemand ist so lange unglücklich bis er ein bestimmtes Produkt besitzt und dann ist alles toll und jeder ist glücklich. Dieses Schema wiederholt sich immer und immer wieder. Kauf und lächle. Sehne dich nach Besitz als ob dieser uns irgendwie verbinden würde und ein Glücksmoment kreieren könne während die Erde brennt. Die Erde wurde von einem primitiven System des modernen Feudalismus verschlungen. Nur eine Handvoll Männer – um genau zu sein acht – besitzt die Hälfte des Planeten. In dieser empörenden Realität kann ein einzelner Mann mehr wert sein als eine ganze Nation. Führende Politiker und wichtige Institutionen tun so, als ob man durch das Überzeugen eine Handvoll reicher Soziopathen das Leben auf der Erde retten könnte.

Bis heute hat Macht noch nie etwas ohne Kampf aufgegeben oder etwas Neues erschaffen zu haben. Unsere unbequeme Zukunft verlangt, dass die Klimasünder nicht auch noch mit den Möglichkeiten ausgestattet werden sollten, für uns zu handeln. Sie haben bisher nur sehr selten das Richtige getan. Die Spielregeln müssen sich ändern. Die Klimasünder müssen vom Sockel der Macht gestoßen werden. Und wir müssen gegen unsere Sucht nach Dingen, die wir nicht wirklich brauchen ankämpfen. Diese treibt uns nur in einen Strudel aus Besitz und Verlangen. Außerdem muss man die gültigen Definitionen von Wert anpassen – auch indem man jahrhundertealte patriarchale Ansätze von Konkurrenz und Gewinn überdenkt.

Wir sind wie die Hamster in einem Rad. Wir zehren von den Wellen der Kolonialisierung und Wohlstandsakkumulation. Auf dem Klimagipfel konnten wir lediglich die Geschwindigkeit, mit der sich das Rad durch Silos und Gerüste dreht, diskutieren. Wir müssen von diesem Rad runterkommen und mit dem Wesentlichen in Einklang kommen: mit der Erde und miteinander.

In diesem Wahnsinn gilt: je dunkler die Hautfarbe, desto mehr ist man betroffen von den Auswirkungen der Klimakrise. Unzählige Klimaflüchtlinge fliehen von einer Krise, die sich entwickelt hat während eine kleine Zahl an Menschen auf dem Planeten einkaufen war. Unter den gegenwärtigen Bedingungen wird sich das nicht ändern. Hungernde Menschen, die versuchen zu überleben, werden selbst verantwortlich gemacht, ja sogar attackiert, dafür dass sie das Einzige tun, was ihnen übrigbleibt: an einen besseren Ort zu fliehen. Was kann man anderes erwarten, wenn Menschen hungern? Hunger verursacht Krieg und Konflikte. Die USA, die auf Enteignung gegründet sind, führen seit fast zwei Jahrzehnten ununterbrochen Eroberungskriege – oft mit Hilfe von Verbündeten. Seit 2001 haben die USA über 7,6 Billionen US-Dollar nur für Militär und Staatssicherheit in einer dauerhaften Kriegsökonomie ausgegeben.

Wenig wurde beim Klimagipfel in Bonn erreicht. Es gab einige, sehr kleine Durchbrüche, doch denen fehlt es an Durchsetzungsmechanismen. Indigene und Geschlechteranalysen fehlen völlig. Obwohl solche Klimagipfel essentiell für unsere Zukunft sind, sind sie unwirksam. Ein früherer Mitarbeiter der Klimarahmenkonvention der Vereinten Nationen erzählte mir, dass dies den Menschen durchaus bewusst sei, Rahmenbedingungen die Handlungsmöglichkeiten jedoch einschränken würden. Man würde nur die Pferde scheu machen, wenn man versucht, alles über den Haufen zu werfen: den jahrhundertealten Merkantilismus, das System aus Ausbeutung, Gier und Akkumulation auf Kosten anderer. Und so fließt das Öl weiter, wird die Kohle weiter abgebaut.

Es kann nicht weitergehen wie bisher. Das neue Normal ist beispiellos und die katastrophale Wetterlage kann auch nur noch schlimmer werden. Wir können den Zustand nicht für künftige Generationen normalisieren. Es hilft nicht, nur hier und da ein wenig zu verändern.

Indigene scheinen ein besseres Verständnis vom Leben im Einklang statt gegen die Erde zu haben während ihr Land weiterhin für Profite ausgebeutet wird. Indigene Stimmen werden oft ignoriert und nur selten wahrgenommen. Ihr Wissen nicht genutzt. Im kanadischen Kontext zeigt sich dies folgendermaßen: Indigene wurden kolonialisiert und heute durch Superminen, Pipelines und generelle Missachtung gefährdet.

Jeder Fortschritt, so klein er auch sein mag, fühlt sich gut an und wir halten daran fest. Politische Mehrheiten werden gewonnen, indem ihnen etwas vorgespielt wird. Es gibt kein besseres Beispiel als der Mythos des progressiven Kanadas und seinem Weg aus der Kohleabhängigkeit. Der Emissionsausgleich lässt die Kohle noch bis mindestens 2060 brennen und ermöglicht Exporte, die auch nach diesem Jahr noch weitergehen können. Was als Erfolg verkauft wird, ist in Wahrheit ineffektiv und eine Ablenkung von den Plänen, weitere Pipelines zu bauen und das dreckige kanadische Öl weiter fließen zu lassen. Die Ölgewinnung und der Schadstoffausstoß gehen weiter, zu lasten von Mensch und Tier.

Wer kann es mit dem internationalen Transport, dem Schiffs- und Flugverkehr aufnehmen? Wären diese Branchen ein Land, wären dieses der siebtgrößte Umweltverschmutzer. Produkte, die zu geringeren ökologischen Kosten lokal produziert werden könnten, werden über große Distanzen in diesem Land verfrachtet.

Was heißt das für die Arbeiter? Wir sagen: bekämpfe nicht, mache Vorschläge. Die Gewerkschaft der kanadischen Postangestellten (Canadian Union of Postal Workers), die ich vertrete, weiß, dass der Übergang aus einer zerstörerischen Praxis besserer Ansätze bedarf. Wir leben in einer Gesellschaft in der Arbeit sehr ungleich verteilt ist. Einige haben sehr viel, andere gar keine Arbeit. Ganzheitliche und nachhaltige Werte erlauben es uns, aus unserer kleinen Blase herauszutreten und uns neu zu orientieren. Unsere Initiative »Delivering Community Power« treibt die kanadische Post dazu an, ein Motor für eine neue Ökonomie zu sein – unter Einbeziehung von lokaler erneuerbarer und umweltfreundlicher Energie und der Nachrüstung von Poststellen. So kann die Post den CO2 Ausstoß ihrer Zuliefererkette reduzieren. In über 20 norwegischen Städten wird die Post schadstofffrei ausgeliefert. Weniger Autos auf den Straßen, dafür mehr Postangestellte. Das bedeutet auch mehr Kundenkontakt. Wir Postangestellte haben den Klimawandel auf den Verhandlungstisch gepackt.

Wir können das Wesen der Arbeit ändern, in dem wir indigene und feministische Werte für die Erziehung und Pflege einbeziehen. Unsere Ansätze werden inspiriert und angetrieben vom LEAP Manifesto, das eine Restrukturierung der kanadischen Ökonomie und ein Ende der fossilen Energien fordert. Dieses wird gerahmt vom Respekt für indigenes Recht, Internationalismus, Menschenrechte, Vielfalt und ökologische Verantwortung. Wir können es nicht der Politik und den Konzernen überlassen. Wir alle sind Teil der Lösung und haben Möglichkeiten, den Raum einzufordern, um etwas zu verändern.

Ein Sprichwort der indigenen Ojibway sagt: Jeder Schritt, den wir tun, muss immer mit Blick darauf passieren, wie er die Menschen in sieben Generationen beeinflussen kann. Den Einflussreichen der Welt täte gut daran, diesem Rat zu folgen.

Wir fordern eine neue Art des Klimagipfels. Auf einem toten Planeten kann man nicht mehr einkaufen. Es wird nicht helfen, die Stühle an Deck der Titanic wieder aufzubauen. Kreativität und ein besseres Wertesystem hingegen können helfen.

Dave Bleakney
2nd National Vice-President
Canadian Union of Postal Workers

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