LANGELLE PHOTOGRAPHY

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

Posts from the ‘Global Justice Ecology Project’ category

Rodolphe Barrangou reveals the nightmare of his CRISPR world. photo: Langelle/GJEP

The CRISPR Craze?  Or CRISPR Crazed?

24 June 2019 by Anne Petermann posted online. For more updates on the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) tree biotech conference in Raleigh, NC please watch The Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees through 28 June 2019.

“Should we really be manipulating the heredity of future generations given our lack of knowledge about so many things.”

“Humans are very good at inventing things, but they are very, very bad at looking at what the implications are.”  (from the trailer for the movie Human Nature)

The IUFRO take on CRISPR:

The opening plenary presentation for IUFRO was by Rodolphe Barrangou, faculty of NCSU, which revealed a very interesting motivation for selecting NCSU for the IUFRO event: launching a new CRISPR startup focused on bringing CRISPR to forestry.

Barrangou’s assaulting high velocity hi-tech presentation on the wonders of the “6 year-old” CRISPR technology was at once mesmerizing and horrifying.  He referred to the time in human history as “BC” – Before CRISPR” vs “AD – after the death of the other recombinant technologies.”  He compared CRISPR to a 6-year old child. Which was a bit of an odd choice since he also insisted that, “the science, we know…the science is not in question.”  Not too many 6 year old children are so fully formed.

I found the speed of his delivery combined with his huge wide screen presentation and his fantastical ravings of the miracles of CRISPR to be an all-out assault on the senses.

At one point, he showed a slide containing a diverse array of species, from domesticated animals, to chimpanzees, to crop plants, announcing proudly that “we can edit the genome or epigenome of any species on Earth!” Pointing to a pig he said “We can make CRISPR bacon!”

He also delighted in explaining how they can even change the color in the very complicated wing pattern of a butterfly, which he demonstrated on the screen with horrifying before and after makeovers of two species of butterfly.

He did add a few words on the work still needed to be done.  CRISPR is not, he said, always reliable.  Getting back to the child metaphor, he explained it occasionally “has tantrums,” and “still does not work 100% of the time in 100% of the cells in 100% of patients.” Undeterred, he proudly explained that thousands of labs across the world are “mining biodiversity” to improve it.

Which revealed the real reason his entire presentation sounded like a high-pressure sales pitch.  It was.

Halfway through his presentation he announced, with great aplomb, the launch of his new CRISPR startup, which he was launching right then and there at IUFRO in partnership with four other faculty from NCSU and one from Duke University.  Its purpose—bring gene editing technology into the forestry sector. CRISPR would not, he admitted, solve the demand side problem.  Commercialization, he said, is the limiting factor, because “the science, we know… the bottleneck [is] acceptance by regulators and society.”

It is a public perception problem.  But they are on it!  He showed a trailer for the movie Human Nature scheduled to premiere this September at the same time as the upcoming IUFRO World Congress (a coincidence??) – a film designed explicitly to convince a wary public that CRISPR is the best thing since sliced bread (or, was that the OxO gene).

Another public relations strategy, he explained, was a CRISPR process that uses “DNA free RNPs, and that’s the path to a non-transgenic, transgene-free, non-GMO approval, and that’s what I think is going to change the game,” and be the perfect antidote to regulation and the anti-GMO movement.

He neglected to explain how a process designed to engineer genomes would not be genetic engineering.  In fact, he feared this would be the downfall of the CRISPR movement–if people perceived it as genetic engineering.  Which it is, so he should be concerned.

He wrapped up his talk explaining how the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning could be used to “predict what genomes, sequences and pathways should be targeted—and once you understand this you can knock them out, turn them on, turn them off, whatever you want to do and hopefully eventually get to the relevant trait that is of interest to the industry.”

Again: genetic engineering.

His fanatical worship of the CRISPR God was tempered slightly at the end of his talk when he admitted that CRISPR scientists are nowhere near understanding tree genomics as well as we understand human genomics due to the fact that tree genomes are so much bigger and more complex.

Not all Fertilizer and Roses

His stunningly depressing presentation, interestingly, was followed by James Holland, a USDA/NCSU corn researcher who provided comic relief with his explanations of everything that can and will go wrong in the pursuit of genetic knowledge. His honesty was like a breath of fresh air after the hard pitch CRISPR advertisement that proceeded him.

End day one…

For more updates on the IUFRO tree biotech conference in Raleigh, NC please watch The Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees through 28 June 2019.

Leave a comment

Scaling up the Resistance

Strategies and Stories from the German Climate Justice Movement

2019 North American Forest and Climate Convergence Planned

Dorothee Haeussermannand (left) and Daniel Hofinger (right) spoke to a packed house at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) space in St. Louis. Both are German activists with Ende Gelände. photo: Orin Langelle

St. Louis, MO (U.S.) – Speakers from the diverse German radical climate justice movement, Ende Gelände (“Here and No Further”) spoke to a packed crowd on 26 March 2019.

The German activists were on the Scaling Up the Resistance U.S. Tour, that started in February and ends in April, to share stories from Germany’s successful mass climate justice mobilizations — including their 6,000 person direct action against enormous open-cast lignite coal mines.

Last fall they organized to collectively block a coal mine. Demonstrators invaded mining pits, danced in front of the diggers, slept on the railways, and created aerial photo ops to make the connection between climate chaos and capitalism and exposed the truth behind the German Energiewende (“energy transition”).

Hofinger (right) and Haeussermannand (left) from Ende Gelände were speakers on the Scaling Up Resistance Tour. photo: Orin Langelle

“Ende Gelände together with the Hambach Forest Occupation and it’s dozens of tree-sits, local resistance and national mobilizations, the German Climate movement is on the brink of stopping coal. Time to bring that mass organizing here,” said Daniel Hofinger, an organizer with Ende Gelände, on tour in the U.S. “We organized a mass movement to stop coal and transition to renewables. We are honored to exchange experiences and align our common struggles for climate justice.”

“Climate change is part of the matrix of causation of everything from border issues, to mass migration, to super-storms and fires. Where it isn’t the driving factor, it is a major player. The fact that corporations and governments refuse to take the dramatic and predicted outcomes of climate change seriously means that people need to refuse to participate in the status quo. We can learn a lot from our German allies about how to do this in the U.S.,” said Rising Tide North America spokesperson, Heather Doyle.

Doyle continued, “In the age of Trump, the national focus on climate justice has been complicated by conservative attacks on collective action and a continued denial of the basic facts of climate change in favor of wholesale support of the economic elite. A movement like The Green New Deal has been amazing at maintaining a focus on the legislative priorities of the climate movement, but it does not replace the need for a large scale direct confrontation with corporate actors that influence government. In the end we need to build a mass movement that approaches climate, capitalism and other root causes equally.”

North American Forest & Climate Convergence planned for October

Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project holds a quarter sheet about the upcoming “Resurgence: 2019 Forest & Climate” during the “Scaling Up the Resistance U.S. Tour.” photo: Orin Langelle

Rising Tide North America is using this tour to help build a mass direct action movement in North America. Invited to speak in St. Louis were Tabitha Tripp from SAFE: Southern IL Against Fracturing our Environment, and Shawnee Forest Defense!, and Global Justice Ecology Project‘s Anne Petermann.

Both Shawnee Forest Defense! and Global Justice Ecology Project along with Indigenous Environmental Network make up the core coordinating committee for The Resurgence: 2019 Forest & Climate Movement Convergence in October.

“The convergence is a call to action to radically transform the economic and political systems that drive climate change, forest destruction and the commodification of life,” stated Global Justice Ecology Project’s Anne Petermann. She emphasized, “This is not another conference.”

SAFE spokesperson, also with Shawnee Forest Defense!, invites the crowd to join working groups for The Resurgence. photo: Orin Langelle

Shawnee Forest Defense! and SAFE’s Tripp added, “This convergence will be an opportunity to come together as many people working on the interconnected issues of forest destruction, climate change, Indigenous sovereignty, racial and gender oppression, corporate domination, fossil fuel extraction, and social and environmental injustice.”

A written statement from Rising Tide North America stated: “From the months-long tree-sits against the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia, to the felony charges thrown at activists in the Southern Bayou L’eau Est La Vie camp, to the frigid winter campaign in Northern Minnesota opposing Line 3, the U.S. movement needs to grow if it is to be successful.

“To win, we need to build a mass grassroots movement that uses direct action to bring down the fossil fuel industry and demand a just transition to decentralized and democratized energy systems. We also need to abolish false solutions like carbon trading and green capitalism; confront far-right ‘populist’ lies for what they are; build international solidarity; use local and municipal power-building strategies; and take leadership from the first and worst hit by pollution and climate catastrophes.”

The St. Louis event was co-hosted by: Earth Defense Coalition, SAFE: Southern IL Against Fracturing our Environment, Shawnee Forest Defense!, Sunrise STL, Extinction Rebellion STL, 350 STL, Fossil Free WashU, St. Louis Democratic Socialists of America Environmental Committee, and Radical Revolution

National Tour Sponsor: Rising Tide North America

German Resistance Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums

Ende Gelände Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BaggerStoppen/

Leave a comment

Wally Menne with Ana Filippini of World Rainforest Movement in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, 2007. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC/photolangelle.org

Cross-posted from Global Justice Ecology Project

Wally Menne: A Lion Among Men

The Loss of a Giant

Wally Menne in Kuna Yala 2010. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC/photolangelle.org

My partner Orin Langelle and I were shocked and saddened this morning to learn of the death of friend and colleague Wally Menne who passed away on Thursday 26 October.

We had known Wally for many years and his loss was like a dagger. I had met Wally when he organized the founding meeting of the Durban Group for Climate Justice in his hometown in 2004.

Orin met him a couple of years later at a gathering of the Global Forest Coalition.

The loss of this important South African activist was sudden and surprising. Wally was a powerhouse, a giant. His force was impossible to ignore. He was dedicated and uncompromising with a seemingly endless supply of energy despite his years at the grindstone. Even now, it is difficult to imagine a movement without him.

I heard from Wally only a few days ago with information on a possible volunteer for GJEP—someone whose writings he had come across who impressed him with her no-nonsense critique on the problem of industrial tree plantations—his personal crusade.

The Durban Group for Climate Justice. Wally with arms folded, far left.

Anyone who knew Wally knew this about him. He was passionate about ridding the Earth of the scourge of timber plantations and was one of the most knowledgeable on their extensive social and ecological impacts. He had no qualms about laying the blame for this devastating problem squarely at the feet of those responsible–not merely the corporations whose plantations they were, but the agencies and organizations who laid their groundwork and made up excuses to enable their expansion. In particular he targeted the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The FAO won Wally’s wrath through their insistence on promoting a definition of “forests” that included industrial timber plantations. This despite the obvious fact that forests support communities, biodiversity, clean water and climate stabilization; and plantations destroy forests, communities, biodiversity, clean water and the climate. 2 + 2 will never equal 5 no matter how many reports the FAO puts out claiming it does.

Wally Menne, in center with hands above head, during a protest against a SAPPI pulp mill in South Africa. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC/photolangelle.org

The FSC was dogged by Wally’s incessant criticism due to their support and legitimation of the timber plantation model. The FSC became a multi-billion-dollar brand by giving corporations sustainability certification for their timber monocultures, enabling them to sell their plantation-derived products as “green,” despite the real, on-the-ground consequences of that model.

On October 22nd, Wally wrote the piece below, promoting a new blog on the problem of plantations. I think it is a wonderful example of the anger and passion that Wally wielded with such skill, and of his ability to address not just the problem of plantations, but all of the issues connected to them. In this case, wood-based bioenergy. A timely post, given the upcoming UNFCCC Climate Convention early next month.


“The debate around the negative impacts of burning tree biomass to generate energy or to manufacture liquid biofuels has been escalating over the past ten years, with ample evidence having been presented of the harmful effects of government and UN policies that promote this false solution to climate change.

“However, the extremely greedy and powerful land-grabbing industry has managed to capture most of the international institutions that are supposed to act as the protectors of our planet, its people and its biodiversity. The prime example of this is the FAO. The FOOD and AGRICULTURE organisation of the United Nations, which has been co-opted by big bad business through tireless propaganda campaigns to undermine and to weaken the outcomes of political processes and to promote false promises under the guise of projects and programmes such as the Green Economy, REDD+, renewable energy targets and even targets to reduce biodiversity loss and deforestation.

“It is becoming increasingly obvious that these efforts are highly unlikely to bring about their intended results, and that instead they are only creating a false sense of there being no urgency for governments and individuals to take the initiative and to act decisively on their own in implementing the changes that are needed. In other words, all the hot air being pumped out at meetings of the CBD, UNFCCC, FAO, UNFF and the rest, is only serving to delay the implementation of real solutions, so that the owners of the industrial corporations that benefit from these long drawn-out processes can continue to profit at the expense of the majority of the people on our planet.”

—Wally Menne, Timberwatch, South Africa


We will miss Wally and the huge hole left by his absence. We hold his wife Rose and son Adam in our hearts at this terrible time.

Rest in peace Wally. You’ve earned it.

We miss you.

Anne Petermann (Orin Langelle and the staff and Board of Global Justice Ecology Project)

Leave a comment

This Sunday, 31 January, Orin Langelle will be in Toronto for a  Learning Activism launch party with the book’s author, close friend and colleague, Aziz Choudry at ‘Another Story Bookshop.’ The book was published by the University of Toronto Press.  Langelle will give a slideshow of his photographs that illustrate the book, including the cover, as well as photos exhibited at Buffalo, NY’s ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery, which he directs. Langelle will explain history behind the photographs and the struggles they represent. Following the discussion by Choudry and Langelle, there will be a question and answer period.

Aziz Choudry is Associate Professor in the Department of Integral Studies in Education at McGill and Visiting Professor in the Center for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg. He has been on the Board of Directors of Global Justice Ecology Project since its its founding in 2003 by Langelle and Anne Petermann.

The launch party is free and open to the public.  RSVP for the event on the bookstore Facebook page.

Below the poster is UTP’s description for the book followed by a paragraph about Langelle written by Choudry that appears in the book.

**Choudry at Another Story Poster

Described by the University of Toronto Press:

What do activists know? Learning Activism is designed to encourage a deeper engagement with the intellectual life of activists who organize for social, political, and ecological justice. Combining experiential knowledge from his own activism and a variety of social movements, Choudry suggests that such organizations are best understood if we engage with the learning, knowledge, debates, and theorizing that goes on within them. Drawing on Marxist, feminist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial perspectives on knowledge and power, the book highlights how activists and organizers learn through doing, and fills the gap between social movement practice as it occurs on the ground, critical adult education scholarship, and social movement theorizing. Examples include anti-colonial currents within global justice organizing in the Asia-Pacific, activist research and education in social movements and people?s organizations in the Philippines, Migrant and immigrant worker struggles in Canada, and the Quebec student strike. The result is a book that carves out a new space for intellectual life in activist practice.

Choudry from Learning Activism on Orin Langelle:

The photographs that illustrate this book are another important example of preserving movement histories. These photos by US activist and photojournalist Orin Langelle transcend the sometime clichéd “protest” images that we often see. Integrating photography into organizing/education initiatives, especially around climate justice, anti-globalization, food sovereignty, and Indigenous resistance struggles, his work is a historically informed look at social movements, struggle and everyday life. In Langelle’s words, his photographic work aims to ‘counter the societal amnesia from which we collectively suffer—especially with regard to the history of social and ecological struggles. This is not merely a chronicling of history, but a call out to inspire new generations to participate in the making of a new history.’ Langelle writes that he strives ‘not just to document and expose the harsh reality of injustice—much of which is linked with the struggle for the land—but to inspire viewers to participate in changing the world, while helping empower those striving for justice because they know that photographs of their struggle are revealed to a larger audience.’ As Langelle says, in contemporary struggles for change,we cannot afford societal amnesia.

Special Note:

Seven photographs from Orin Langelle’s last exhibit, The End of the Game – The Last Word from Paradise, Revisited are included in a show at the Gordon Parks Foundation in Pleasantville, NY. Langelle’s photos document Peter Beard’s first one-person show at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan in 1977.

The exhibit at the Parks Foundation, Gordon Parks: Collages by Peter Beard, features artwork made by Beard over the course of the long friendship between him and Parks. The exhibit is open through April 23.

Leave a comment
EnglishFrenchGermanItalianPortugueseRussianSpanish