LANGELLE PHOTOGRAPHY

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

Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Cecelia Rodriguez, then the US Representative for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico, speaks out against the World Bank in 1995 on the 50th Anniversary of their formation.  Photolangelle.org

Sympathy for the Devil

by Soren Ambrose

A personal reflection on the World Bank, Jim Kim, and David Malpass

Soren Ambrose is a member of the Board of Directors of Global Justice Ecology Project.  He is based in Nairobi, Kenya and works for ActionAid International.  He was previously part of the leadership of the 50 Years is Enough Network, which analyzed and organized against World Bank injustices.

As a U.S. citizen and a global justice activist, I’ve always opposed the US’s prerogative to nominate the World Bank president. And I certainly never expected to like any U.S. candidate for the World Bank presidency. In 2012, then, I was startled when Barack Obama nominated Jim Kim.

I had met Kim back in 1995 at a protest against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC. It was no more than a handshake, but I was thrilled to meet the lead editor of Dying for Growth, a remarkable compendium of articles about the disastrous impact of IMF/WB policies on health around the world. It was one of the pillars of the multi-sectoral work I did with the 50 Years Is Enough U.S. Network of IMF/WB critics.

He had left Partners in Health well before his nomination and gone on to other, less movement-friendly positions, such as the presidency of Dartmouth College. But still, he was Jim Kim; he at least had been “one of us.” What was I, a dedicated campaigner against the U.S. monopoly on the WB presidency, to do?

I didn’t support the U.S. nomination of course, but I wasn’t so passionate in opposing it as I might otherwise have been. Less sentimental colleagues led the charge. But now that Kim has left, we know that he will be remembered primarily for turning the Bank into an even bigger booster of private-sector domination of development than it already was. So much so that he decided to bail on the job when Trump could nominate his replacement, apparently to get the obscene payoffs that await investment bankers with insider experience. Not exactly what I had been hoping for.

So now that Trump has made his nomination, why do I find it difficult, again, to be as passionate as my colleagues in opposing the pick?

Trump of course has made a habit of appointing top officials who oppose the mission of the agency they’re supposed to lead. The U.S. Secretary of Education holds public education in contempt; the head of the Environmental Protection Agency prefers corporate indulgence to clean air or action on climate change, and so on and on and on. It’s been a massacre.

But I wasn’t too upset to see headlines like Vox’s “Trump’s World-Bank hating pick for World Bank president.” I like public education and clean air, but I can’t really claim to like the World Bank so much. I would be dubious about any nominee who thought it was doing a bang-up job. So … why does David Malpass “hate” the World Bank?

Well, Vox says, he failed to predict the global financial crisis that got underway in 2008. So did the IMF and World Bank. So did almost every mainstream economist around the world. We could insist the nomination go to a more prescient person, such as Dean Baker, but somehow I doubt he’d accept … or that he’d get nominated. Of course Malpass failed in a pretty spectacular way, as chief economist at investment bank Bear Stearns, the first big casualty of the crisis, but that just gives us a reliable laugh line when we criticize him.

Malpass thinks well-off countries are getting too much of the World Bank’s attention:

“The World Bank’s biggest borrower is China. Well, China has plenty of resources,” he said at a Council on Foreign Relations forum in November 2017. “And it doesn’t make sense to have money borrowed in the US, using the US government guarantee, going into lending in China for a country that’s got other resources and access to capital markets. … So one of the things we’ve challenged the World Bank to do is graduate countries, that as they are successful, let’s reduce the lending there and allow more lending to countries that need it.”

A multilateral financial institution should be devoting its public resources to the countries that won’t develop otherwise, shouldn’t it? Why should public money support projects in a country that is lending billions to other governments? Maybe focus more on the IDA countries for a change (not that I think all IDA programs are great …).

Malpass thinks the Bank spends too much on salaries – which, although Voxneglects to mention it, are tax-free since the Bank is considered a “treaty organization” under U.S. law. Vox’s Dylan Matthews is worried that declining to match salaries like those at Goldman Sachs will mean the Bank loses out on qualified staff. I’d say staff that would prefer to be at Goldman Sachs shouldn’t be working at a public development institution.

And, Matthews worries:

In November 2017, speaking before the House Financial Services committee, he was even harsher, indicting the World Bank and other multinational financial organizations for their policy advice, which is increasingly the main product offered by the World Bank, rather than direct loans.

Unfortunately he doesn’t tell us what policy advice Malpass didn’t like, but given that civil society has been battling the World Bank’s addiction to neoliberal policies in every conceivable sector, I wouldn’t mind if a new president had a skeptical attitude toward them, even if it doesn’t necessarily agree with our take.

Worst of all, Matthews reports Malpass saying:

“They’re often corrupt in their lending practices, and they don’t get the benefit to the actual people in the countries,” he told then-ranking committee member Maxine Waters (D-CA). “They get the benefit to the people who fly in on a first-class airplane ticket to give advice to the government officials in the country, that flow of money is large, but not so much the actual benefit to normal people within poor countries.”

Amen!

I’m not saying that I would actually support David Malpass to become World Bank president. I would never support any U.S. nominee, much less a Trump nominee who shares some of Trump’s world-view. But given the kind of buffoons Trump has appointed to many positions, this nomination could have been much worse. A Bank president who is critical of the Bank, critical of international-development-business-as-usual, and apparently not stupid about it, would not be a bad thing. But of course things don’t always turn out the way we expect.

I am growing impatient for some developing country to nominate an alternative. I’d like a reason to be enthusiastically opposed to the U.S. candidate.

Leave a comment

All photos taken by Orin Langelle in Nicaragua unless noted.

Posoltega, Nicaragua: This tree was uprooted and stuck upside down in the mud after the crater lake of the Las Casitas volcano collapsed during Hurricane Mitch causing a major mudslide that buried entire villages near Posoltega, Nicaragua. The tree marks the mass grave of thousands of people, and the land affected by the mudslide resembles a desert.

The following article was published twenty years ago in ACERCA NOTES when I was the coordinator of ACERCA (Action for Community and Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America). ACERCA’s findings cited climate change as one of the factors that exacerbated the tragedy caused by Hurricane Mitch. Climate change was not on the minds of many people twenty years ago. Little did I know then that climate change would be on so many people’s minds today and actually be recognized as a major threat to life on Earth if systemic changes do not happen economically and politically in the next twelve years.  – Orin Langelle

The Special Report was excerpted from the “Preliminary Report to the Nicaragua Network Environmental Task Force.”

SPECIAL REPORT: HURRICANE MITCH IN NICARAGUA

Environmental Degradation, Deforestation, [Climate Change] Exacerbated Tragedy

by Orin Langelle

From October 25 to November 2, 1998 Nicaragua suffered a full scale disaster with Hurricane Mitch. Action for Community and Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America (ACERCA) called for and organized an environmental justice fact-finding research delegation to the region co-sponsored by Witness For Peace). In the first part of February [1999], the ACERCA-WFP delegation traveled in Nicaragua to get an eye-witness account. The delegation was the first from the United States to look into environmental factors of the hurricane. The following information is from many sources.

Posoltega, Nicaragua: During Hurricane Mitch, Johana Medín and her baby boy were swept away in the torrent of the Las Casitas volcano mudslide. For over 2 kilometers she held on to her baby and saved his life. Other survivors were not so lucky. Some were stuck in the mud for up to six days and had to have their limbs amputated. Others swallowed stomachs full of the mudslide and became sick. There were over 5,000 refugees.

Although Hurricane Mitch was a Category Five Hurricane with winds that ranged from 250-300 kms per hour with intense rain, the Nicaraguan government took no measures to prepare. In actuality, Hurricane Mitch did not hit Nicaragua, but Nicaragua suffered horrendous indirect effects.

Hurricane Mitch exposed in Nicaragua what has been present for many years. Decades of land abuse and environmental neglect magnified the hurricane’s devastating toll in death and damage. A combination of many social, political and economic factors caused the environmental degradation that exacerbated the tragedy. Deforestation played a major role. United States policy toward to Nicaragua contributed to these factors. Other factors include Global Climatic Change. Additionally, the government of Nicaragua ignored many warnings that could have prevented the tremendous loss of human life.

Hurricane Mitch destroyed roads, communications, houses and wells. Raging rivers washed away farmland and many zones were flooded for long periods of time. The damage to agriculture, ranching and human life was unprecedented with thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless.

The hurricane hit the poorest of the poor and will have long-term effects on food production for the entire populace. Seventy-two percent of all that was planted was lost. Small farmers were hit the hardest losing 90% of their beans and 80% of their corn.

Brief Historical Sketch Leading to Mitch

Development and exploitation of resources and people began with the Conquistadors ad has continued to this day.

These children [were] working for 9 Cordobas a day [US$.76 in 1999] picking peanuts in a field in the district of Chinandega, one of the districts hardest hit by Hurricane Mitch. The parents of these children [were] in Costa Rica, trying to earn enough money to send back to Nicaragua so they [did] not lose their lands to the bank. These small producers lost almost all of their crops to the hurricane.

The United States, through financial and military support and intervention, has influenced Nicaragua for many years, from the 1800s to the present. In the 1950s, large cotton export operations flourished in the Pacific, clearing land, ruining soil with monoculture crops and pesticides, and forcing people to move to more marginal lands. Deforestation was rampant. This and other export commodity crops such as coffee, sugar, tobacco and cattle pushed the agricultural frontier toward the eastern rainforests. Behind this was the US sponsored Somoza dictatorship.

A revolutionary government came into power in 1979, inheriting poverty, environmental devastation and debt. The US, unhappy about a government it could not control, took measures to eradicate the new Nicaraguan government which had begun taking drastic measures to alleviate the social and ecological crisis it inherited. After the Sandinistas assumed power in 1979, the US used a “clean up” operation, to eliminate the perceived “socialist threat” throughout Central America. The real purpose of the ‘clean up” was to set up governments in Central America that would be conducive to the neoliberal free market economy. These economic policies force the exploitation of natural resources and people.

The ACERCA delegation worked with the community of Chimaltepe begin a tree nursery. The nursery is a step for sustainability for that community.

Neoliberal policies are directed in part by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank through Structural Adjustment Policies which divert spending from the social sector (health, education, environment) toward debt payment. SAP’s benefit big business and certain government officials involved in those business ventures. At present [1999] Nicaraguan owes over US $46 billion. The US is a major influence in World Bank policy of how much money is loaned and is the only country with the power of an adhoc veto. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the hemisphere, behind Haiti.

Environment Prior to Mitch

Much of Nicaragua prior to Mitch was in an accelerated state of environmental decline.

One hundred thousand hectares per year are deforested. Before Mitch it was estimated that a record 300,000 hectares would be lost in 1998 alone; no one will now know due to Mitch.

Eighty percent of water sources are contaminated. Contamination in the Atlantic region is from mining, the Central region from petrochemicals related to agricultural practices.

Seventy-five percent of rivers in the Pacific region have dried up in the last 30 years due to deforestation and land abuse. There is a tremendous scarcity of water.

Tons of topsoil per hectare are lost each year in the Pacific region. In the dry season winds blow off the topsoil and in the rainy season it washes away.

These loggers were hired by a foreign multinational that was involved in an illegal timber operation.

Deforestation in the Pacific region has led to less rainfall in those areas. Some will become desert zones.

In 1998 there were 15,000 fires in agricultural and forested areas. For three months, Nicaragua appeared to be in flames. The forest fires destroyed vegetation under trees and when Mitch saturated the ground with water, many trees were swept away.

Nicaragua was an ecological disaster waiting to happen. When tree cover was eliminated and crops such as cotton were planted, there was an intense overuse of agricultural chemicals. The soil lost its capacity to hold plant life. Winds caused dust storms and further depleted the soil. Additional, the lack of trees next to rivers could not hold the banks together.

The majority of the land was in the hands of a few people and the poor were forced to move to the agricultural frontier or to survive by degrading the land, soil and forests. This further destabilized the soil. poverty and environmental degradation are intrinsically linked.

When Mitch rained, as much as 40 inches in a three day period, where there was no tree cover and little plant life to slow the rain runoff, sharp surges of water rushed off of mountains and fields into rivers causing flooding and mudslides of unprecedented portions.

Global Climatic Change 

The author and photojournalist, Orin Langelle, covered with dust while documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. He is in a Russian truck and was photographed by Cliff McCarthy from the Nicaragua Network.

Two of the most important environmental concerns are deforestation and Global Climatic Change.

Global Climatic Change is making is making predictability impossible. Each year severe weather events will come more often. More hurricanes are inevitable. Global Climatic Change will affect Nicaragua (and other countries in Central America) because they do not have the appropriate technologies needed to cope with it like other developed countries.

Responsibility lies with industrialized countries, especially the US. Excessive levels of carbon in the atmosphere and lack of green to absorb the carbon are causing the severe El Niño effects.

Wiwili – Deforestation and Flooding of the Rio Coco

Although only five centimeters of rain fell in the village of Wiwili on the Rio Coco, water in the Rio Coco rose 20 meters washing away 640 houses and affecting 1300 other houses. Deforestation upriver was to blame. The Nicaraguan government was warned about flooding on the upper reaches of Rio Coco but did not notify the people downriver of the upcoming flood.

Las Casitas Volcano

The circumstances surrounding the collapse of the Las Casitas volcano crater lake should indict the government of Nicaragua for gross negligence. At 11:40 am on Friday, October 30, the crater lake of the Las Casitas volcano collapsed causing a mudslide that swept down the side of the mountain careening over small villages in its path killing over 2500 men, women and children.

On Wednesday, October 28, INETER (Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies) warned the government that conditions were becoming unstable throughout Nicaragua for potential mud and landslides. In the village of Posoltega on Thursday, October 29, Mayor Felicita Zeledón alerted the media of those conditions. President Alemán called her an alarmist. After the volcano collapsed on Friday, Zeledón told the media that she estimated 1000 people died. Alemán called her a liar. The government had enough time to begin evacuation of the surrounding communities but did not take action.

Some people were stuck in the mud for up to six days. Limbs had to be amputated due to complications for being submerged in the mud. Others were carried kilometers away. Some people are still sick [when the article was originally written] from swallowing and inhaling mud. Many survivors are traumatized. Many lost entire families.

The Assassination

Nicaraguan National Assemblyman Jose Cuadra (right) speaks to ACERCA environmental justice delegation on Hurricane Mitch after the delegation returned to Managua in February 1999. Witness For Peace’s Ellen Yerby (center) and Rita d’Escoto-Clark (left) of the Nicaraguan-US Friendship Office.

continued: In an interview with National Assembly congressman and member of the government’s Environmental Commission, José Cuadra, Cuadra blamed congressman Eduardo Callejas for the collapse of the volcano. Cuadra said that Callejas deforested the slopes of the volcano in the 1960s and 70s. Pedrofélix Obregón and Elvira Blass of Comunidad Ambientalistas told us in addition to the deforestation of Las Casitas, Callejas was building 11 telecommunication towers on top of Las Casitas and also was building a road to the top of the mountain, further damaging the integrity of its slopes. Centro Humboldt’s Magda Lanuza told us that Callejas was still cutting trees on the slopes for coffee production as late as last year [1998].

In January of this year [1999], Callejas was placed on the Environmental Commission.

José Cuadra Assassinated on 18 August 1999

“Keeper of Morals” Shot Under Suspicious Circumstances

José Cuadra was held in considerable esteem by most of his colleagues, and called the keeper of morals by one legislative reporter. He had a strong anti-corruption track record, protesting a pay rise, which his fellows voted for themselves in the beginning of 1999. He also fiercely contested the recent enormous rises in the cost of electricity.

His killers used high-powered AK assault weapons.

Some of Cuadra’s colleagues, most notably Conservative Party Chief, Noel Vidaurre, speculate openly that the motive for his death was political.

When the ACERCA delegation met Cuadra in Managua in February 1999, Cuadra, in addition to putting the blame on Eduardo Callejas for the volcano collapse, said that he had information that President Alemán planned to make one million dollars a month as Nicaragua’s President. Cuadra also told ACERCA that he was investigating Alemán’s ties to the multinational fishing industry.

 

Lawmaker, 2 Others Killed in Shooting August 19, 1999From the Los Times Times Wire Reports:

A leading Nicaraguan Conservative Party lawmaker, the son of the Conservative Party chief and their driver were shot to death, National Police said in Managua. Jose Alfonso Cuadra, 40, Julio Enrique Ruiz, 26, and driver Francisco Celino were traveling to a political function when they were attacked by three armed assailants in the northern province of Matagalpa, Capt. Isabel Largaespada said. The National Assembly suspended its legislative session to mourn the “irreparable loss of one of its outstanding members.” In 1997, Cuadra was second vice president of the Assembly. Ruiz was the son of Conservative Party chief Julio Luis Quezada.

 

Note on a photograph by Langelle

Posoltega: The tree marks a mass grave, and the land affected by the mudslide resembles a desert.

This photograph on the right is an image that is etched in my brain. It is the one that never goes away. This photo impacted me on a very real aspect of what it means to be a concerned photographer – documenting a reality of a tragedy – hoping that the image of that tragedy will be used to prevent another. I took the photo while standing on a mass grave.

And today that photograph can be viewed as a warning of the climate chaos that has begun – and may it help counter the societal amnesia from which we collectively suffer.

Leave a comment

The home of Union Hill resident, Ella Rose is just 150 ft from the property where the 50,000 HP compressor station is to be built. It is one of three compressor locations for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – if the ACP is not stopped. Photolangelle.org

Statement from Global Justice Ecology Project

For Immediate Release – February 5, 2019

Buffalo, NY–Global Justice Ecology Project released this statement today regarding Governor Ralph Northam (D-Va.) and the racist photographs that recently surfaced. Governor Northam has been denounced and asked to resign by other politicians and citizens.

Orin Langelle, who worked in and photographed the historic community of Union Hill, VA last summer for Global Justice Ecology Project headquartered in Buffalo, released the following statement:

“Whether VA Governor Ralph Northam was or was not in a racist photo from decades ago, to me is not the most important question regarding the man’s racist tendencies. It is also his current actions that must be taken into account.

“One only has to look at Union Hill, VA to see that Northam is still a racist, and a potentially deadly one.

“Northam is refusing to stop Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline natural gas compressor station slated to be built in Union Hill, an historic community founded by freedmen and emancipated slaves after the Civil War. One mishap at that compressor station could be deadly to residents of that predominantly African-American community.

“He is ignoring the recommendations of his own Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (ACEJ) that called for a halt to the ACP due in part to its ‘disproportionate impacts for people of color and for low-income populations…’

“Would he have allowed it to be built in one of the affluent white suburbs of Richmond?”

NOTE: Of particular concern was the placement of a compressor station in the historic community of Union Hill. The controversial placement was not only criticized by the Governor’s own Advisory Council, which he not only ignored but reportedly threatened to terminate because of its criticism of the project. Also Governor Northam was widely criticized for the shocking replacement of two members of the council who had been critical of the Governor prior to the vote to place the compressor in Union Hill.

For more information contact: Steve Taylor +1.314.210.1322   <[email protected]org>

Leave a comment

Attention brought to the serious climate crisis that is already happening

Buffalo, NY – 26 January 2019: After speakers and a funeral for all extinct species, Extinction Rebellion Buffalo blocked the intersection of Elmwood and Bidwell Avenues. Elmwood Avenue is a major shopping district.

[Media: For hi-resolution photographs, please contact [email protected]]

Protester chanting, “Whose streets, our streets,” in front of vehicle. Extinction Rebellion Buffalo blocked intersection in one of Buffalo’s shopping districts. photo: Langelle

Intersection occupation. photo: Langelle

The crowd then held an unpermitted march through the streets Delaware Park and then dropped a banner over the  Scajaquada Expressway. The banner said “Extinction Rebellion.”

Greenleaf, a Mohawk Indigenous man, was the first speaker of the day. photo: Langelle

Fifty or more people participated in today’s event in what organizers from Extinction Rebellion Buffalo billed as, “US Rebellion Day 1: Declare Climate Truth!” This was the first action that the Buffalo group did.  Organizers said it was not the last. There were no arrests.

Reflection during the funeral for all extinct species. photo: Langelle

From Extinction Rebellion US, “Over the last 3 months, Extinction Rebellion has established groups in over 35 countries, and 30 US cities, while also gaining the endorsements of leaders like Noam Chomsky … and hundreds of climate scientists. On January 26th, we use this massive momentum for a day of action that will create disruption, spread the word, and recruit. We’re just getting started, so these actions are building the base. But we’re facing extinction, so we know that nothing short of mass mobilization will save us.”

Mourner during funeral. photo: Langelle

Putting flowers into a symbolic coffin. photo: Langelle

Marching to the Scajaquada Expressway. photo: Langelle

Dropping banner over the Scajaquada Expressway. photo: Langelle

Over the Scajaquada Expressway. photo: Langelle

 

 

1 Comment
Some of the Indigenous Peoples from the Amazon region that attended the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil (2009). photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Photo essay and commentary by Orin Langelle. This was submitted to Z Magazine in January 2009. Langelle, with Global Justice Ecology Project, also was the Media Coordinator for Global Forest Coalition.


Over 100,000 people from around the world participated in the World Social Forum held in Belém, Brazil from January 27 to February 1, 2009.  Belém sits at the mouth of the Amazon River.

Starting with the first World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001, World Social Forums have been the counter to the World Economic Forum which holds it’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland at the same time. 

[This photo essay, re-published on 23 January 2019, finds the WEF meeting occurring as usual in Davos; while Brazil has a new right-wing fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro, the antithesis of everything the WSF stands.]

Various types of boats ferried people from one venue to the other. photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC


The venues for this year’s WSF were held in the Universidade Federal Rural da Amazónia (UFRA) and the Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA).  Unfortunately the universities were quite far apart, requiring people to take buses, taxis or boats to the many workshops and talks that overwhelmed the WSF.

A typical scene from one of the many workshops of the WSF. Langelle/GJEP-GFC


Despite the heat, humidity, torrential rain and long travel distances, this year’s WSF brought together very large contingents of Indigenous Peoples from the region with youth, women, social, environmental and climate justice activists as many different causes and issues were raised.

One of the many marches that seemingly spontaneously occurred during the WSF. Langelle/GJEP-GFC
An Indigenous Peoples’ protest at an impromptu press conference on 30 January 2009 during the WSF in Belém. They were protesting incursions into their territory that are disrupting their way of life and introducing new and deadly diseases. Langelle/GJEP-GFC


At the opening of the WSF, more than a thousand Indigenous Peoples from around the world send an urgent message making a huge human banner that read in Portuguese:  Salve a Amazonia (Save the Amazon).


The largest event was a meeting with the leftist presidents  Evo Morales of Bolivia, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. While many lauded this event, to some this was a contradiction to the spirit of the power of social and Indigenous Peoples’ movements that are looking for a more autonomous approach based in self-governance.

A ‘Solidarity with Palestine’ banner marked one of the entrances to the youth camp area. Langelle/GJEP-GFC


The motto of the World Social Forums, which continues to this day, is “Another World is Possible.”

Woman demonstrate with signs during WSF. Langelle/GJEP-GFC


Prior to the beginning of the WSF, organizers stated, “The Pan-Amazon will be the territory of the 9th edition of the World Social Forum. For six days, Belem, the capital of Para, Brazil, takes the place of the center of the region to shelter the greatest anti-globalization event of today and brings together activists from more than 150 countries in a permanent process of mobilization, articulation and search for alternatives for another possible world, free of neoliberal politics and all forms of imperialism.”

Cuban Revolution tent where the 50th anniversary of the revolution was celebrated. Langelle/GJEP-GFC


The WEF brings together the the economically and politically powerful: top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and others to discuss how to keep market based mechanisms functioning for the benefit of the economically elite.


The World Social Forum (WSF) was created to be an open space where plural, diverse, non-governmental and non-partisan participation stimulates decentralized debate, reflection, proposal building, experiences, exchange and alliances among movements and organizations engaged in concrete actions towards a more democratic and fair world.

An anti-homophobia march took place during one of the many downpours. Langelle/GJEP-GFC


[One of the strangest interviews I ever was involved in was a midnight broadcast by Al Jazeera with Miguel Lovera from Global Forest Coalition. When we showed up to where Al Jazeera was broadcasting from the WSF, Miguel and I were informed this was going to be a live short back-and-forth between one of the people at the World Economic Forum in Davos and Miguel. The strange part of this was that the person at the WEF could hear Miguel but Miguel couldn’t hear him. Miguel had to wing it and he nailed it.] – Orin Langelle

Leave a comment
photo: Langelle

Photo taken near Paul Smiths in NY’s Adirondack Mountains, December 2018. Anne Petermann and I were staying on Kiwassa Lake near Saranac Lake during the Christmas – New Year’s holidays. It was up in the 40sF with rain melting a lot of the ice on the lake and then dropping to cold and snow and then to warm again and then cold and snow. People where we were we staying said that they never have seen weather like this in the Adirondacks.

Leave a comment

Copenhagen, Denmark: “Fingers” are pointed at Corporations and Bankers as the drivers of climate change during the UNFCCC (2009)                                                                            Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The scientific UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report warning there are only a dozen years to prevent climate catastrophe. The time is ticking…above countdown as of 13 December 2018.

Intro from Orin Langelle 13 December 2018: I was going to wait until the final words were hammered out at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Conference of the Parties 24 (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland that began on 2 December and is scheduled to conclude 14 December 2018. But why wait when I already know the outcome.

The UNFCCC will agree to meet again next year and no binding deals by the parties will happen this year.

Why do I know that? From my first UNFCCC experience as an activist photographer in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2004 to my last consecutive UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa in 2011, all I ever saw was business as usual as Earth’s life support systems become more fragile. Already in 2004 it was widely understood that climate change was already well underway, but this year it is glaringly apparent as extreme weather around the globe gets even more extreme, with records breaking left and right.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in October of this year (2018) warning there are only a dozen years to take the measures necessary to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C – beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people; not to mention non-human species.  The IPCC even went so far as to say that avoiding catastrophic climate change will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Quite a statement from a group of scientists.

We are already in the sixth massive extinction; the likes of which have not been seen on Earth for at least 65 million years. This is the alarming finding of a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

In other words, we are up shit’s creek without a paddle. The human race though, has an ethical and moral obligation to find that paddle. I have not seen any real efforts to find that paddle at any UN climate conference. Nor have I seen any political will from governments to acknowledge what it might take to find that paddle. No, it is up to us. It is up to us to work for radical systemic transformation. Not reform. Its too late for reform. We can see the iceberg up ahead. We need to stop the ship, not re-arrange the deck chairs.

Every year, the UN climate conference is the same – sort of like the Groundhog’s Day movie where Bill Murray relives 2 February over and over.

Below is an article I wrote from a hotel in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico one week after I attended the miserable UN climate conference in Cancún (2010).  I could probably write virtually the same piece after this year’s climate COP in Katowice, Poland.

Running to Catch a Bus to the Apocalypse

by Orin Langelle     First published in Climate Connections | 17 December 2010

Not just once but twice. Two times I had to run to catch the bus that was going from the Hotel Zone in Cancún to the Cancún Messe. From the Messe one had to take a shuttle to get into the main buildings of the Moon Palace where the UN climate talks were being held or to get to the media center. The UN made it quite hard to get to the Moon Palace from the Hotel Zone or downtown, so missing a bus was a big deal time-wise.

One of the shuttle buses from the Messe to the Moon Palace. California and the Mexican state of Chiapas recently made of a bilateral deal on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) that involves African Palm plantations. The “Ecobus” was later seen being filled with normal petrol. photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Why to the apocalypse?  Because it’s the end of the world as we know it and the UN climate negotiations are about the commodification of life. To quote Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network on the UN climate talks, “It’s the World Trade Organization of the sky.”

And the sky is the limit.  Everything has a price. From trees to water to air; in fact the Earth and all life is for sale. They may as well put bar codes on tigers. But wait, they kind of are. Charismatic fauna should be used to create premiums on schemes to save the forest—as World Bank chief slimy asshole Robert Zoellick explained at a day-long conference devoted to REDD [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation]. (The UN doesn’t even know what a forest is—tree plantations, devoid of biodiversity are considered forests in their profit-motivated brains). This was my seventh United Nations Frameworks Convention on Climate Change. I started  in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2004 – then followed with Montreal, Canada—Nairobi, Kenya—Bali, Indonesia—Poznan, Poland—Copenhagen, Denmark—and finally Cancún, Mexico. [I held out one more year and attended the climate COP in 2011 Durban, South Africa.]

Buenos Aires was my first experience with how the UN climate talks function. Business comes in and runs the show while lip service is given to NGOs and Indigenous Peoples. Buenos Aires was a fucking trade show where Clean Coal, Nuclear Power and other industries had booths to sell their snake oils of destruction.

Are things really that bad?

Indigenous Peoples with UNFCCC gags in Bali, Indonesia (2007). photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Year after year these talks get worse and worse. Voices of opposition slowly were eroding with one the first egregious cases erupting in Bali [Indonesia].  Indigenous Peoples were invited to a meeting with the UN president. They went. He wasn’t there. He was at another place. The Indigenous Peoples went there. There, they were met by armed guards who wouldn’t let them in.  The next day, at a guerilla press conference, Indigenous Peoples showed up with UNFCCC gags across their mouths.

Fast forward to CorporateHaven (Copenhagen) last year [2009]. Finally people were catching on to what the climate negotiators were up to and finally people started to revolt. Climate Justice Action was formed to do outside actions and CJA teamed up with Climate Justice Now!, an inside group formed in Bali that promoted a more leftist analysis than the other inside NGOs associated with Climate Action Network. CJA and CJN! planned a “Reclaim Power” action where people from CJA planned to march to the convention center where the negotiators were huddled and have a Peoples’ Assembly with folks who marched out from the inside, led by a contingent of Indigenous Peoples.

The march out of the convention was met by police (2009). photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Both of the marches were stopped and CJA and CJN! never came together for the Peoples’ Assembly as activists from both sides were brutally attacked by Danish police.

CJA did manage to have its own Peoples’ Assembly, however.

Some of us knew the negotiators’ legitimacy was slowly dissolving and the UN climate talks would never be the same again.

The next UNFCCC was to be held in Mexico City, but officials changed the venue to Cancún. Could this be because they thought outside protests could be better contained, as they were in 2003 when the WTO met [there]? To use the words of an Alaskan buffoon and Tea Party icon [Sarah Palin], “You betcha!”

This month, in Cancún, the UNFCCC was stripped bare of any legitimacy.  Business was the order of the day and NGOs, IPOs [Indigenous Peoples Organizations], smaller nations, journalists and youth had no space unless they took it. Youth took it. Indigenous Peoples took it. Some NGOs took it. Through demonstrations that permeated the talks it was evident that the UNFCCC was no more than the World Carbon-Trading Organization. UN security even beat up a Reuters photographer and stole his camera for photographing UN security over-reacting to a youth protest. (When journalist[s] are attacked it usually means those in control are afraid of being exposed; it also means that those in control will start to get very bad press).

The so-called Cancún Agreements are a farce that would be laughable except for the fact that the UN negotiators are putting all life on Earth for sale.

And why shouldn’t it be with business, the World Bank and phony environmental organizations like Conservation International dealing the cards? There is some really evil shit going on.

Robert Zoellick and his eyes wide shut during the failed Cancun 2003 WTO talks. photo: Langelle/GJEP

I was in Cancún in 2003 where the WTO was held. The U.S. trade representative was Robert Zoellick. Zoellick is also one of the founders of the Project for a New American Century and one of the architects of the ongoing oil war on the Iraqi people. Now he is the President of the World Bank.

Can you say American Empire? An empire of death, racism, genocide, and colonialism. An empire that, with the other rich nations, thinks they are in control of the world.

So is it the end of the world as we know it? Yes. It has to be. Life can’t continue in the direction that it is headed, run by these greedy fucking jerks. Is the apocalypse nigh? It depends. One version of apocalypse means a dramatic and catastrophic conflict, typically seen as likely to destroy the world or the human race. It also could be interpreted that ‘destroy’ really means to destroy unjust economic systems. This will destroy the concept of putting a price tag on life as it is now but could also result in new way of life in harmony with the earth.

Zapatista Commandante Tacho in La Realidad, Chiapas, Mexico (1996). photo: Langelle/GJEP

So is there hope? Of course. Maybe when the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, we will see a much-needed rebirth in balance with the earth. Maybe people will figure things out and band together in solidarity. Maybe social movements will swell and overthrow the maniacs that are now in charge. If any of those scenarios occur—and it’s the end of the world as I know it, I will feel fine.

I continue to dream what many say is impossible. I’m sitting in a hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico writing this blog post a week after the Cancún mess. In Chiapas, when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect on New Years Day in 1994, a band of  Indigenous Peoples called the Zapatistas started a revolution in Chiapas stating that NAFTA “is a death sentence for Indigenous Peoples.”

That revolution continues to this day. It is a revolution of hope and dignity. Autonomous Regions and cooperatives exist in many parts of Chiapas.

The start of the Zapatista rebellion was summed up by these words:  ¡Ya Basta! (Enough Already) and La Lucha Sigue, Zapata Vive! (the struggle continues, Zapata lives!)

It’s time for a global ¡Ya Basta! or we certainly are headed toward the much more sinister meaning of apocalypse.

_______

Orin Langelle directs Langelle Photography, a component of Global Justice Ecology Project’s Global Justice Media Program. Langelle, along with Anne Petermann founded Global Justice Ecology Project in 2003. Petermann and Langelle have worked in struggles for justice from local to national to international for many years. GJEP is a co-founder of the Durban Group for Climate Justice (Durban, South Africa 2004), Climate Justice Now! (Bali, Indonesia 2007), and Climate Justice Action (Copenhagen, Denmark 2008), all of which have deep and powerful critiques of carbon offsets and carbon markets. GJEP is also a founding member of the U.S. Climate Justice Alliance.

 

Leave a comment

Grabbing by Capitalism

Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP’s coordinator of Environmental and Climate Justice Program addresses Buffalo’s 2nd Annual Anti-Gentrification Summit. Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Executive Director of PUSH (People United for Sustainable Housing) Buffalo is on the left. photo: Langelle

Buffalo, NY’s Anti-Gentrification Summit

plus land grabs, climate change connections

by Orin Langelle

On 17 November 2018, the OUR CITY coalition presented the Second Annual Anti-Gentrification Summit and said it would be “a day of inspiration and workshops that will help arm the citizens of Buffalo with the tools and information needed to combat the issues that matter most to us – the people!” The Summit took place at the East High School in Buffalo, NY’s East Side. The East Side is one of the most polluted areas in Buffalo.

Keynote speaker Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP’s coordinator and co-founder of its Environmental and Climate Justice Program, addressed the large diverse crowd on such themes such as climate change, capitalism and the power of the people to stand together in determination and love.

Some of the workshops scheduled at the Summit included ‘From Undocumented to Citizen: Building a City Where All Immigrants are Able to Live With Dignity and Their Rights Protected,’ ‘There’s More Than One Justice. How about Climate?’ along with ‘Collective Ownership for Community Wealth’ to name a few.

Global Justice Ecology Project‘s Executive Director Anne Petermann and I attended the conference after we were invited by Clarke Gocker, Director of Policy and Strategy of PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing). We both had heard of PUSH and knew a little about them, but  started to know more about them when I presented last month in Resilience: Through the Lens, a photo class for the community, organized by The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, and the CEPA Gallery | Contemporary Photography and Visual Arts Center. Clarke was one of the people who attended.

The following week Clarke and I got together at the PUSH offices to discuss the Summit. He thought it would it would be good if I could do a workshop during the Summit. Due to a variety of circumstances the workshop didn’t happen this time.

Clarke told me when we met at the PUSH offices prior to the Summit that he was inspired by my work documenting the resistance of communities, both globally and nationally. And how my photos on displacements–such as schemes to take Indigenous Peoples’ lands that would lead to the relocation of those communities, to other communities standing up to displacement due to fracked gas pipelines–could connect to anti-gentrification work. I never thought of my work relating to gentrification, but it made sense.

Most of my life I’ve worked to find and expose the intersections between ecology and economics; helping bridge one issue to other issues to help build anti-capitalist solidarity. But like so many others there is almost always is a disconnect of issues somewhere and gentrification was my disconnect. It is no longer.

Many of us who have worked for the planet, for communities and for the people have had instances of not finding, or unable to build, the bridges necessary for open dialogue. It happens far more too often than it should.

Gentrification and other Land Grabs can be bridges of understanding between those who live in cities and those who live in less populated communities. And like it or not, climate chaos is a bridge to the mutual aid we all must practice because I don’t believe the government will be of much assistance except to help the ruling class that is predominantly white.

An interesting article, HOW THE RICH WILL SURVIVE CLIMATE CHANGE DISASTER was published online in The Outline. Here is the final paragraph:

We are entering a dystopian future in which class-privileged white people are using privatized systems and their obscene wealth to avoid the catastrophic environmental effects of the racist capitalist system that they forced upon the world. While they are funding these privatized resource systems with the wealth they built off of marginalized peoples, wealthy white people are simultaneously supporting Trump in droves, who blamed forest management for [the California] fires and derided a United Nations report released last month finding that the world has 12 years to avert global environmental catastrophe. These fires and their disparate impact demonstrate a necessity for structural action on climate change and support for those who will be most harmed—poor people and people of color.

On a much brighter note it was great to see and talk, unfortunately only briefly, with Jacqui Patterson. Anne Petermann I have known Jacqui for over a decade due to working on Climate Justice issues nationally and internationally. Not many people can say that they’ve driven into a hurricane so they could be there to be of assistance. Jacqui can.

Leave a comment
EnglishFrenchGermanItalianPortugueseRussianSpanish