December 20 2014
Dear LAB Supporter and Friend,
CLIMATE CHANGE, BRAZIL & CENTRAL AMERICA
We have been neglecting you, our faithful subscribers. Apologies: we will try to produce our newsletter more regularly in the coming period.
The COP-20 climate change conference in Lima ended on Sunday December 14 with the predictable last-minute flurry of compromises. The Guardian called it “a fortnight and two extra days of intense negotiation to achieve one small step towards the outline of an agreement for next year’s all-important Paris talks.” Cory Fischer-Hoffman, for UpsideDownWorld, concluded: “No one that I spoke to seemed to have much faith that the official UN process would adequately respond to the chorus of demands coming from grassroots communities throughout the Americas and beyond. Yet something else seemed to be brewing in the streets.” (Read more)
The ‘Cumbre de los Pueblos’, the alternative summit of NGOs, popular and community organisations was a much livelier affair, covered in detail by Peruvian NGO Servindi (Read more). The Cumbre brought together the research, campaigning work and innovative approaches of people from every part of the region. Central American organisations, in one of the most fragile areas, prone to disastrous droughts, floods and hurricane damage, had held their own conference on Loss and Damage from Climate Change (Read more).
Despite recent reports that the area of sea-ice in the Antarctic has grown in recent years, Tim Radford of Climate Change warns that the loss of the land ice there has accelerated threefold in the past 21 years (Read more).
Meanwhile, Mexico is shaping up to become the latest battleground in the fight to stop hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which threatens to contaminate and permanently bury vast amounts of water in one of the most arid regions of the Americas (Read more).
And across Central America, governments are finding themselves powerless to halt environmentally damaging mining projects, because of the way the giant mining companies use the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms built into DR-CAFTA, the free trade agreement to which they signed up (Read more).
A few days before the conference, leading Brazilian scientist Antonio Nobre warned in stark terms that unless Brazil begins a programme of reforestation on an unprecedented scale, “we are headed for the abattoir” (Read more). He specifically linked the recent acute water shortage in São Paulo to the loss of forest cover.
LAB, together with the Institute of Latin American Studies at London University, is planning a two-day seminar in London on Climate Change and Human Rights on March 25-26 2015. Details from Chloe.Pieters@sas.ac.uk
LAB editor Nayana Fernandez, who accompanied Sue Branford on her 2013 journey to the Tapajós river in Pará, Brazil, has launched a fascinating documentary film, “The Munduruku Indians: Weaving Resistance” (Watch the full version here). The Brazilian government has given the go-ahead for a string of vast hydro-electric dams on the river, which threaten to damage or destroy the livelihoods, communities, food and water sources for the local population. The follow-up includes a crowd-funding campaign for justice for the Munduruku (Read more).
Further north, in the frontier region between Brazil and Venezuela, Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomani shaman, has written an astonishing book, detailing the differences in world view between the indigenous people and the development-obsessed Brazilian society which threatens them (Read more).
Brazil is the last country in the region to conclude a truth commission process, almost 30 years after the end of its period of military dictatorship. Jan Rocha provides LAB with a surgical analysis of its important findings (Read more), but wonders whether its recommendations will be acted upon.
Mexico has long been the scene of confrontations of extreme violence between drug gangs, in which civilians have often been massacred. But the disappearance of 43 student teachers from the Ayotzinapa college has served to lay bare the extensive links between the gangs, the police and local politicians. There have been massive protests and demonstrations in many cities, and the government remains on the defensive (Read more). Local campaigners have received considerable support from elsewhere in the region and from abroad —such as the open letter from iconic Panamanian singer Rubén Blades (Read more). “Ayotzinapa”, Blades writes, “is not a Mexican problem. It is a human and, therefore, an international one. It is our problem.”
ILAS: LAB’s partnership with ILAS (the Institute of Latin American Studies at London University) is developing in promising ways. The shared use of rooms has enabled LAB to work with volunteers who now assist the editors on a regular basis. LAB and ILAS jointly organised a training day for academics in October, aimed at helping university researchers to write about their work in accessible and news-aware language. Plans are proceeding (see above) for the LAB-ILAS joint seminar on Climate Change and Human Rights, in March 2015.
PAP: LAB will shortly sign a publishing partnership with Practical Action Publishing (formerly the Intermediate Technology Development Group) which will enable us to digitise our back catalogue and sell subscriptions to universities and libraries. All future LAB publications will be co-publications with PAP who have the resources and technology to take over much of the production editing, promotion, sales and distribution, allowing LAB to concentrate on commissioning, work with authors and copy editing of initial manuscripts.
LAB on Facebook: LAB’s presence on Facebook has been steadily increasing, with special interest in our coverage of Brazil and the Amazon. We now post on FB links to articles of interest that we haven’t time to re-publish on the website. Rest assured, though, that all original LAB articles will be published on the website as well as the most important articles that we have found elsewhere. On LAB’s website home page you can now see the most recent few Facebook posts on the right-hand side and click through to those that interest you. The list is updated automatically.
The group Malambo is staging a concert of Afro-Peruvian and cancan criolla music at St.Ethelberga’s Centre, Bishopsgate, London, on January 10 at 7:30pm, as part of the Listen to the World music programme. WW
When fishes fly and forests walk …
(For non-Spanish speakers: Che Guevara asks Fidel Castro in 1961: “Will we ever have diplomatic relations with the Yankees again?” and Fidel replies: “It’ll be the day when the US has a black president and the Pope is Argentinian like you.”)
The LAB Team