False hope…False promises: another indigenous community facing extinction.

Brazil’s president Rousseff plans to build 60 dams in the Amazon. By focusing purely on economic growth President Rousseff is ignoring human rights and environmental consequences. The construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam will cause land degradation as well as social implications. Brazil’s indigenous population of 500,000 is becoming invisible and facing extinction due to the countries development projects.

Kaiapo Indians protesting outside the National Congress, Brasilia

Indigenous leader Juma Xipara claimed ‘our ancestors fought so we could be here now’, but the land is slowly disappearing. Other tribesmen have reiterated that if communities are displaced it would result in war and blood. Several tribes have liaised with mainstream Brazilian society, but loss of land, cultures and traditions, have meant groups will fight for their rights (Fearnside 2006). The Kaiapo´ tribe protested outside Brasilia National Congress in 2011, presenting them with a petition with over 600,000 names against the dam construction (BBC 2011). The construction of the dam would cause an area the size of Chicago to be flooded; this criminal act does not consider the people, ecosystems or Amazon Rainforest.

In January 2011 the dam was approved…February 2011 Brazilian judge Destêrro blocked the proposed dam due to environmental queries…November 2011 the dam was once again given the green light. The Brazilian government stated Indigenous groups did not have to be consulted by law for the dam construction. This encapsulates the great injustice, false hopes and confusion for the 500,000 indigenous people affected.

Belo Monte's proposed construction.

Not only have the government ignored the indigenous population; Judge Martins has overturned his previous decision to prioritise Brazil’s fish stock, in favour of those who claim the fish would not be affected by the dam. Did Judge Martins not consider the declines in fish due to the loss of the River Shingle? Did Judge Martins overlook the ecosystems lost in the 600 acres of forest destroyed for the dam? Did he forget the dam would cause rivers to dry up causing people to be without water supplies, food and transportation? Or was he focussing on Brazils increased wealth? Yes, fishing is vital for the 37 different ethnic indigenous tribes, but there is little consideration for the loss of homes, communities and predicted flooding (Fearnside 2006).

The chief of the Kayapo tribe finding out about Belo Monte's go-ahead

 It’s a great pity that the Brazilian government hasn’t learnt the social and environmental problems from the creation of the Tucuruí Dam in 1975 (Fearnside 1999).  The Tucuruí Dam caused great universal hostility with the loss of towns, homes and communities. With no compensation for the 15,000 people displaced by the Tucuruí Dam what hope is there for 40,000 relocated by Belo Monte?

As a geographer this geopolitical case shows that Belo Monte is not combating global warming but in fact increasing carbon dioxide levels due to deforestation, loss of wildlife and threatening the 500,000 strong indigenous community. Not only geographers, environmentalists and local tribes, but now celebrities, are beginning to raise awareness about Belo Monte’s construction; for example: film director James Cameron and Brazilian icon Criolo, proving that this is a contemporary global issue. 

 Sigourney Weaver’s views, images and proposals of Belo Monte.

If you feel you are against Belo Monte Dam construction sign the petition: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2486/action/StopBeloMonteDam

References:

BBC, 2011, Brazil: Indigenous tribes protest against Amazon dam. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12399817. Last Accessed, 16/03/2012.

Fearnside P.M., 1999, Social Impacts of Brazil’s Tucuruí Dam, Environmental Management, 24(5), 483-495.

Fearnside P.M., 2006, Dams in the Amazon: Belo Monte and Brazil’s Hydroelectric Development of the Xingu River Basin, Environmental Management, 38(1), 16-27.

Yapp R, 2011, Indigenous groups oppose Belo Monte dam construction. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/brazil/8855691/Indigenous-groups-oppose-Belo-Monte-dam-construction.html. Last Accessed, 16/03/2012.

Picture 1- BBC, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12399817. Last Accessed, 16/03/2012.

Picture 2- BBC, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-16228680. Last Accessed, 16/03/2012.

Picture 3- King T, 2012, http://www.salem-news.com/articles/february122012/brazil-indians.php. Last Accessed, 16/03/2012

Video- Weaver S, 2010,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Melq7VA7FjY. Last Accessed, 16/03/2012

Developing countries are fuelling the rich.

No forests, no crops and no communities. Ethiopia's new landscape dominating of sugar canes.

You would have thought that land grabbing would have stopped due to the implications of the Hyland Clearances in the 18th and 19th century, but evidently not. Today land grabs are happening at a larger extent impacting the most vulnerable communities in the developing world (Zoomers 2010). Many land grabs happen to create biofuel plantations. We all presumed biofuel was aimed to reduce global warming, whereas actually it is increasing carbon dioxide levels due to deforestation.

With issues such as famine, poverty and droughts common in the developing world, land grabbing is another unwanted problem.  The Guardian stated that over 66% of land grabs in Africa were intended for biofuel, so far causing a loss of 277 million hectors. In some cases land areas the size of Britain are given to investors (Oxfam 2011). Imagine, if the UK was used for biofuel plantations where would we all be living? Replacing land once used for crops with palm oil trees has increased starvation and resulted in communities being dispersed. The developing world is suffering to fuel the rich’s greed.

Ethiopia receives approximately 700,000 tonnes of food and 1.8 billion of aid each year from the developed world.  If Ethiopia stopped selling land for as cheap as £150 for 1000mi² it could reduce reliance on aid and prevent starvation. The Gambella region in Ethiopia has attracted over 896 worldwide investors in the last nine years (Vermeulen and Cotula 2010). In Gambella, there is no consultation between the government, investors and local people. Farmers have been killed, jailed and tortured trying to protect their land and community. Due to the government’s dominance many villagers are too afraid to protest for their human rights. This raises questions as to whether biofuel plantations are a step forward in the world’s development.

Forest is being burnt in the Karuturi compound in order to create biofuel plantations.

Karuturi PLC brought a piece of land in Ethiopia the size of Wales for biofuel plantations. With the forced eviction of thousands of African tribes and exploitation of workers the company is now under the eye of the Human Rights Watch. Karuturi’s promise of building schools and homes are nowhere to be seen, it appears that their focus is only on profit. In 2010, flooding occurred in Ethiopia and Karuturi lost 12,000 hectors of planted crops, could this resemble some natural justice for the displaced communities perhaps?

With Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture agreeing with biofuel plantations stating they were key for development, like foreign investors he is prioritising economic growth over the people’s welfare and the environment (Zoomers 2010). Many impoverished communities lack justice and are rarely compensated for loss of land and food, explicitly demonstrating how investors are denying people their human rights (Vermeulen and Cotula 2010).

As a geographer I believe that this neoliberal policy was aimed to create sustainable development. Biofuel plantations could be successful if locals are properly compensated and allowed a say in the country’s development programme. Furthermore, companies could create oil palms on degradable land instead of destroying existing farmland, communities and people’s rights.

References.

Guardian 2012, Global land grab could trigger conflict, report says. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/feb/02/global-land-grab-trigger-conflict-report?INTCMP=SRCH. Last Accessed 08/03/2012

Guardian 2009,The cost of the biofuel boom on Indonesia’s forests.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/21/network-biofuels?INTCMP=SRCH. Last Accessed 08/03/2012

Vermeulen and Cotula, 2010, Over the heads of local people: consultation, consent, and recompense in large-scale land deals for biofuels projects in Africa, Journal of Peasant Studies, 37 (4), 899-916

Zoomers 2010, Globalisation and the foreignisation of space: seven processes driving the current global land grab, Journal of Peasant Studies, 37 (2), 429-447

Picture 1: Alfredo Bini. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17116284. Last Accessed 08/03/2012

Picture 2: Alfredo Bini. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17116284. Last Accessed 08/03/2012

Video: John Vidal, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yGkJsR7-HY. Last Accessed 08/03/2012

Justine Greening not Green at all

Image of what the HS2 could look like.

In the 21st century countries are competing to produce the latest modes of transport to maximise the nation’s prosperity and quality of life. In 2012, transport sectary Justine Greening passed the law for a new high-speed rail in England (HS2). The BBC news stated that David Cameron’s father-in-law Lord Astor was against the HS2. He believed the high-speed rail was a ‘Pooh trap for ministers, who loved grand projects’. Like many environmentalists, Lord Astor thought there was another cheaper alternative that wouldn’t destroy the countryside. In order for the British Government to create the HS2 environmental and social compromises must be made; thousands of metres of countryside are to be destroyed, pollution will increase and wildlife would decline all for a shorter journey. Mike Whitby offers an opposing argument by stating the HS2 will provide sustainable economic growth for the region, bringing with it 40,000 jobs. However, there is no justice or consideration for the loss of habitats, cultural heritage and demolition of people’s homes the proposed line will cause.

The HS2 proposed route. The first stage for completion in 2026 is London to Birmingham however there are plans to extend further North of the United Kingdom

Normally environmentalists would promote the use of trains due to the reduction of cars on the road. However, in this case many fear the potential ecological impacts. Warwick Councillor Bob Stevens claimed the development of the HS2 will threaten over 140 wildlife sites and 40 ancient woodlands. Nevertheless, the government are continuing to ignore the environmental impacts the new rail line will cause by focusing on its economic benefits. With over 2,000 members of the Wildlife Trust ignored what hope does this have for the wildlife that will be destroyed?

 Infrastructure projects have caused the isolation and destruction of animal’s habitats and these developments have changed the areas microclimate (Spellerberg, 1998). As geographers it is difficult to predict the environmental consequences the HS2 will cause and what species will be affected the most. From previous research the Madrid-Sevilla high-speed train line located in Spain had a wildlife kill rate of 36.5kills/km (van der Grift 2001). Research highlighted that 57% of the deaths were birds, 47% were mammals and 3% amphibians. Britain’s HS2 will be 70km longer than the Madrid-Sevillia train line this could make the death toll even higher.

Attleboro Lane in Water Orton will soon have the HS2 running through it. Destroying homes, communities and ecosystems on its way.

Imagine visiting an area of natural beauty home to birds, bats and otters, but returning the following year to see a 250mph train passing through every seven minutes. This is what will be happening in the county of Water Orton, Birmingham. Funding has been spent on the area over the past few years to maintain wildlife by Water Orton’s nature reserve, however, this investment now seems as waste. Neil Wyatt said the HS2 route would cause a mile of the River Tame to be diverted. Not only would this affect the geology and topography of the land but also increase pollutants entering the river making aquatic marine ecosystems more vulnerable (Spellerberg, 1998).

It can be seen that the HS2 will increase the region’s economic growth, nevertheless groups need to work together to reduce environmental impacts and maintain wildlife.

References.

BBC News 2012, Political Week in 60 Seconds, Scotland, HS2 and Top Gear. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16548254. Last Accessed 01/03/2012

Astor 2012, David Cameron gets a rail dressing down, from his father in law. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/11/david-cameron-hs2-father-in-law. Last Accessed 01/03/2012.

Spellerberg, I.F., 1998. Ecological effects of roads and traffic: a literature review. Global Ecology and Biography Letters 7, 317-333.

Whitby. M 2012, HS2 go ahead sees mixed reaction. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-16483814. Last Accessed 01/03/2012.

Pictures

Picture 1- http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2012/02/11/rare-creatures-at-risk-if-hs2-passes-through-water-orton-claim-wildlife-group-97319-30308558/

Picture 2- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/70/UK_high_speed_rail_map.png

Picture 3- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-16494527

Another oil disaster waiting to happen…

The Chukchi Sea, Alsaka will soon be stripped of it's natural beauty by oil giant Shell.

Isn’t Climate Change affecting the Arctic enough? Evidently not as Oil Company ‘Shell’ are planning to exploit the region even more. Transnational Company Shell is prioritising its economical advantages rather than considering the lives of all people and wildlife within the area. It would seem logical that a country or area rich in resources would have high economic growth. However, they are more vulnerable to exploitation from countries that are poorer in resources (Rajan 2011). Earlier this week oil giant Shell was given the green light by the ‘Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’, to drill oil from the Chukchi Sea, Alaska. This seems highly controversial that the United States has granted rights for the Dutch Company to extract oil from the area.  Who gives the USA the privileges for a final decision when Canada, Norway, Russia and Denmark also have land rights to the Arctic? Or should not the Arctic Indigenous cultures be allowed a say on an event that will damage their lives more than any other country?

Image of Shells proposed drilling platform.

Increasing demand each year for oil has caused companies to move to remote areas of the world to exploit their resources (Rajan 2011). Greenpeace activists stated that drilling into untouched waters and inhabited areas will destroy the planet’s last few places of wilderness. With Indigenous voices unheard in global debates and wildlife/land having no say, environmentalists ‘Greenpeace’ are fighting for their rights. On the 21st February 2012, BBC reported that eight activists climbed to the rooftop of London’s National Gallery. The iconic location was chosen due to a Shell meeting being held at this venue. Protestors brought with them a forty metre banner stating ‘It’s no oil painting’ which they hung across the National Gallery and a life size electric polar bear which captured the attention of many passersby.

The electric Polar Bear Paula attracted attention from the public.

Why should we let a company who is prone to disasters destroy the Arctic?  Not only would they damage the environment and wildlife they would slowly kill the Indigenous culture. In 2011, Shell caused major oil spills in the North Sea and close to the Niger Delta. Tony Okonedo a spokesman from Shell stated that the Nigeria oil disaster was the worst oil spill of the decade with over 40,000 barrels of crude oil contaminating the coast of Nigeria. Envisage the pristine waters and white ice sheets covered in black oil and polar bears fur tainted with oil residue due to Shells new project. If an oil spill occurred in the Alaskan region a clean-up programme would almost be impossible. Due to Shells new remote location it lacks equipment and infrastructure to clear up a spill. Deep oceans, dark days and extreme climates would also make emergency responses more difficult. This time consuming response would cause oil to be trapped in ice sheets and travel thousands of miles around the globe; killing ecosystems on its way (Aronson et.al 2011).

This episode of Geopolitics can only teach academics that all Indigenous communities deserve a voice and none should be marginalised in any activity in the environment. Greenpeace are still continuing their protests to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic, however, it can be seen that Shell is planning to start work from July 2012.

REFERENCES

Aronson, R. B., Thatje, S., McClintock, J. B. and Hughes, K. A., 2011, Anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems in Antarctica, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1223: 82–107.

Rajan, S.C., 2011, Poor little rich countries: another look at the ‘resource curse’, Environmental Politics, 20(5), 617-632.

Okonedo 2011, Nigeria on alert as Shell announces worst oil spill in a decade. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/22/nigerian-shell-oil-spill. Last accessed 25th February 2012.

Greenpeace Activists, 2012, Greenpeace activists scale National Gallery’s roof. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17119963. Last accessed 25th February 2012.

Picture 1- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chukchi_Sea.JPG Last accessed 27th February 2012.

Picture 2- http://www.thearcticsounder.com/article/1129looking_ahead_shell_oil_weighs_options_for

Picture 3- http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/tweeting-rooftops-shell-keep-out-arctic-20120221 Last accessed 27th February 2012.

How the Costa Concordia has affected the Environment

As initial rescue attempts have come to a close, attention now focuses on the environment and its aftermath. On the 13th of January the 114,500 tonne Costa Concordia collided with rocks and submerged. The shipwreck has led to concerns over the environment and worry of oil polluting the oceans.

If fuel leaks from the Costa Concordia it could result in similar effects as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Martijn Schuttevaer stated that ‘Smit’ a Dutch company has already started extracting oil from the cruise liner; however, people are unaware at how long the removal of the oil will take. Oil extraction has been delayed due to severe weather conditions and environmentalists fear it could take up to ten months. The fuel stored in the ship was extremely low quality and contained large amounts of tar. This has caused great fear to ecosystems and Tuscany coastlines.

Yearly, thousands of people take vacations on cruise ships visiting significant beauty spots around the globe. Close to the Costa Concordia shipwreck is Europe’s Largest Marine Sanctuary. The Island of Giglio is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. The National Park contains 56,800 hectors of protected sea and also a large area of land. Environmental correspondent Richard Black stated that if oil does seep out of the cruise ship then it could threaten one of Europe’s leading fish supplies which include tuna, barracudas and crabs. In addition an oil spill could affect lizards and birds located on the National Park. The protected area is also a major attraction for dolphins, whales and turtles.  There is no justice for the wildlife located in the National Park, if an oil spill happened then it would threaten habitats and cause species to diverse elsewhere.

Furthermore, there is great fear of the effects the Costa Concordia will cause to the sea bed when removed.  The shipwreck would have damaged the majority of ecosystems due to the lack of light entering the sea bed. Decreases in grass and plant life will result in declines of oxygen in the ocean causing many ecosystems to die. This is a great injustice for plants and animals that have been affected by the Costa Concordia. Due to the lack of voice of ecosystems it highlights their lack of rights leaving it to Environmentalists to heighten their say.

There is also great injustice for local Italians if an oil spill did occur.  Many local fishermen would lose out on trade due declines in cod, scampi and lobster. It could be questioned how local Italians would be repaid for their loss in income due to the Costa Concordia capsizing. The Italian Mayor Sergio Ortelli is greatly concerned that the shipwreck would cause a decrease in tourism which is a key to the areas gross domestic product.  Many tourists maybe put off from visiting due to the capsized ship destroying the natural beauty and cultural heritage. It is clear to see that many Italians living on the coastlines could be forced into unemployment due to loss of jobs in tourism.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/21/storms-threaten-oil-spill-marooned-ship-italy

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/888736-costa-concordia-death-toll-rises-to-17-after-womans-body-found

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16782481

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16597720