World Bank-funded biofuel corp massacres six Hondurans / The rush to make agriculture fuel the global economy
2. Earth grab: The rush to make agriculture fuel the global economy
1. World Bank-Funded Biofuel Corp Massacres Six Hondurans
Monday, 22 November 2010
By Annie Bird
Approximately six months ago, campesino farmers in Trujillo, Colon organized in the Campesino Movement of the Aguan, the MCA, were awarded provisional title to a farm which neighbors their community, as part of a long standing negotiation with Dinant Corporation, a biofuel company, whose land claims are illegitimate.
Since that time, the small farmers worked the land. In recent weeks they had noticed incursions into their land by armed security forces employed by the biofuel company, Dinant.
On Monday, November 15, the farmers went to their fields but were then attacked by Dinant security. Six were killed in the massacre and two more are in critical condition.
The massacre occurred the same day that the de facto Honduran president Pepe Lobo had planned to meet with the director of the US government development fund, the Millennium Challenge, in Denver to ask for funding for so called "renewable energy" - in Honduras, principally biofuels and dams.
World Bank And Other "Development" Groups Share Responsibility for the Massacre
The "renewable energy" plan Lobo is shopping around may be the result of an Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) funded technical support grant (T-1101) to the de facto government ushered in after the June 28 military coup. In November 2009, under a coup government and amidst grave human rights violations, the World Bank's (WB) International Finance Corporation gave Dinant Corporation a $30 million loan for biofuel production, and now shares responsibility in the massacre.
Policies supposedly intended to stop climate change are in reality fueling climate change. The world must invest in a renewable way of life, not destructive "renewable energy". Scientists have analyzed that biofuel industry together with the climate change prevention mechanisms currently promoted could actually result in the destruction of half of the planets forests.
In the same way that massacres cannot be stopped when justice systems are destroyed by military coups, the destruction of our planet cannot be stopped when the systems of governance have been hijacked by corporations who can buy off, or that failing, militarily intervene in nations attempting to build just forms of governance. Human rights and the environment cannot be separated.
US Military Base Bought for Agrarian Reform And Stolen for Agribusiness
During the past decade, campesinos in Honduras have challenged a series of illegitimate land titles obtained by agro-businessmen in a massive former US military training center known as the CREM.
On this land, over 5,000 hectares, the US military trained military forces from across Central America, particularly the Contra paramilitary forces attacking the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Once the CREM center's operations ended, the Honduran government bought the land from a US citizen through the Honduran land reform program.
However, instead of being sold to small farmers, as the government was obligated by law to do, the land was illegally divided up between several large landholders as a result of corruption and fraudulent titling processes. A coalition of land rights organizations in Honduras organized in the Campesino Movement of the Aguan, the MCA, to challenge the illegal titles. Little by little the land titles were awarded to groups of campesinos organized in the MCA.
The titling process has been slow and marked by violent attacks by the large landholders who have influence in the government, police and military forces. Among the last of the CREM lands to remain in the hands of agribusiness interests is the farm called El Tumbador, approximately 700 hectares controlled by the Dinant Corporation, property of Honduras' most powerful agro-businessman, Miguel Facusse.
A biofuel businessman with interests in several corporations, Miguel Facusse is infamous for the use of fraudulent methods, including intimidation and violence, to obtain lands throughout the country.
The World Bank Backs The Corrupt And Violent Dinant Corporation
Since the military coup in June 2009, Honduras has been ruled by illegitimate, repressive regimes.
In November 2009, the WB extended a loan of $30 million to Dinant for its biofuel production in that region, despite a widely documented history of violence and corruption by the biofuel company. The WB failed in its human rights obligations in this case and shares responsibility for this massacre.
Given the conditions in Honduras, the WB must suspend both private and public sector funding to Honduras, and freeze funding of biofuels in the region. The biofuel industry in Central and South America violently displaces small farmers and contributes to global warming.
Another multinational public fund that finances international private investment, the Interamerican Investment Corporation, has also recently funded Dinant.
"Greenwashing" And Corporate Welfare - the Hijacking of Climate Change Funds
Biofuels are one of the fastest growing industries, a sector that sees high levels of investment from venture capitalists. This massive growth has been stimulated by taxpayer dollars pouring into renewable energy through many funding agencies, but particularly the IADB, the WB, and carbon emissions trading markets.
The trade in carbon credits was created as an element of the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997. It attempts to implement a market based system to curb global warming by levying penalties against heavy polluting industries that produce high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon burning energy generation plants. But those penalties can be paid off, or offset, by the purchase of carbon credits.
Carbon credits are given to industries that undertake activities that reduce emission of gases that generate climate change, and those can then be sold on the market to companies that generate global warming.
The system is riddled with problems, beginning with the fact that the big money to be made in "green" industry creates a big incentive to greenwash, to disguise polluting activities as activities that do not pollute in order to cash in on climate change funds.
This is the case with biofuels.
Biofuels Could Destroy Half the World's Forests
Even as governments pour taxpayer money into biofuels, it is being demonstrated that biofuel production contributes significantly to global warming, through the destruction of wetlands, displacement of small farmers and food production, often to cut forests, direct clear cutting of forests for biofuel production, and even cutting forests to generate wood pellets that make ethanol.
One study published in Science magazine in October 2009 analyzed regulation set up in the Kyoto Accords which promotes the use of biofuels, but finds that these measures could result in the loss of up to half of the world's forests.
As the negative impacts were beginning to be felt, though the extent is only beginning to be understood, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and others committed to market incentives for polluters, set up the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil.
This body certifies palm oil as having been 'sustainably' produced. In May 2010, WWF signed an agreement with Miguel Facusse's Dinant Corporation to begin the process of certifying Dinant palm oil. The WB, in November 2009, shortly after disbursing Dinant's loan, froze palm oil funding while it created its palm oil strategy, expected to be completed in March 2011.
US Corporations Could Make $27 Trillion Off "Lesser Developed Countries" Conversion to Biofuels
By the time these impacts were being seen, big corporations, with their lobbies, were drooling over the potential profits. The WWF is strongly committed to paying off big business to reduce emissions. A recent WWF study urges taxpayer money be poured into renewable energy in "lesser developed countries" (LDCs) in order to stimulate job growth in the United States.
Governments are committing to insuring that a certain percentage of fuel consumption be converted to biofuel consumption around the world but especially in "LDCs." This will generate a huge market for technology to convert engines and other existing infrastructure, which according to WWF could represent a $27 trillion dollar market for US corporations.
Faced with the powerful corporate lobby corrupting and pressuring governments around the globe, and sometimes promoting military interventions to back their interests, changing policies to really fight climate change as opposed to subsidizing corporations seems a quixotic dream, as was seen in the failed summit on climate change in Copenhagen last year.
At the 16th international summit on climate change in Copenhagan, nations agreed to set up an, as yet, unclear mechanism called the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), which would focus on curbing deforestation. Paradoxically, incentives for forest preservation are still banned, and the potential for biofuel stimulated deforestation of half of the world's forests is still not addressed.
It is important to remember that the WWF and others who believe in and promote environmental market economics have promoted a system of biosphere privatization which allows degrading activities to be carried out by private companies that subsidize non-governmental organizations that manage the biospheres, while ignoring the rights of campesino communities and indigenous peoples.
Governments Should Invest in the Poor, Not in the Super Rich
The international community's failure to substantively address climate change is a result the unwillingness to acknowledge and name the economic and political policies and actors that are responsible for climate harm.
The "free" market cannot correct the damage it has done, further investing in the same actors and under the same policy framework that generated climate change cannot reverse it.
To reverse climate change, the wealthiest nations and people of the world must change how they live. Indigenous and campesino communities have more sustainable ways of life, have learned to live in a sustainable way with the resources they produce. But they are being displaced and massacred to usher in the concentration of land and wealth, the genocide of a sustainable way of life.
Rather than subsidizing corporate mass destruction, the nations of the world must invest in a different way of life, and hold accountable those that destroy human life and destroy our only and irreplaceable, planet.
2. Earth grab: The rush to make agriculture fuel the global economy
Ottawa, November 22, 2010.
Whether we're talking about global energy, climate change, food security or commodity trade - agriculture has quickly taken centre stage in the new global economy. It's an economy worth trillions - and it all starts with plants.
The world's biggest corporations are rushing to grab and convert living plant matter called "biomass" --- into fuel, chemicals, and other profitable products. Corn and sugarcane are already being converted to biofuels on a large scale, but trees, grasslands and algae could be next. The fossil fuel economy is transforming rapidly into a 'bio-economy', says Jim Thomas of ETC Group, an
international research institute based in Ottawa. "Plants, trees and forests are the new oil fields. They're above the ground, and they're easy to grab", says Thomas.
Thomas, and farm movement leaders from Brazil, Mali and Haiti are speaking this week at Earth Grab, a public forum in Montreal (Friday, November 26, see below for details).
The New Bio-economy: A `Red-hot Resource Grab'.
A recent ETC Group report, "The New Biomassters" shows how global energy, forestry, agribusiness, chemical, and biotech companies are busy constructing a bio-economy built on converting biomass into fuels and other products. "The emerging global bio-economy is worth trillions, and it threatens to eat up our crops, forests and other plant life," says Thomas. "However, what's being sold as a `green' switch from fossil fuels to plant-based production, is in fact a red-hot resource grab on the lands, livelihoods, knowledge and resources of the peoples of the Global South."
That would make Brazil the number one bio-energy oilfield, according to Camila Moreno, of Friends of the Earth, Brazil. "Brazil wants to become the Saudi Arabia of biofuels", says Moreno. "Not only are our country's land and biomass up for grabs, but Brazilian corporations are actively grabbing land in other countries", she says. Sub-Saharan Africa is seen as a second major region for grabbing resources for fuel.
Biomass and Biofuels: False Solutions to Climate Change?
On the eve of the Cancun climate talks, Moreno says the emphasis on biomass-based energy solutions sidesteps the real issues. "We can't really address climate change by replacing our fossil fuel addiction with a bio-energy addiction", she says. "We actually have to set real targets to reduce our emissions. And the evidence is piling up that growing crops commercially for fuels could be even more damaging to the environment, and make our carbon footprint worse".
Biomass and Food Security: Choosing Fuel over Hunger?
According to Susan Walsh, Executive Director of USC Canada, just as the demand for corn ethanol led to higher food prices and hunger, the massive biomass-grab will have devastating consequences for people and our environment, here and in developing countries.
All signs indicate that we could be months away from another devastating global food crisis like we witnessed in 2008, says Walsh. Skyrocketing prices of basic agricultural commodities such as corn and wheat, combined with low reserves for some grains, make the situation highly precarious.
"With additional pressures from climate change, diverting any grain production for biofuels puts food security in direct conflict with energy security," says Walsh. "Will our appetite for fuel crush our ability to produce enough food for an ever-hungry world?" What's more, those who produce 70% of the world's food small holder farmers will be most affected by land and resource grabs, says Walsh.
Instead, Walsh suggests turning to the world's majority small farmers for real and time-tested solutions that feed people and respond to climate change. This requires a transformation from 'industrial' to 'ecological' principles, says Walsh. "Ecological farming is proven to be far more resilient, socially just, and innovative than the high-input, monoculture model that comes with so many risks, and has a huge ecological footprint," she says.
Note to Editors:
Camila Moreno, Jim Thomas, and farm movement leaders from Mali (Ibrahim Coulibaly) and Haiti (Iderle Brenus) are attending a forum entitled "Earth Grab", as part of Food Secure Canada's bi-annual assembly in Montreal. Susan Walsh will also be present.
More information: www.foodsecurecanada.org
The New BioMassters: http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5232
A Viable Food Future: http://usc-canada.org/what-you-can-do/