About IATP

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

Founded in 1986, IATP is rooted in the family farm movement. With offices in Minneapolis and Geneva, IATP works on making domestic and global agricultural policy more sustainable for everyone.

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About Think Forward

Think Forward is a blog written by staff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy covering sustainability as it intersects with food, rural development, international trade, the environment and public health.



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Environmental Justice

December 09, 2010

From Cancún to Minnesota: The need for environmental justice

On Tuesday night, IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) hosted an event in Minneapolis that connected the need for climate justice in Cancún with local grassroots environmental justice efforts. It was part of the “1000 Cancun’s”, a day of climate justice action around the world.  The event included a local EJ panel as well as a live report back from three members of the National (U.S.) Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change. The event was filmed and webcast by The UpTake and a video is available below (in English). Pictures from the event are also available on IATP's Flickr page. You can follow the EJ delegates blogging from Cancun on our blog page, Think Forward.  

The event begins at the 8-minute mark below, with the speakers entering as follows:

Shalini Gupta, IATP, introduction: 8:00

Cochabamba People's Climate Summit video: 12:26

LeMoine LePointe, advisory board of IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy: 24:43

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Rural Enterprise Center: 35:08

Veronica Burt, Just Equity: 44:27

Deborah Ramos, Zenteotl Project: 54:11

Liza O'Reilly, Zenteotl Project: 1:01:10

Question and Answer: 1:06:00

Call-in reports from Cancún (Cecilia Martinez, Michele Roberts and Jose Bravo): 1:09:32

Watch live streaming video from theuptake at livestream.com


Andrew Ranallo

November 12, 2010

Exporting privatization

When Obama visited India earlier this week, saying India "has already emerged" as a power in Asia and globally, his compliments were loaded.

On Wednesday night at IATP, Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi Rao from the Environment Support Group (ESG) in Bangalore, described India's current tug of war between its traditional commons-based framework (collectively owned resources and landscapes) and the privatization that accompanies foreign direct investment (FDI) and globalization.

In the U.S. today, as highlighted by Shalini Gupta with IATP’s Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, imagining a model without privatization may be near impossible for many. India's current struggle is more comparable to late-1800's North America—in the midst of the industrial revolution, at war with indigenous tribes, and spurred onward by increasing demand for natural resources and promised riches of industrial development.

The push for globalization in India brings with it a fundamental shift in the environment and traditional way of life. According to Saldanha, jobs are indeed created, but not jobs for the farmers, fishers and indigenous tribes. In fact, the land, waters and forests that provide their livelihoods are being appropriated to private interests and natural resources are being extracted at alarming rates.

Global demand—and India's own push for an increased GDP—dictates that profits be maximized. The traditional commons-based framework and environmental laws, then, are barriers that must be removed. It began, Saldanha said, in the 60s tourist boom: coastal beaches once used for fishing filled up with four-star hotels.

Now, according to Bhargavi Rao, roads are being widened, public parks are being gated and grazing lands are being turned into garbage dumps for corporations. And to make room for these drastic changes to the environment, development advocates are pushing to dilute India’s environmental laws.

In 1986, two years after the tragic Bhopal gas leak, the Indian parliament enacted the Environment Protection Act. It allows companies and individuals to be held criminally (not just civilly) liable for violations of environmental standards. Now, an RFP from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for a move from the current standards to one limited to civil liability in the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests—a move that would essentially pull the legislation's teeth while protecting foreign investors.

Saldanha and Bhargavi described the underreported thousands of Indian farmer suicides throughout the past decade attributed to this globalization. "The state moved from being a custodian of public land to an appropriating force," Saldanha said. 

What are Leo, Bhargavi and ESG doing to fight back? A combination of protest with litigation and lobbying forms the foundation of ESGs work, but as Bhargavi said, "Protest is backbone of grassroots struggle." One example included forming a human chain around a lake that was nearly sold off to business interests. Another, coalition-based, action included writing a death certificate for the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The latest effort centers on trying to stop Asia's largest steel maker, POSCO, from being allowed to build plants on forest and coastal lands. Clearance for this project—funded, in part by Warren Buffett, and India's largest-ever foreign direct investment—has been granted but, as one NGO alleges, may have been obtained illegally. For now, the project's progress has been stalled, but not defeated.

Obama's visit earlier this week was more than a goodwill visit, multinational business interests globally and in the U.S. stand to make millions. "Maximizing profits for a few while leaving millions behind," is how Saldanha describes the ongoing changes. And, perhaps Obama's description of India as "already emerged" was a bit premature. If emerging means destroying the environment, displacing the indigenous and taking livelihoods away from poor farmers, surely prosperity lies on another path.

Andrew Ranallo

August 17, 2010

Not your grandfather's energy utility

The small town of Milan, Minnesota is trying an innovative approach to reduce it's energy burden. At the Midwest Rural Assembly today, Cheryl Landgren of the Greater Milan Initiative and IATP's Shalini Gupta told participants about setting up the first rural sustainable energy utility (SEU) to help reduce the town's energy costs while supporting larger community goals of job creation and population retention.

Homes and buildings in rural communities like Milan often use a lot of energy and are a high cost for rural residents. Winter heating bills are particularly tough on low-income residents. The Greater Milan Initiative is now setting up an SEU: a model developed by the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware. SEUs create long-term community infrastructure around reducing energy usage and costs and promoting energy production where it is used.

The Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy at IATP is continuing work with the Greater Milan Initiative to get this new SEU off the ground. Look for more details soon.

Ben Lilliston

July 01, 2010

Environmental justice, science leaders urge action linking climate and public health

In a letter sent to Congress and the Obama administration last month, leading voices in environmental justice, science and academics asked that: “1) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) should not be overturned or diminished; and 2) climate change policy should address the emissions of greenhouse gas co-pollutants, as well as the emissions of greenhouse gases themselves.”

The same facilities and vehicles that emit greenhouse gases also emit co-pollutants that lead to high rates of asthma and other serious public health concerns. In addition to the public health impacts associated with climate change itself, co-pollutants from coal plants and other fossil fuel sources disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color as these communities are largely located where fossil fuel facilities are located and where urban vehicle emissions are concentrated. This unique partnership of leading environmental justice activists, policy analysts, scientists and academics is the first of its kind.

While Congress has rejected initial attempts to undermine the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for public health reasons, additional attempts to challenge EPA’s authority are expected. Shalini Gupta, director of the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy at IATP, was among the 18 leaders who signed onto the letter. To find out more, read the press release and full letter.

Shalini Gupta

May 21, 2010

Energy Conservation Angel visits Syttende Mai in Milan, Minnesota

IATP Crew Syttende Mai (May 17) is Constitution Day in Norway. In Milan, Minnesota, out on the western prairie, hundreds of Norway’s distant sons and daughters gather on Syttende Mai to celebrate their Scandinavian heritage, language, food, music and customs. IATP joined the celebration this year in a parade that wound its way through the village and down Main Street. Our contribution to the festivities included an angel, a devil and one sinner towing the IATP banner in support of community-based energy conservation and the Milan Sustainable Energy Utility project.

Before lining up for the parade we went to the Kviteseid Smorgaas Tea in the Little Norwegian Church basement. We were welcomed by Anne and Chuck Kanten, the presiding Milan Citizens of the Year. Our own little IATP devil, Emily Barker, identified the wonderful food served in the smorgasbord, including two kinds of lefse, flatbreads, krumkaaka, spritz, Norwegian meatballs, blod klub, Gjettost with cloudberry jam, rommegrot and coffee. And then even more coffee.

Chuck Kanten provided an update on the sugar beet crop, with almost all the beets in the ground. The next week or so, when the first cotyledons appear, the sugar crop is vulnerable. Chuck explained that if a frost occurs, the young leaves fly up into the air like helicopters and the field will need to be replanted.

We took a quick side trip to Watson, Minnesota, just down the road from Milan to visit a small, but very intensive community vegetable garden owned by Aziz Ansari. Mr. Ansari and his wife ran into trouble with the town council over the garden and recently settled a law suit  with the garden staying where it is and Aziz receiving $50,000 in compensation.

Mud Boots Crew marching band Back in Milan, the IATP Energy Conservation Angel and High-Priced Energy Devil joined Electric Bill and Phantom Load Phil and lined up in the parade behind the Mud Boots Band, a group of Community Supported Agriculture farmers and farmworkers who played an incredible collection of instruments, including the bass drum, saxophone, accordion, garbage can covers and a trumpet, to name a few. Behind the IATP contingent was a 1967 lime green Mustang convertible with three women playing a variety of popular tunes on their car horn. Erik Thompson, the town banker showered our path with candy insuring applause as we passed by.

Hundreds of people lined the street and were sitting in their front yards watching the fun as we handed out leaflets inviting them to attend a series of trainings on creating a community controlled revolving loan fund to pay for conservation and renewable energy projects using the best possible resources and technology available. The dates for the four workshops are Wednesdays from 6:30–8:30 p.m. on July 21, August 25, September 22 and October 13 at the school. IATP’s Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy has been leading the project and working with the Greater Milan Initiative to raise startup money and get the word out.

Not every Syttende Mai day has an Energy Conservation Angel, but in Milan you can always count on celebrating May 17 with a community that treasures its traditions and is committed  to keep their village strong and hopeful.

View all the photos from our visit to Milan for Syttende Mai here.

Dale Wiehoff

February 17, 2010

Community building and climate justice

The non-binding Copenhagen Accord effectively failed to respond to the threat of climate change at the international level. Nationally, U.S. legislators are in limbo—some arguing for cap and trade, others for cap and dividend, and still others insisting that climate change simply doesn't exist. These stalemates—combined with the historical injustices that have left developing nations (internationally) and people of color and the indigenous (nationally) bearing the brunt of imbalanced policy decisions—beg the question: What can we do here and now to combat climate change and ensure that our communities have a place at the table?

Community members, artists and activists met at the All Nations Indian Church in Minneapolis for the "Communities of Color and Indigenous Peoples Climate Justice Debriefing" hosted by IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) on Monday night. CEED Senior Policy Fellow Dr. Cecilia Martinez and CEED Director Shalini Gupta shared their experiences at the Copenhagen climate talks—one, not uniquely, full of long lines and being denied entry—and discussed the importance of working at the local level and utilizing indigenous knowledge in addressing climate justice issues.

Dr. Rose Brewer, a member of CEED's advisory board, summarized her experience in Pittsburgh at the most recent G-20 summit where demonstrators, organizers and activists worked hard to be heard. Among many other things, they hosted a People's Tribunal, putting the G-20 to trial for the impacts of their policies around the world with testimony from community members and policy experts. And, of course, there was a verdict. As she asked last night—can you guess what it was?

So, what can indigenous communities and communities of color do, on the ground level, to battle injustice and address climate change? Moderator LeMoine LaPoint (also a member of CEED's advisory board) talked about the power of indigenous knowledge—the fact that people have known about climate change for a while, even if the scientific community has only recently caught on. He then asked the group for emerging solutions they envision for their communities and organizations. Some common themes included sharing information among groups and linking organizations in order to create a stronger voice; becoming united under a holistic approach to changing consumption and production patterns; and using arts, ceremony and ritual to control the story, rather than internalizing the current system that unfairly impacts minorities, the indigenous and the impoverished.

The issue of green capitalism came up as well: one participant compared it to installing solar panels on the Titanic while making sure it doesn't change course—i.e., the same companies advocating for "green business" have a heavy interest in making sure the power structure stays the same. This issue of framing struck a chord with many in the room: Is the system broken, or working as it's supposed to in maintaining the status quo? Is climate justice an environmental issue or one of an economic and power structure that needs to change?

In the end, the group seemed to agree that keys to success were communication, building alliances and reaching a critical mass to take control of resources and energy consumption in their community, currently controlled by corporations and private interests. Energy sharing, cooperative solutions and developing sustainable systems through local food and energy production were all cited as potential projects. Furthermore, the idea of establishing a meeting place where organizers and community members could come together and discuss ongoing work gained traction around the room.

Was last night's meeting the start of something big for Minneapolis? It's very possible. What's certain, however, is that community building can happen now, while international summits and legislative filibusters are still floundering.


Andrew Ranallo

September 11, 2009

Climate equity: Ensuring a just response to climate change

Ceciliashalini The facts shared at last night's IATP event, "Climate Equity: Ensuring a Just Response to Climate Change," were at many points staggering—at others, supremely encouraging. Dr. Cecilia Martinez and Fellow-in-Residence Shalini Gupta, from IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) hosted an event to discuss the inequity that exists within our highly inefficient energy infrastructure. As Dr. Matinez pointed out, our current energy system is often built on the backs of whole sets of populations, while those consuming the energy, and creating energy policy, see little consequence.

Both internationally and within the U.S., the inequity between those that produce carbon and those that pay for its impacts, is real and widening. Dr. Cecilia Martinez credits this gap, among other things, to a highly inefficient infrastructure built on outdated, short-sighted and sometimes discriminatory ideals. She cited Robert Moses, the twentieth century urban planning giant responsible for much of New York City's current suburb-oriented design. Moses's tendency to favor highways over public transit did more than influence urban planners around the country—it separated communities from the inner city (often low-income) from those who could afford cars and to live in the suburbs. This energy-intensive transportation system still exists today and as Dr. Martinez pointed out: if modern policies are to succeed and ensure justice, they will need both physical goals (reducing carbon emissions, etc.) as well as social and political goals (improving a broken community infrastructure and ensuing equal access to energy).

Shalini Gupta addressed the international issues surrounding climate change, including past and present proposals for cutting emissions. Who has rights to the atmosphere? Currently, in the U.S., we produce about 20 tons per capita annually of carbon emissions. India, on the other hand, a mere 2 tons per capita, annually. Gupta said, if the world was truly to be equal, carbon emissions would need to reduce to 3.3 tons per capita globally—quite a far off goal when you consider the currently proposed goals; the most aggressive of which comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which proposes reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent from the 1990 levels. Such a reduction would still only put the U.S. at around (conservatively) 11 tons of carbon emissions per capital annually.

Among the daunting figures and historical injustices discussed at last night's event, a thread of "Where do we go from here?" connected the problems with solutions. Efforts like Sustainable Energy Utilities (detailed in this article coauthored by Dr. Martinez) and the determination to push for diversified, small-scale energy solutions, can and will serve to not only reduce our dependence on a commodified, highly inefficient energy infrastructure, but will provide equity for those who have long been denied equal access to energy and energy independence. As Dr. Martinez put it last night, energy must be viewed not as a commodity, but as a commons.

Learn more about SEUs on CEED's SEU Web page. The concept for an SEU was developed by the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP).

Andrew Ranallo

August 27, 2009

A New Energy Utility Takes on Climate Change

As Congress debates a U.S. climate bill this fall, and governments around the world are focused on global climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December, a new community-based approach to addressing climate change is taking hold.

The Sustainable Energy Utility, or SEU, is turning the traditional role of an energy utility on its head in a growing number of states, cities and communities.

In a new article published in Delaware Lawyer, Dr. John Byrne of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy and IATP's Dr. Cecilia Martinez write, "The energy utility of the 20th century was invented to rapidly and continuously increase the energy supply. . .The 21st-century energy utility must have a different focus: to help every citizen and every business conserve energy and, when energy is needed, to utilize the energy gifts of our planet—sunlight, vegetation, the winds and the constant temperature of the earth's mantle just three meters below the surface."

But aggregating government, private and philanthropic resources, the SEU differs from traditional utilities by focusing on: 1) a transition to carbon-free energy sources; 2) a reorientation from energy as commodity to energy as a service; 3) the transition to distributed energy infrastructure; and 4) the direct involvement of energy users in energy decisions.

The SEU directly tackles two of the most difficult challenges in shifting our energy system: high upfront capital costs to obtain long-term benefits in efficiency and renewable energy; and the shock of significant energy price increases. Acting as a nonprofit, the SEU coordinates innovative approaches like third-party financing, tax-exempt bonds, revolving funds, federal and state incentives and grants, and funding from other public and philanthropic resources to invest in sustainable energy infrastructure with long-term savings that are shared by the community.

The SEU concept has been catching on and it's remarkably scaleable. The April 2009 issue of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society reports on applications of the SEU in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. In the U.S., Delaware has become the first state in the country to create a state-wide SEU.

In Minnesota, IATP is working with the small rural town of Milan in western Minnesota, and a community organization on the west side of St. Paul, to explore the SEU model.

The Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy at IATP is working with West Side Citizens Organization to put an SEU into action in their neighborhood. The west side of St. Paul is a densely populated community of 16,000 in a former industrial zone, with a large percentage of low-income households and people of color. This SEU will focus on energy efficiency and on-site renewable projects.

In Milan, IATP is working with community leaders to develop the first rural-based SEU in the Midwest. Milan, a town of about 350 people, with an average annual household income of about $30,000, will be a model for rural communities in promoting energy affordability, community focused sustainability and attracting energy service businesses to their town.

New policies at the national and international level will set the framework for our collective efforts to stop climate change, but it will take transformative models like the SEU, working on the ground, in communities around the world, to get us there. You can find out more at IATP's SEU page.

Ben Lilliston

August 18, 2009

We Can Change the Weather: CEED and Aniccha Arts

The Weather Vein Project is a collaboration led by Aniccha Arts that examines—and reflects upon—the ways in which humans impact the weather. A live, interactive sound sculpture created by Mark Fox called "The Weather Oracle" is now on display at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis and runs through August 23. The exhibit was originally designed to be shown in the entry way of "Cloud Turn": an interactive dance presentation held in early June.

Cecilia Martinez and Shalini Gupta from IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy have been regular contributors to the We Can Change the Weather blog—an extension of the Aniccha Arts' Weather Vein Project that supplements the exhibit with news analysis, essays and general thoughts on the role of humans in changing the weather.

More information about the project and contributors is available here.

Andrew Ranallo

August 10, 2009

Live at the MRA: Success Stories for Working Landscapes

Rural communities are part of the vanguard of new ideas promoting small-scale sustainable production and use of energy and food. One of the challenges in expanding and scaling up these ideas is getting success stories out there and allowing others to benefit from their experience. At the Midwest Rural Assembly this afternoon, four communities shared their stories.


Cheryl Landgren of Milan, Minnesota described the town's efforts to launch a Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) in partnership with IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy.Milan is a small farm town with a growing immigrant community. They are hoping to host the country's first rural, smalltown SEU—a community-led initiative to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. An SEU is designed to be a one-stop shop to secure advantages of the new green economy encompassed in energy efficiency, renewable energy and biomass production. The SEU will identify funding resources, engage in public education, set up a revolving loan fund and invest in energy savings. Milan is in the early stages of developing an SEU, but ultimately it will be community governed and controlle, thereby allowing Milan to control its energy future.


Martin Kleinschmit discussed a three-year test project with 10 Nebraskan farmers focused on carbon sequestration. In this project, farmers grew a number of different crops to store carbon in the soil—emphasizing crops with longer root systems and longer growing seasons. He emphasized that there are more than just climate benefits in building carbon in the soil; these types of crops can help retain water and build the soil for future crop production.


Jacob Limmer gave his unique perspective as the owner of the Cottonwood Bistro in Brookings, S.D. and the operator of nearby Glacier Till Farm. Jacob talked about the challenges of sourcing local foods (usually from multiple farmers with different billing methods), the challenges of farming for local markets and the need to find off-farm work to keep the farm going. He emphasized the need for improving collective local food distribution systems—which would allow buyers to more easily source local foods and provide larger, more consistent buyers for farmers.


And finally, Linda Meschke of Rural Advantage told attendees about efforts in Madelia, Minnesota to use renewable bioindustrial processing to provide a market for new crops (outside of the corn/soybean rotation). The town went through a public process to set priorities for the new facility and agreed to emphasize both community investment, perennial crops and local sourcing (within 25 miles). The project could bring multiple benefits to the community, including: water quality, renewable energy, habitat preservation, greater sustainable agriculture, and keeping wealth within the community.


There are many stories like these being shared at the assembly—where interesting ideas continue to grow.

Ben Lilliston

April 27, 2009

Fossil fuel interests reach tentacles into Summit

(Editor note: Liza (Guerra) O'Reilly is attending the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change in Anchorage, Alaska, on behalf of IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy. Liza is blogging this week from the Summit. Photos from the Summit can be viewed at the Anchorage Daily News Web site.)

I should not have been surprised. Sustainable economic development that would create jobs and long-term economic security as a concrete strategy to adapt and mitigate climate change met its greatest enemy, face to face, when a well-oiled hand prominently extended itself into the last day of discussions at the Summit.

Recall that according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the combustion of fossil fuels is one of the greatest contributors of greenhouse gases resulting in climate change. Despite this well-known fact, the fossil fuel Medusa raised its ugly heads against strong language advanced by the Indigenous youth caucus and the majority of the regional caucuses, who called for an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel development and the phase-out of global fossil fuel use in the yet-to-be released Anchorage Declaration.

On the table was a perverse interpretation of Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN-DRIP). Article 26 provides in relevant part that: "Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired."

One of the Indigenous regional caucuses asserted their right to development, citing Article 26 of UN-DRIP, and initially positioned themselves against any immediate call for a moratorium on new development of fossil fuels, and also a phase-out of global fossil fuel use. Instead, their interests would allow for compromise of softer language recognizing the right to development.

Contrary to what had been reported, many elders from the respective regional caucuses stood in solidarity with the youth and also vehemently opposed any soft language that would accommodate fossil fuel interests.

There is a false argument that appears to pit the right to development against the right to livethat is to say, the right to breathe clean air, to have access to ecologically bio-diverse food and medicines, to have meaningful access to places of spiritual well-being, water, forests and so on. These rights are all-encompassing rights articulated in the UN-DRIP, but must not be negated by a perverse interpretation of the right to develop.

The right to development, and any other right for that matter, must not compromise another individual's human rights. In the Americas and since 1492, most colonial models imposed upon Indigenous peoples to develop brought much social degradation in all forms. These models were, and continue to be, based on exploitative capitalistic development of Indigenous nations' natural resources and contradict the public health and welfare of Indigenous peoples. To see the effects of this exploitation, we simply need to reflect on our quality of health today as evidenced by disproportionate rates of diabetes, cancer, mental health trauma, suicide, heart disease, violence against Indigenous women and the stealing of Indigenous children by governments. The discussion must move from a colonial interpretation of a right to development to a right that sustains life. The inherent nature of the UN-DRIP is to sustain life, not to destroy it vis-à-vis development.

The Indigenous regional caucus who asserted their right to develop may be interpreted as a call for development that dignifies them, their environment and Mother Earth. Everyone must be enfranchised with the fundamental human right to develop and live well, but not to the disparagement of others. A sustainable development model must be consistent with UN-DRIP and the respective Indigenous Nations' autonomously identified needs.

According to the IPCC, the regions most affected, such as the Arctic, Caribbean and Amazon, are where most of the Indigenous people live, said Sam Johnston of the Tokyo-based United Nations University, a co-sponsor of the Summit. Those most affected are owed a significant ecological debt of reparations. If a down-payment is made on this debt to the creditors most impacted by climate change, we may consider this a well-overdue first step. 

Polluters and their regulators must pay by providing financial and other support mechanisms to Indigenous nations to secure their respective right to develop, economically and otherwise. Nation states, multinational corporations, and other entities that historically exploited and/or unlawfully appropriated Indigenous peoples' resources owe the ecological debt we speak of when we tell the world that the polluters must pay. Polluters and their regulators are the ones who allowed for the exploitation and appropriation of Indigenous resources that have hurled our Mother Earth into the perilous condition we find ourselves. 

I am willing to believe that if the proper resources were made available, and with free, prior and informed consent, the Indigenous regional caucus that sought softer language in the Declaration would not have opposed the call for a moratorium and phase-out of fossil fuel development, and instead, would have chosen to advance payment of the ecological debt owed to them for sustainable development.

That bill from Mother Earth and her Indigenous peoples was sent long ago. 

Ben Lilliston

April 24, 2009

Padre announced a Madre

(Editor note: Liza (Guerra) O'Reilly is attending the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change in Anchorage, Alaska, on behalf of IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy. Liza is blogging this week from the Summit. Photos from the summit can be viewed at the Achorage Daily News Web site.)

Some 350 peoples from 80 different Indigenous nations engaged in multilateral discussions today from the seven regions of the world: the Maasai from Tanzania, the Hmong from Vietnam, the Maya from Belize, the Inuit from the Arctic Circumpolar region, the Chukotka from the far east of Russia, the Samoa from the South Pacific, and the Tewa from the Southwest of North America. From these very distinctive and reflectively diverse regions of the planet, and adorned with the finest artisan clothing and regalia, the Indigenous peoples of the world continued into day four of deliberations to address our utmost immediate needs and determine long-term architectural plans created by climate change.

Today the Indigenous Peoples' Summit welcomed a priest who had arrived with a new word. This not-so-ordinary Catholic and gifted priest, whose power broke loose the tongue of France President Sarkozy by inspiring Sarkozy to repeat the priestly message of love with his fellow brethren at the G-20, was none other than the United Nations General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto. Padre D'Escoto, who had stimulated Sarkozy's tongue to speak of humanity, announced that, at the behest of President Evo Morales of Bolivia, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recognizing April 22, from now into perpetuity, as International Mother Earth Day. (See also Padre announced there was a Madre.)

Who would have thought that a simple priest could help resurrect the consciousness of reasonable men? Here, at the Summit, word spread about the bold move the General Assembly made recognizing the Indigenous feminine energy, spirit and power, where the roots of the UN's own organic rules of consensus had sprung. The Assembly's unanimous adoption of a resolution designating April 22 each year as International Mother Earth Day was made to advance the protection of the global climate for present and future generations of mankind.

Following the Padre was David Choquehuanca Céspedes, Bolivian minister of foreign affairs, speaking on behalf of President Morales, who expressed his profound regret that he was unable to attend the summit. Minister Choquehuanca Céspedes, a powerful voice from the snow-capped peaks of the Andean mountain region, called on us to help slow the melting of the white ponchos covering the Andean mountain peaks. 

We live on the skirt of Mother Earth, Minister Choquehuna proclaimed. So, if we are all on the skirt of Mother Earth, then we must all be brothers and sisters. We are all--plants, animals, humans, water and air--related. Hmmm, let's see what happens to Sarkozy's tongue before Copenhagen in December.

Ben Lilliston

April 23, 2009

Wipe the soot from your eyes

(Editor note: Liza (Guerra) O'Reilly is attending the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change in Anchorage, Alaska, on behalf of IATP's Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy. Liza is blogging this week from the Summit.)

Indigenous Yesterday, Indigenous people from the four directions gathered on day three of the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change (IPGSCC) and continued to explore thematic sessions of health and food security, Indigenous knowledge and decision-making, environmental stewardship, and energy generation on the precipice of climatic collapse. Each thematic session provided the necessary space and meaningful opportunity for participants to help set our top three priorities and/or critical messages through a Declaration anticipated to be announced at the conclusion of the IPGSCC.

One of the top three critical messages reaffirmed in the energy generation thematic session honored our ancestors for their wisdom passed down from time immemorial when they first felt the sun, tasted the sweet water, breathed the fresh air and pushed their hands into the folds of the earth. This very timeless wisdom recognizes our capacity to lead "developed" Nation/states, corporations, and other failed institutions and models out of the dark, wiping the soot out of their infirmed and capitalistic eyes to look at the Indigenous-based model of micro-energy, developed and controlled by the people.

Our ancestral model revolves around community, not upon it. It is controlled by community, not privatized by it. It is locally developed and constructed by the community, not exploited by it. And it transforms large-scale, centralized energy systems from their collective destructive power to community collective power, as we relearn how to “sustain ourselves within ourselves.” This is a “clean” energy paradigm that rejects false solutions propagated under nuclear power, large-scale dam projects and biofuels. 

Our ancestral energy model is a teaching moment to our little brothers to look upon our Indigenous communities/nations as we: (1) autonomously assess our energy needs; (2) determine our energy mechanisms and impacts; (3) develop our localized model that best preserves and advances sustenance in our relationship with mother earth; and (4) construct and sustain our localized energy model, bringing true “green jobs” into our communities. 

In this way, when we generate the energy necessary to live well, we can still hear the flute’s penetrating and vibrant sound move with the wind, singing our stories of sustenance. Little brothers, we want you to live well too; we will help wipe the soot from your eyes.

Liza (Guerra) O'Reilly

Ben Lilliston