We are a few short weeks away from what is meant to be an important event. An event where our world leaders get together to deal with one of the biggest threats of our time and to humanity as a whole: climate change. The event is the much-hyped COP 21 in Paris, France.
Yet, almost everyone that really cares about stopping this climate catastrophe does not expect any major success or real solutions coming out of Paris this December. It is expected to be just another failed COP in a long line of endless failures of our leaders to have any backbone about dealing with climate change. And yes it just the political will that is potently lacking, because real solutions to the problem exist and people are working on such solutions every day.
So how can it be that after 21 long years of negotiations, we are still discussing and we still haven’t managed to figure out how to fix the problem of climate change in a global, binding and coordinated manner? The reasons are many, but there is one aspect of the problem that I would like to explore more, and which I feel has been a central cause of the problem around delayed action on climate change. That is the prevalence of manipulation of narratives, through “misdirection”, “distraction”, and “creation of doubt.”
In studying media coverage during the nineties until recently, we often saw an ongoing debate, often with one expert stating that climate change was happening and explaining the need for action, while another claimed that the science was unclear, complicated and that we needed to do more research and discussions before we do anything since that could cause major economic costs. This format gives the false impression that the scientific field is balanced in these different views, that there is still a debate to be had, that there are divergent opinion within the experts. If one looks at the time given to these two views, it is either equal time or in the case of some US channels actually more time is given to climate deniers then to the true experts.
Just in case some of you have been duped by this, it is useful to go through a quick timeline to understand how corporations and governments have been especially effective at redefining the narrative in the face of overwhelming evidence. As early as 1859 Tyndall shows the effect of greenhouse gases and suggested that increases in these gases could case climate change. In 1896 Arrhenius releases its first study calculating the effect of global warming from human emissions of CO2. Just a year later Chamberlin produced the first simple global carbon model with feedbacks, while Callendar in 1938 used records from 147 weather stations to show a correlation between temperature increase and CO2 concentrations. Since then more and more research has clearly showed the link between human-based emissions and climate change, such issues as data showing CO2 based global warming is underway, from the melting of Antarctic ice sheets, to complex global weather models showing the existence of climate change and much, much more all this already existed by the 1960s.
In the 1970s, numerous conferences and institutions starting raising concerns about climate change, with an ever-increasing consensus among leading scientists that serious global climate change was caused by humans and that action was necessary. In the 1970s there were still scientists and experts that had doubts, but as their own research continued one by one they shifted to the truth. By 1985, already 30 years ago, the Villach Conference had declared consensus among experts and called on governments to consider international agreements to restrict emissions.
The world reacted and in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established and in 1990 they released their first report stating that the world was warming. In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol became the first international law to deal with climate change. Many felt it was too weak, but given that this was a first step, with a guarantee that stronger agreements were to follow, many felt that at least things looked like they were heading in the right direction. However, as we all know it didn’t go as hoped and the Kyoto Protocol died a slow, painful death around 2012 with no new binding global agreement to replace it. Reason seems to have retreated and it feels we are further away from a solution than we were even 10 years ago.
Today for every 100 research papers published on climate change, 99 support the reality of climate change. Don’t be surprised if the last one which doesn’t support the reality is funded by the fossil fuel industry. The problem is that decisions are not based on facts, but political and corporate interests. However, civil society can be a major thorn in the side of these narrow corporate interests; hence defining a narrative to their interests becomes an important part of continued corporate control of our spaces and government.
The public relations type approach that corporates use to develop their narratives is not fine-tuned to facts but rather to peoples’ interests and emotions. It is based on charm, slickness, catchy messages and charisma, and therefor very effective. In contrast the factual science-based approach to develop a narrative is far more restrictive as it needs to be based on data, on falsifiable hypotheses and complex details that are regularly revised, changed and fine-tuned as new research and data are constantly being discovered. This isn’t a good path for igniting mass interest. Add the fact that corporations control most of the media sources, or have the funds to spread their toxic untrue narrative to an endless degree. We can start to understand why we are failing.
In the case of the climate change narrative a further dose of distraction, intentional misinterpretation, suppression of facts, dubious think tanks, pseudo-experts, and more, have even further distorted the odds. For those who are interested in more details can read an interesting book titled “Merchants of Doubt” or watch the documentary of the same name. This book reveals the history of corporate public relations efforts to cast doubt, confusion and skepticism around genuine scientific research if that research goes against their self-interest.
The interesting thing that one notices when reading the book is how similar has been the doubt-generating approach to diverse topics and issues from DDT pesticides to ozone depleting CFC´s, from acid rain to the flame-retardants industry. All used the corporate narratives to create doubt and skepticism on the existence of a problem, leading to major delays is solving these issues. The first step to solving any problem is agreeing that there is a problem. If the problem is ignored for long enough, then the solution of what it will take to stop this crisis, can well be ignored. The case that really stands out in the book is that of tobacco industry. The strategies used today for casting doubt on climate change were so similar to the strategies for fudging the health impacts of tobacco. There is even an overlap of the actual pseudo-experts involved. If you can sell big tobacco´s narrative, you can sell any narrative.
Also the reason why tobacco is an important case study is because they wrote the book on using public relations to keep the reality and consequences well hidden. An infamous 1969 tobacco executive memo explained it best by saying “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”
The science was clear already in 1950 with numerous studies showing the link between cancer and tobacco. By the end of the 1950s, even the tobacco´s own research had concluded that their product was addictive and caused cancer. In the light of this the tobacco industry realized that denying the harms of smoking would not be enough or effective as a sales strategy. Instead it was important to insist that there were “two sides” to the story and to use the transient and changing nature of science in their favour. It got heavily involved in funding opposing research and partnering with research institutions, and even created some such as the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC). At least the link with the TIRC was clear, most of the funding was not made known it came from the tobacco industry so to seem independent. Some of the research was heavily base, but some was genuine and good, such as the link between genetics and cancer, but the use of the research was to create alternative hypothesis to better develop doubt.
They developed a diverse and intense advertising campaigns becoming the biggest advertisers in sports and other sectors. They used influential professions such as getting doctors to support the use of tobacco or at least to claim that they smoked. It is technically not a lie, but one can see the problem from miles away. They sponsor celebrities, and sell lifestyles. They were among the first to link up with Hollywood for product placement in movies. The 80´s superman movies had Superman and even Lois Lane (confident girlfriend) smoke for the first time in the franchise and throughout the movies there were Malboro adverts.
All this allowed the tobacco industry to avoid regulation, legislation, liaibility, etc, but more sadly it allow the continued delay to solving the problem and must always keep in mind that when one says delays it mean much more than time, it often mean loss of life.
Climate change has followed the same strategy and the fossil fuel industries and others have been successfully delaying action and capturing our global spaces such as the UNFCCC to the point where even thought the last IPCC report on climate change highlighted the severe and shocking state of our climate and called for drastic action, we still do not expect much of the Paris COP, which is where we met to get some form of international agreement. We have the facts, we know what needs to be done, but our leaders do not want to do it….and the general public in the critical countries like the USA are “doubtful” of the true causes of climate change. Many still doubt if climate change really exists or not. It may seem like a joke to us, but it is true in many parts of USA. It also help to deny climate change when accepting it means changing some of the excesses of consumption that has become part and parcel of the American way of life and a path that many of our elites have adopted and even elaborated on.
Now this may seem like a global issue with big players outside the reality of Mozambique, but many of these tricks and strategies are being used day-by-day with us, with Mozambique´s civil society. Its was used when dealing with the illegal logging, the gas, the coal and much more. It is currently happening with Prosavana, one of the largest land grabs in Africa, were civil society has identified numerous fatal flaws and have asked for a halt to the project. The government has done numerous fancy looking documents showing the benefits. It has done a master plan with all the correct language of sustainability, equity, community empowerment, gender sensitivity, etc…They know what to say and they know that what they say and what they do doesn´t have to be the same. Once the project has started its almost impossible to stop, so they just need to say the right thing until the ball gets rolling.
Hence, the government has shown a willingness to sit down and discuss. “Let’s not be extreme, they say. “Let’s not halt the project, but find a solution to improve this Prosavana program, work together, etc. It places civil society in a situation where if we say no it makes us look stubborn and feeds the notions of being extreme. The truth is that while we sit down and discuss, chat and work together the project continues. Word stay words and nothing changes in reality. We increase the credibility of the project as they can claim civil society participations. We have been there and have done that too many times.
Let me put it in a simpler way. If I served you a fish that was rotten, you would not accept it and send it back. My reaction should be to say sorry and getting something new, but instead of me throwing it out I say let us talk about it, let us fix the problem. Well I can put salt and piri-piri to help improve the taste and a lot of garlic to improve the smell. Let us not be extreme and compromise. Would you now eat the rotten fish? Didn’t think so. Hence we should find ways ourselves having to discuss projects and issues that are fundamentaly flawed and which affect so many people so deeply. It because the fish is only a few meticais so we can throw it out, but these projects and issues are millions of dollars and that is enough to buy over morality.
The later the change occurs the less impact it has and the slower the results. Do not forget that these issues are linked to peoples’ lives. In the case of climate change one must not forget when we discuss this limit or that limit, we are basically discussing if a few million people can die or many millions can die, that how sever the situation is if we delay action or do too little too late. Do not let the powers at be take us on these endless roundabouts while they continue to impact peoples’ lives.
This was the title of one of the numerous news reports portraying the inauguration of the largest plant nursery in Africa … Truth be told, the biggest nursery of eucalyptus trees which will be used for monoculture plantations and will have many negative impacts. But, hey, let’s celebrate; after all we now have in Mozambique the largest something in Africa! A huge nursery of eucalyptus! Yuuupiii!!!
Interestingly, none of the articles that I was able to get my hands on made reference to our government’s commitment to exotic species plantations, nor to the huge and confessed pride that our current government feels for these new conquests, to the point that it’s the president himself who inaugurates it.
Parts of the President’s opening speech was broadcast on television (STV nightly news on September 8th). I confess that it surprised me quite a lot to hear what the President thinks of the issues that have been raised regarding employment positions in Portucel, alleged cases of land grabbing and also about the motivations of the NGOs working with some communities in the area… Mr. President, I prefer to believe that the news piece was poorly edited, because certainty you could never speak of these issues as it was presented, surely, because a President of all Mozambicans as you are, Sir, would obviously never refer to these NGOs and people in such manner without ever having heard what they really think and why they think like that. The President asked Portucel workers if they were happy, or whether they preferred to continue in poverty without jobs, and said that those who work with them (referring to those NGOs) do not want to see the region develop, they want to keep them in poverty while they themselves “live well” … Oh Mr. President, who lives well??? Mr. President knows as well as we do that most people who work and live honestly do not live well, they merely survive, and some not even that! What is living well Mr. President? Is it to live in fear of expressing yourself openly and then be summoned to court and be accused of crimes against the state? And what about all the injustices we witness every day, are we not allowed to talk about them? Is living well being afraid of talking too much and then one day, while you are out for a walk, getting shot by a hitman following some faceless coward’s order? Or is living well, to live in apartments that look more like prisons than anything else, with burglar bars and locks, afraid of everything and everyone, due to the complete inefficiency of our police in protecting us? Or is living well having to wait for hours to be cared for in a hospital and when your turn finally comes the doctor is already so tired that he has no patience left for you? Or is it having to bribe teachers and principals of public schools to get a place for your child to study, and dream of a better life? Is this how we live well Mr. President? Who lives well Mr. President? Many of us live rather better than most, but living well requires a number of conditions that we lack …
You know as well as we do that those who live well are some of the members of your government, with their salaries and numerous subsidies at the expense of the same people who you now want to silence with a handful of precarious jobs. Those who live well are our members of parliament, who vote for more and more benefits for themselves, which the people contest but it goes forward anyway! And why Mr. President? Why do we continue to turn a blind eye to these injustices? Why do we accept that some have so much and others nothing? Why do the people have to settle for a job with low pay, often seasonal, while their representatives are entitled to the absurd benefits we all know about? Why are we perpetuating poverty in a country with so much wealth? One of our greatest assets is our land, where thousands of peasants produce food everyday. Land which we see being so lightly “lent” to the many, many investment projects, often against the will of the people… If Portucel jobs are so good, and life is now so much better thanks to Portucel’s arrival, maybe it would not be a bad idea to send there some of our many members of parliament for an internship there, paid of course, since we do not agree with any form of exploitation… Who knows, maybe then the President would realize that, after all, those jobs are not that good…
Mr. President, we are on the same side, we work for social and environmental justice, because we believe that together we can help build a country that we can all be proud of, where we can all live well and not just a few!
Mr. President, you posed questions to Portucel employees, but did you really expect people to answer honestly and tell you that the job is not safe, or that the salary is too low, or that they thought they were going to get more than 1500 Meticais ($32 according to current exchange rates!) in return for their farms, as they tell us (those pesky NGOs!). I find it hard to believe that someone would have the courage to, given the situation, say things were not good and instead say what they would actually prefer that… And you know why Mr. President? Because your question was not raised to be answered, your question was merely to convince others that all is well… and your considerations regarding the NGOs and the people who work with the communities were incorrect and unjust, and coming from you Mr. President, even more incorrect, because after all you are the President of all Mozambicans, including those that you criticized without ever knowing, those who you say live well and only want to delay the development of the region and maintain the communities in poverty. We are also part of those that you criticized, and I am sorry to tell you Mr. President, but you are misinformed.
A project so wonderful speaks for itself, surely does not need anyone to come defend it, as it has been happening with Portucel. A project so wonderful does not need any effort to discredit anybody because the facts speak for themselves!
If you want to hear the people, approach them humbly, be spontaneous, do not allow everything to be planned to the smallest detail, like who can talk and what can be talked about, complaints which we have heard, whether they are true or not, we cannot say, but we believe you have ways to find out Sir…
Long live democracy!
Children from Portucel-affected communities. Photo credit: Justiça Ambiental
One of Portucel’s monoculture exotic plantations. Photo credit: Justiça Ambiental
Last Tuesday, 12 May, hundreds of Jindal coal mining affected communities, held a spontaneous protest and paralysed the activities of the company. The protestors came from the 500 families of Cassoca villages, Luane, Cassica, Dzinda and Gulu, who are directly affected by the coal mine operated by Indian company JINDAL. JA! staff Mafigo Borges based in Tete was present for the protests, and recorded the short video available on JA facebook page. The video reveals how fed up the communities are with the way they are being treated.
Still shot from the video
The communities were protesting against the violation of their rights and against the failure of the promises made when the arrival of the mining company in the region. According to the communities, resettlement promises of agricultural land, employment and better living conditions, are today completely lacking, a situation that is compounded by the fact that these communities continue to live within the mine concession area subject to inhumane living conditions and are fully exposed to all impacts stemming from the operation of an open pit coal mine. These families are forced to breathe air polluted by coal clouds, consume contaminated water and they have less and less land to farm, their only source of livelihood.
Tired of being ignored, the women, men and children of these families rose up against the company, which has taken away land, has not provided any alternative housing or livelihood, has denied the right to a clean and healthy environment which is enshrined by law. There are constant reports of outbreaks of respiratory diseases and other health complications, said to affect both people and animals.
Till date, the company has been unwilling to provide any clarification. The government of Mozambique has often defended the company’s interests to the detriment of the interests and needs of the people. Some select local leaders, being the only ones to benefit from employment in the company, then control and repress the people, thus causing humiliation, abuse and marginalization for these families already impoverished. The communities have no free access to and contact with civil society and human rights institutions. It is as if, by living within the mining concession, communities have also been privately owned by the company.
This was neither the first nor the second time that the people have revolted. Since the beginning of the JINDAL operations, these demonstrations have been occurring regularly. In fact, the first one had shamefully taken place just days before then President Armando Guebuza personally inaugurated the immoral and illegal Jindal mine. This was just the formal inauguration, as we know that the mine was already operating before the Environmental Impact Study was approved.
But on 12 May, women with stones in their hands and children in their arms, men and kids with sticks, drums and other instruments, burned tyres on the roads and marched and chanted in the local language. Their songs and chants mirrored their dissatisfaction and helplessness:
“Even in our own land, JINDAL is making us suffer”
“Suca JINDAL Suca!” (curses)
As usual, in order to stop the demonstration, JINDAL called the Rapid Intervention Unit and the Civil Protection Police, which protects the safety of the private mining company. These so-called forces of public protection, fired several live ammunition into the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters, who refused to accept the order. The community remained defiant and fearless until the Marara district administrator arrived, and took responsibility to discuss their concerns with the company.
These families want nothing more than enjoy their right to a dignified life. Something that is constantly denied them in the name of development.
Climate justice advocates, community peoples and mass movements’ representatives met in Maputo, Mozambique from 21-23 April 2015 to consider the roots, manifestations and impacts of climate change on Africa and to consider needed responses to the crises.
At the end of the deliberations it was agreed that Africa is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis although she has not significantly contributed to the problem. The conference also noted that the climate crisis is systemic in nature and is a result of defective economic and political systems that require urgent overhaul. In particular, the meeting considered that Africa has been massively plundered over the centuries and continues to suffer severe impacts from resource exploitation and related conflicts.
The meeting noted that the Africa Rising narrative is based on the faulty premises of neoliberalism using tools like discredited measures of GDP and is presented as a bait to draw the continent deeper into extractivism and to promote consumerism.
The meeting further noted human and environmental rights abuses on the continent, as well as the ecological, economic, financial crises, all adversely affect her peoples and impair their capacity to adapt to, mitigate impacts and build collective resilience to climate change.
The meeting frowned at the widening gap between our governments and the grassroots and the increasing corporate capture of African governments and public institutions. These constitute obstacles to the securing climate justice for our peoples.
The long walk to climate justice requires mass education of our populace, as well as our policy makers, on the underpinnings of the climate crisis, the vigorous assertion of our rights and the forging ahead with real alternatives including those of social and political structures and systems. It also demands collective and popular struggles to resist neo-colonialism, new forms of oppression and new manifestations of violence including criminalisation of activists and social movements, and xenophobia. We recognise that as climate change worsens, it will increase the resource crunch and migrations and will lead to more conflicts between people. We also recognise that the exploitation of migrant labour by corporations often leads to conflicts between neighbouring countries.
With justice and equality as the irreducible minimum, the conference further noted and declared as follows:
In line with the above and through other considerations, the conference demands as follows:
Conference participants resolved to work with other movements in Africa and globally for the overturning of the capitalist patriarchal system promoted and protected by the global financial institutions, corporations and the global elite to secure the survival of humans and the rights of Mother Earth to maintain her natural cycles.
(A). Signers who participated in the meeting:
(B). Organisations that signed in solidarity after the meeting:
As we had announced, this year our celebration of the Forests Day on 21 March was different, as it was dedicated to the children, not adults!!
It was a fun day with lots of playful activities and joy, with many opportunities to introduce and discuss with kids the importance of our forests, the importance of conserving these ecosystems and of the environment in general, always highlighting that people and communities are a part of it.
We were all touched by the happiness of the children!! And our staff & volunteers enjoyed too!!
The event took place at the Parque dos Professores (Teachers Park), starting at 10am until 4 pm, and was organized in partnership with the Livro Aberto (Open Book) Association and supported by the participation and dedication of AMOR (Mozambican Recycling Association), Kosmoz, Mr. Rafo Diaz, the boys from the orphanage Casa do Gaiato and several tireless volunteers.
The objective of this initiative was to use fun activities to raise awareness among children, Mozambique’s future generation, about the importance of our forests, and the conservation of our environment in general.
The activities for children included:
1. Making Bracelets with re-used plastic water bottles and strips of bright capulana (much-loved traditional Mozambican cloth)
2. Drawing trees and decorating them using motifs from old magazines;
Making snakes by re-using the cardboard tube of toilet rolls;
Drawing a beautiful forest on canvas, elements of which were painted by many different children throughout the day at their choice and in the end, it illustrated the immense biodiversity and creativity;
Face painting, which did take some courage as none of our staff had any previous experience with this, but it also gave us the opportunity to test the creativity of our colleagues and volunteers;
In addition to these activities, we had several colouring pages available for the younger children, all with environmental themes;
We had a message board which was also a success; many children left their messages each on small cardboard leaves, which together made the tree;
In addition to the activities that JA and Livro Aberto had organized we also had activities from important partners, who clearly contributed for a rich programme for the day, such as AMOR and Kosmoz.
AMOR is promoting recycling in Mozambique and was present with their great mood, inviting children to learn how to build fun toys from recycled material, such as the “Vai e vem” (literally ‘come & go’ – a toy) with recycled plastic bottles, which was a huge hit with the kids whilst at the same time their volunteers were talking about important environmental concepts.
The Kosmoz (Holistic Platform for Integral Human Development) was well represented, bringing elements of physical and mental well-being of communities.
They had a very rich program that included dances, reiki, yoga exercises in group, educational games with emphasis to nutrition, massage parlour only for children (although the adults really wanted it too!), demonstration of aero yoga and hip hop dance, demonstration of theatre games, demonstration of a chess match, among other activities. The therapists from Kosmoz were present during most of the day providing advice and appointments for children and parents also.
We cannot forget the story telling moment in which Mr. Rafo Diaz charmed our children with his magical storytelling talent! Thank you very much Rafo!
We are immensely grateful for the commitment and dedication of our new partners Livro Aberto Association, Amor and Kosmoz, because they believed in the cause and helped us make this day a day to remember!
This day was a great example of Mozambican organisations working together for children of all socio-economic backgrounds, who rarely if ever have a chance to come together.
(All photos by Justiça Ambiental)
March 14th: International Day of the Rivers
To celebrate this date, JA! organized and held several events. The focus was the Zambezi River.
In Tete, we put up a banner on the Samora Machel Bridge in Tete which is the town closest to the proposed dam and also close to the coal mining-affected communities. The message on the banner was strong, and was directed at every single person who saw it: IN YOUR NAME, “PROGRESS” AND “DEVELOPMENT” ARE KILLING THE ZAMBEZI DAM BY DAM) We distributed leaflets about the consequences of the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam.
(Photo credit: Gus Greenstein)
In Maputo and in partnership with the National Institute of Audiovisual and Cinema we also organized the screening of two documentaries about water: Entre Rios, which depicts the impacts of urbanization and expansion of the city of São Paulo on the rivers of the region, and Damocracy, which addresses the social and environmental impacts of the construction of mega dams in rivers. The aim of these projections was to create an awareness of the importance of rivers and water resources, which are vital for the planet and all of us. After the screening there was a very interactive discussion regarding the impact of human activity on the environment, its resources and their sustainability. Issues were also raised regarding the energy model that historically has caused serious social, economic, cultural and environmental consequences, and about the need to replace the use of dirty energy and the construction of mega dams (such as that intended to Mphanda Nkuwa) for the development and use of clean and renewable energy.
The Zambezi and Mphanda Nkuwa
In accordance to the mother of all geopolitical rules, as the developed countries stop building and actually begin to demolish their dams, the pressure from companies and financiers of such infrastructures over the underdeveloped and developing countries increases.
Unsurprisingly, the Mozambican government does not seem to be “getting the picture.” With a series of dams planned for our rivers in the coming years, fronted by the infamous Mphanda Nkuwa, the government’s agenda clearly indicates its commitment to send us the opposite direction to the course of development that they so often talk about.
In 2014, in the United States alone, at least 72 dams were demolished in order to restore rivers and preserve its people and biodiversity. In the US, the movement for the demolition of dams and river restoration is clearly becoming stronger, and much thanks to education and information campaigns, this increasing awareness regarding the impacts of dams in the past present and future is lessening the manoeuvring space for those who promote them within the political circles, and consequently, making it more difficult for politicians to foist them.
But who decides that a dam should be demolished? And why? Well, actually, there seems to be no rule. Sometimes governmental entities, for environmental and/or social reasons, determine it; sometimes the owners of the dam, when it is no longer profitable (if it ever was), come to the conclusion that maintenance costs are higher than demolition costs, and so, for financial and safety reasons choose to demolish it. Either way, nature says thank you.
The great victory in the fight against dams in 2014 was the overturning of the HidroAysén project, a 5 dams construction plan in the Baker and Pascua rivers in Patagonia. The Environmental Impact Assessment was approved in 2011, but a group of citizens opposed strongly and in 2014 the Minister for the Environment announced that her Ministry had rejected the project. She justified it by saying that the dam was jeopardizing biodiversity, traditional cultures, communities and even tourism in the region.
Another big win was to finally be able to hold the World Bank accountable for their involvement in human rights violations through its funding of dams. An example: the Rio Negro massacres caused during the building of the Chixoy Dam in Guatemala.
But what about us? How long will we keep pushing one way while the world moves in the opposite direction? We are different and want to continue to be different, but different for the better. We have to impose our will so that wise decisions on these matters are taken. Decisions upon which depend the welfare and livelihoods of millions of people and the balance of our environment. We agree that we cannot believe everything is said and written, but we cannot allow lightly taken decisions made in our name to be so obscenely wrong that a simple online search on any search engine disqualifies them peremptorily.
We need the decision makers of this country to promote a broad and open dialogue with society on the country’s energy needs, and allow it to participate in decision making. They could start by giving us answers to questions such as:
We need more dams to produce energy what and/or whom for?
What kind of energy do we want, and what options do we have?
In terms of social justice, we are certain that these decisions, taken together with the society, will be fairer, more valid, and certainly will not cost so much sweat, blood and tears to Mozambicans. Environmentally speaking, we have faith that this will also allow us to preserve our rivers, our water.
In the specific case of the Zambezi, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns that in the coming years “the Zambezi basin will potentially face the worst effects of climate change (…) and suffer probably a substantial reduction precipitation of about 10-15%”. We cannot afford to ignore these warnings from leading scientist panels and lightly build more dams on the Zambezi. The consequences can be disastrous.
Proud of our partners victories in the US and Chile, we remain resolute in our struggle and hopeful to the end that victory will smile to us too. And you may even be thinking that this much desired victory will not be yours; worse, that in case of defeat, nothing will change for you; or even worse, that this investment will certainly serve the country, create jobs and bring progress… Think again. This investment could irreparably affect the lives of millions of Mozambicans living on the banks of the Zambezi. It can take the fish and the xima out of their tables, because the “health” of a river depends on an entire ecosystem, including the fields it irrigates. And how will the thousands of fishermen and farmers living by and of the river survive?
And the possible repercussions in the Zambezi delta and the shrimp industry?
What if we told you that Mphanda Nkuwa is not meant to help fix our country’s poor electrification rate? Would you be surprised? What if we told you that behind Mphanda Nkuwa there are other plans for energy-intensive dirty industries, that will in turn bring the country other social and environmental problems and the same development that the Cahora Bassa, Mozal, Vale and Jindal, among others, bring us today: insufficient when compared to what we sacrificed and disproportionately distributed.
There is only one Zambezi, and yet, there are many projects that the executive seems to have for him, as if it was inexhaustible and indestructible… Don’t you find it strange that none of them are directly aimed at benefiting its people?
Do you really believe that is progress?
For more information about the HidroAysén project and dam demolition:
Thank goodness we are nobodies. We nobodies can speak freely with other nobodies like us about what we think, without having to worry that Someone might not like our ideas.
The thing is Someone does not like those who think differently. His message is clear: if you think differently, think silently.
Someone is dangerous and wants us all to know it.
Someone has long been trying to annihilate all those who are noble and competent in Mozambique. Trying to condemn us all to his mediocrity, to his predictable and repeatedly sterile, selfish and monochromatic ideas.
In November 2000 Someone ordered the hit on Cardoso and doomed our media to an era of opacity, of subordination, of dictated news, of amazing fables featuring ducks, partridges, monkeys, pigs and other characters in plots and intrigues so poorly staged that only a moron would mistake them for reality.
Less than a year later, Someone ordered the killing of Siba-Siba Macuácua, allegedly to cover up a big shady bank fraud that the economist was trying to unveil. How many like Siba-Siba has Someone “pushed over the handrail” to cover up his manoeuvres?
In 2010, Orlando José, the late Director of Audit, Research and Information of Customs, also paid with his life for the grotesque mistake of saying that Someone should pay the same taxes as the rest of us common mortals.
And now, after nearly five years of absence (in what concerns political assassinations of obvious intimidating nature), on Tuesday the 3rd of this month, Someone ordered another hit. Gilles Cistac was the victim. He was shot because Someone certainly found inconceivable that a teacher, a mentor, a renowned academic could have an opinion so further apart from his. Surely Someone considered that Cistac was thinking too loud. Moreover, Cistac occupied a social position too dangerous for a politically misaligned individual.
Are we all supposed to cheep quietly like a good flock of nobodies?
Are we expected to, yet again, accept Someone’s impunity and pretend to believe in the guilt of yet another Anibalzinho? To accept Someone’s oppression as an amorphous, gagged and subdued society?
Are the other intellectuals of our society, who put themselves on the line for the millions of nobodies like us, supposed to feel intimidated and keep quiet from now on?
Although it seems obvious that the wellbeing and the future of the country depend now, and perhaps more than ever, on the courage of these men and women, it does not seem fair that we demand of them that they alone risk their lives to protect our future.
We can no longer be nobodies, we must leave our quiet and safe insignificance, give voice to our discontent and fight for the rights that so many have fallen to defend.
We have had enough comrades. Enough.
The Nobodies By Eduardo Galeano
Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that one magical day good luck will suddenly rain down on them- will rain down in buckets. But good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day with their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.
The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing.
The nobodies: the no ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way.
Who don’t speak languages, but dialects.
Who don’t have religions, but superstitions.
Who don’t create art, but handicrafts.
Who don’t have culture, but folklore.
Who are not human beings, but human resources.
Who do not have names, but numbers.
Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the police blotter of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.
The UN climate change talks in Lima are over. Instead of finishing on Friday afternoon, they went on till 4am on Sunday. It came close to a few break-downs because developing countries were really pushing back at the way at which developed countries were trying to control the situation. But finally there was a so-called ‘consensus’. But make no mistake, what was agreed in Lima did not and will not do anything to stop climate change.
The final approved text was driven by the interests of rich developed countries and corporations. This contrasted sharply with the real leadership and inspiration demonstrated in Lima by social movements, organisations and the communities on the frontline, who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.
Rich developed countries came to Lima determined to ensure that the outcome reflected their short term economic interests, as if the climate crisis really does not matter. The outcome lacks courage, justice and solidarity with the billions of people affected by climate change.
Activists chanting “no justice, no deal” 2 hours before the final terrible text was approved. Photo credit: Yumi Sato
At the same time as the negotiations, again this year the Philippines endured more extreme weather and communities around the world are paying for the carbon excess of others with their lives and livelihoods. The Lima outcome failed people and the planet at a time when real solutions are needed more urgently than ever before.
The outcome says nothing about the drastic emissions reductions needed before 2020, without which we are at risk of an even greater temperature rise and climate breakdown. The outcome undermines historical responsibility. The urgent obligation of developed countries to provide climate finance is glaringly missing. This text creates an architecture that will set us up for a doomed deal in Paris. This is completely unacceptable. Governments of developed countries need to urgently find the necessary courage and political will to deal with the scale of this planetary emergency.
Protest inside COP 20 demanding an end to dirty energy. Photo credit: Luka Tomac
But away from the negotiating halls, people continue to mobilize and build an enduring movement to implement the real solutions to the climate crisis. Justiça Ambiental was there observing and building alliances with movements and organisations. The Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change (Cumbre de los Pueblos/ Cupula dos Povos) – which ran parallel to the UN talks – gathered together social movements and organisations from Peru, Latin America and all over the world. They exchanged experiences and continued to build momentum for the transformation needed to address the roots of the climate crisis and create a better, cleaner and more just world.
Almost 20,000 people marched in a huge protest (the March in Defense of Mother Earth) on December 10 — international human rights day.
Thousands marching into the historic Plaza San Martin in central Lima, demanding climate justice. Photo credit: Luka Tomac
From farmers to miners to environmentalists to students… Marchers called for justice and real solutions to the climate crisis, including steep and immediate reductions in carbon emissions, stopping fossil fuels and deforestation, building renewable community-owned energy solutions, and protecting our agroecological food sovereignty systems.
No false solutions! No REDD! Demands from the Dec 10 Human Rights Day march in Lima. Photo credit: Babawale Obayanju
For over a year and a half, since April 2013, Mozambique has been going through a tense political atmosphere. Many parts of the country were going through an undeclared war between the party in power (Frelimo) and the main opposition party (Renamo). We reported on this situation in our New Year JA blog. It was because of this tense atmosphere, increased insecurity for citizens and clamp down on civil society that an unprecedented 30,000 people marched on the streets of Maputo on 31 October 2013, demanding peace, justice and solidarity, and an end to insecurity and war (see photos on the New Year blog).
After much negotiations, the parties decided to go ahead with elections scheduled for 15 October 2014, although the tense atmosphere had clearly not yet abated.
Elections took place on 15 October. On the same day, media and observers already reported several irregularities. There are many instances of violence including a young man killed in Beira. Opposition party observers were deliberately kept out of voting rooms and were unable to observe. There were reports of ballot boxes disappearing in some places, being burnt and destroyed in others. Several people were caught with multiple ballots in their hands already marked in the ruling party’s name and ready to be put into ballot boxes. Many election booths opened many hours after they were supposed to. Social scientist Joseph Hanlon’s page in English registers several issues with the voting.
All these and many more reports were actively covered in the media and are substantiated by two renowned Mozambican organisations, Liga dos Direitos Humanos (LDH, Human Rights League) and Centro de Integridade Publica (CIP, Centre for Public Integrity). They were both civil society observers of this election. These organisations were already raising these issues and irregularities on the day of the elections itself.
These irregularities were reported to the National Election Commission right away on the same day! However the official response was that these incidents were minimal and did not affect the overall outcome!
The Mozambican people are livid. The tension across Mozambique around this issue is evident and everyone is talking about the lack of democracy. Front page headline on Canal de Moçambique on 22 October stated “Filipe Nyusi: Uma Fraude Retumbante” (Fipile Nyusi [ruling party candidate]: A Reverberating Fraud). Social media including facebook has been ripe with discontent about the elections scenario.
Given the sentiment in the country, and the terrible official response, 4 Mozambican organisations today submitted a formal complaint to the National Election Commission. The 4 organisations include:
The complaint has nothing to do with who wins or who loses the elections. It is about governance, transparency, justice and democracy. We as Mozambicans demand free, fair and transparent elections. We demand justice. We know there will be backlash on our organisations from the government; however it is a matter of justice for all Mozambicans. It is also important to note that the Electoral Law does not provide any legal avenues for civil society or citizens to be able to make any complaints about the electoral process and get a response. However, the outrage is huge, so we decided to go ahead with a complaint anyway.
It is really sad that some big advocacy Mozambican groups who usually work together with us on issues, and who are criticising the election irregularities, yet did not have the courage to bring their voices to such an important complaint.
Just now the government has released the final results of the elections and has claimed a victory for the ruling party.
But what is the truth? Where is our democracy?
A luta continua (the struggle continues)…