Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch
March 4, 2013 | Adam Zuckerman
President Rafael Correa is no stranger to hyperbole, but his recent comments about Chevron's private corporate arbitration panel were right on the mark:
"It's the end of sovereignty, the end of our independence; we have become colonies with these rulings from international courts."
There has been a growing trend of transnational corporations capitalizing on investment treaties to subvert the sovereignty of the countries in which they operate. The Transnational Institute recently documented that a small circle of corporate lawyers that some refer to as an "inner mafia" – just 15 lawyers have decided 55% of all disputes – receive up to $1,000 per hour per lawyer to sit on the panels.
Over the last 15 years these arbitrations have increased more than tenfold with 38 in 1996 and 450 in 2011. In over a third of those cases corporations have sued countries for over $100 million. Some of these arbiters are former board members of multinational corporations that have sued developing nations. They are agents of what writer Naomi Klein has dubbed "disaster capitalism," targeting countries in the Global South and capitalizing on nations in the midst of crisis. They sue governments when corporations believe that governments have treated them unfairly by adopting environmental protections or public health laws.
March 1, 2013
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Send a letter urging President Correa to respect indigenous rights and the rights of nature.
As Ecuadorian ministers met with European oil executives and investors inside to auction off huge oil concessions as part of the country's XI Round (Ronda Sur Oriente), French activists took to the streets to call attention to the disaster oil drilling represents for the forest and seven threatened indigenous communities.
February 26, 2013 | Maíra Irigaray
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This man recording these meetings with his hidden camera had been working as a volunteer with the Xingu Alive Forever Movement since last year. It turns out he was being paid by the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM) to infiltrate the Movement's meetings in order to gather information on its leaders and activities. His role was to inform these details to the Brazilian government's national intelligence agency, ABIN.
February 21, 2013 | Alex Goff
Today is International Mother Language Day, a day promoted by UNESCO to recognize the intrinsic value in the diversity of languages across the world and the importance of their conservation for the good of humanity. Language is an integral part of culture; it is a crucial element of oral history and is intimately related to cosmology. Without language, cultural identity loses its roots and quickly disappears.
There are well over 100 languages in the Amazon, reflecting the incredible cultural diversity of the region. After Papua New Guinea, it is the area with the greatest linguistic diversity on the planet. There are approximately nine distinct languages in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Among them is the Zápara language, officially recognized in 2001 by UNESCO as a nonmaterial world patrimony.
Throughout modern history the Zápara population has suffered under the effects of colonialism, foreign diseases, deforestation, slavery, forced displacement, abuse by settlers, and on the other hand, by extractivist industry such as oil, mining, rubber, and logging. In 1680, the Zápara population numbered around 98,500 people, distributed between Ecuador and Peru, but by the beginning of the 20th Century their numbers had been reduced to around 20,000 people, according to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Patrimony. There is disagreement about the actual number of Zápara today. While the Ministry of Patrimony claims there are 400 Zápara in Ecuador and 500 in Peru, other sources argue that the number is far smaller, some 100 Zápara in Ecuador and 200 in Peru.
Zápara cosmology is based in large part on dreams. These form an integral part of decision-making and activities in the communities. This cosmology is expressed in the language, the loss of which would mean the loss of a fundamental part of the Zápara identity. The Zápara have developed an oral culture rich in knowledge of their natural surroundings, with an abundant terminology for rainforest flora and fauna and for the Zápara's knowledge of medicinal plants. Their language, which transmits myths, cultural and artistic practices, represents the living memory of an entire region and history.
Attend the Forward on Climate rally this Sunday or participate online
February 15, 2013
Twice before – in August of 2011, then again in 2012 – we joined with thousands of others across the country to ask President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Tar sands oil is some of the dirtiest on the planet and our top climate scientist, NASA's Dr. James Hansen, has said that fully exploiting the tar sands would mean "game over" for the climate. Read our recent post for more thoughts on the risks and reality of tar sands oil.
On February 17, 2013, this coming Sunday, our friends at Sierra Club and 350.org along with more than 120 partner organizations are planning what could be the largest climate rally in U.S. history. Together, we are asking President Obama once again to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and to provide leadership to advance real solutions to the climate crisis.
We need your help – and your voice – to make this event happen, and to spread this message across the country.
Already this week, concerned citizens and leaders have been sticking their necks out to raise the volume on the issue: on Wednesday 48 environmental, civil rights, and community leaders from across the country joined together for a historic display of civil disobedience at the White House.