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Energy, environment and nation - Apr 13

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Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth

John Vidal, Guardian
Law of Mother Earth expected to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South American nation
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Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".
(10 April 2011)
Video at original about the effects of climate change on Bolivia. The 12-minute video is also here.

Today, the author John Vidal posted: El Alto, city of rural migrants whose crops failed when the climate changed.
-BA



Bolivia After the Storm

Raúl Zibechi, CIP Americas
At the end of December, the first popular uprising in the region against a government of the left took place in Bolivia. It was caused by an excessive increase in the price of fuels. The event demonstrates the difficulties of entering into a truly alternative mode of development, but it also reveals the limits of the Bolivian government’s stated effort to re-establish and decolonize the state.

The Ipsos Institute released a survey showing that the popularity of President Evo Morales fell from 84% in 2007 to 36% in January of 2011. The results are worse for Vice President Alvaro García Linera whose level of approval fell from 46% in November of 2010 to 29%.

The ex-Minister of Hydrocarbons, Andrés Soliz Rada, was asked “if the cycle of political and economic transformation that Evo Morales has deployed in his first six years of governing has reached its end.” He didn’t manage to give a full answer, but it was the first time a question like this has been raised in the Andean country. The “gasolinazo,” the huge increase in the price of fuels decreed at the end of December and annulled just five days later to avoid almost certain upheaval, was an earthquake sufficiently devastating to bring about a radically new political situation in Bolivia.

... The events described above indicate that if the decree hadn’t been withdrawn, the country would have advanced toward its fourth social breakdown since the impressive insurrection in Cochabamba in April of 2000 known as the “Water War”, which forced the rightwing government to reverse the privatization of potable water. The current government complained about the popular rejection of the increase in fuel prices, but it didn’t open a public debate about how to prevent the economy from losing $380 million annually from subsidies, $150 million of which is the result of contraband.

According to Soliz Rada, “The gasolinazo has generated a feeling that the petroleum companies have regained domination of the country,” neutralizing and even reversing the effect of the hydrocarbon nationalization nearly six years ago.
(23 March 2011)



German Greens on the rise

Victor Grossman, Znet
A Down Escalator and an Up Escalator
A Tale of Two Parties...
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... [In Germany] growing skepticism also leads to fewer votes for the CDU or CSU, the allies of the FDP and, interestingly, fewer for the Social Democrats as well, whose sincerity is increasingly in doubt.

Who have the skeptical voters chosen? In almost amazing numbers the Greens. When founded 30-40 years ago this party was the "bad boy" of West German politics. It had strong left-wing leanings on questions like women's rights, immigrant rights, gay rights and anti- militarism. And of course it was an early warner about atomic power and ecology. Largely made up of rebellious young people, some of them quite radical, it outraged fastidious Germans with daring attire like woolen sweaters or sneakers in the Bundestag, or its conduct there, knitting or sometimes caring for its babies.

But, sadly for some, its members got older and more prosperous, the more radical "fundi" wing lost out, and the Greens grew ever tamer. When they finally broke through the taboos and joined the Social Democrats in a government coalition, rebellious sparks were very rare. With their most prominent leader, Joschka Fischer, Foreign Minister next to Chancellor Schroeder, they helped push through many tough measures still causing trouble today; increased value-added taxes, hitting the poor, an increase in the retirement age to 67, tougher policies for the unemployed. They achieved a few improvements for immigrants and the gay community, but supported the murderous bombing war against Serbia, killing civilians, diplomats, journalists and blasting at least one huge chemical factory despite the immense, easily foreseeable ecological damage. After long efforts they finally achieved a cutoff date for atomic reactors - but not until 2021.

Few still thought of them as "tree-lovers" or climate Cassandras. But wen they lost their government positions and had to sit again on the harder opposition seats, they loudly recalled their more progressive old traditions and, like the Social Democrats, purloined the program of the Left party which, always discriminated against by the media, was far less known. As for foreign policy they split, with most in top leadership supporting the war in Afghanistan and now attacking the surprising abstention by Merkel and Foreign Minister Westerwelle on the UN decision to bomb in Libya - to achieve a "no flight zone". Thus, in the view of anyone opposed to military involvement by Germany in yet another conflict, most Greens, like the Social Democrats, took a position to the right of the Christian Democrats and FDP. But the core of Green support in recent years has centered increasingly in more prosperous, well-educated professional sectors.

Yet when it came to opposing the transportation of atomic waste through the land and storing it in dubious salt mines, or opposing the waste of billions on an underground rail station in Stuttgart, at the expense of an old and beloved park, the Greens were still most vigorous and most visible. Their actions were clever, their slogans catchy and people believed them and voted for them. Decisive was the shock of the atomic disaster in Japan; there are four not very youthful atomic reactors in Baden-Wurttemberg alone. This explains in no small measure why the Greens outpaced the Social Democrats for the first time and will now become senior partners in the state government in this quite prosperous home of Mercedes and Porsche - a true challenge if ever there was one! Indeed, a Green politician will become minister president of a state for the very first time. The one-time science teacher Winfried Kretschmann, 62, member of a communist splinter group in his student years, has long since dropped such radical ideas. He will now have a chance and a challenge in this southwestern corner of Germany.
(12 April 2011)



WikiLeaks cable: Politicians, military - not militants - behind most Nigeria oil thefts

Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
LAGOS, Nigeria — Politicians and military leaders — not militants — are responsible for the majority of oil thefts in Nigeria's crude-rich southern delta, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable quoting a Nigerian official and released by WikiLeaks.
(11 April 2011)

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