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Activists March Against Nestlé On Bridge of The Gods

August 29, 2015

This morning, activists marched across The Bridge of the Gods to protest a proposed Nestlé bottled-water plant at Cascade Locks, Oregon.

The bridge is only opened once a year for pedestrian traffic.
Hundreds of sightseers and community members gather for the stunning
view of the Columbia River. Today, they were joined by twenty
protesters, who marched with a bridge-spanning banner that read: “Stop
Nestlé By Any Means Necessary.”

Nestlé is the world’s largest food and beverage firm. Despite a
history of human rights abuses, this Switzerland-based corporation has
made billions privatizing public water supplies around the world.

Their planned bottling facility in the Columbia River Gorge would
siphon off 118 million gallons of water every year from Oxbow Springs.
Opposition is widespread, especially from indigenous communities.

“Nestlé already has millions, they don’t need our water,” said Ernest
J. Edwards of the Yakama Nation. “Our water is for the salmon.”

Treaties made with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs recognize
their fishing rights. Tribal member Anna Mae Leonard held a five-day
hunger strike last week, surviving only on water from Oxbow Springs.
Despite this community opposition, the State of Oregon and local
governments have so far sided with Nestlé.

“The water of the Gorge does not belong to Nestlé. It belongs to the
Salmon, to the forests, to all non-humans, and to the indigenous
communities,” said protester Jules Freeman. “It’s a desecration to
bottle this water in toxic plastic and sell it back to us for a profit.”
Freeman is a member of Deep Green Resistance, the group that organized
the protest.

Opposition to Nestlé bottled water plants has been successful in the
past; projects in Florida, Wisconsin, California, and elsewhere were
scrapped after communities rose up in defiance. Freeman thinks the same
can be done here.

“The community does not want this, but the government has not
listened. But it doesn’t matter: if they won’t stop Nestlé, we will.”

If you are concerned about the Nestlé project, contact Oregon
Governor Kate Brown at 503-378-4582 and Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife Director Curt Melcher at 503-947-6044.

In honor of Earth Day, take a moment to recognize…

Nearly 1000 environmental activists murdered since 2002

Image by Greenpeace

By Jeremy Hance / Mongabay

At least 908 people were murdered for taking a stand to defend the environment between 2002 and 2013, according to a new report today from Global Witness, which shows a dramatic uptick in the murder rate during the past four years. Notably, the report appears on the same day that another NGO, Survival International, released a video of a gunman terrorizing a Guarani indigenous community in Brazil, which has recently resettled on land taken from them by ranchers decades ago. According to the report, nearly half of the murders over the last decade occurred in Brazil—448 in all—and over two-thirds—661—involved land conflict.

“There can be few starker or more obvious symptoms of the global environmental crisis than a dramatic upturn in killings of ordinary people defending rights to their land or environment,” said Oliver Courtney of Global Witness. “Yet this rapidly worsening problem is going largely unnoticed, and those responsible almost always get away with it. We hope our findings will act as the wake-up call that national governments and the international community clearly need.”

But as grisly as the report is, it’s likely a major underestimation of the issue. The report covers just 35 countries where violence against environmental activists remains an issue, but leaves out a number of major countries where environmental-related murders are likely occurring but with scant reporting.

“Because of the live, under-recognized nature of this problem, an exhaustive global analysis of the situation is not possible,” reads the report. “For example, African countries such as Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Zimbabwe that are enduring resource-fueled unrest are highly likely to be affected, but information is almost impossible to gain without detailed field investigations.”

In fact, reports of hundreds of additional killings in countries like Ethiopia, Myanmar, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe were left out due to lack of rigorous information.

Even without these countries included, the number of environmental activists killed nearly approaches the number of journalists murdered during the same period—913—an issue that gets much more press. Environmental activists most at risk are people fighting specific industries.

“Many of those facing threats are ordinary people opposing land grabs, mining operations and the industrial timber trade, often forced from their homes and severely threatened by environmental devastation,” reads the report. “Indigenous communities are particularly hard hit. In many cases, their land rights are not recognized by law or in practice, leaving them open to exploitation by powerful economic interests who brand them as ‘anti-development’.”

As if to highlight these points, Survival International released a video today that the groups says shows a gunman firing at the Pyelito Kuê community of Guarani indigenous people. The incident injured one woman, according to the group. The Guarani have been campaigning for decades to have land returned to them that has been taken by ranchers.

“This video gives a brief glimpse of what the Guarani endure month after month—harassment, intimidation, and sometimes murder, just for trying to live in peace on tiny fractions of the ancestral land that was once stolen from them,” the director of Survival International, Stephen Corry, said. “Is it too much to expect the Brazilian authorities, given the billions they’re spending on the World Cup, to sort this problem out once and for all, rather than let the Indians’ misery continue?”

According to the report, two major drivers of repeated violence against environmental activists are a lack of attention to the issue and widespread impunity for perpetrators. In fact, Global Witness found that only ten people have been convicted for the 908 murders documented in the report, meaning a conviction rate of just 1.1 percent to date.

“Environmental human rights defenders work to ensure that we live in an environment that enables us to enjoy our basic rights, including rights to life and health,” John Knox, UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment said. “The international community must do more to protect them from the violence and harassment they face as a result.”

From Mongabay: “Nearly a thousand environmental activists murdered since 2002