Cornish community group vows to keep fighting Lizard ‘Super Quarry’

Community Against Dean Super Quarry campaigners. By Alison McGregorOn the UK’s wild and beautiful southern tip, a rebellion is growing. People on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula have been fighting the reopening and expansion of Dean Quarry which was mothballed in 2008.

The Ecologist published a report from me on the campaign and some of the environmental issues around it. The full article is here at their website.

One the highlights of this article for me was being able to cover something happening just a few miles from where I grew up which doesn’t happen very often!

Photo: Community Against Dean Super Quarry campaigns outside court earlier this year. By Alison McGregor.

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Autumn’s Transition Free Press

Subscribe to Transition Free PressClimate activism, fossil fuel divestment, cohousing, fermentation, power dynamics, sea kayaks, bike trains, community energy, draught busting, TTIP, First Nations’ resistance and plenty more in the new Transition Free Press, out now.

You can get Transition Free Press in a variety of locations all over the UK, or subscribe to get a copy through your door or a digital version. There’s also an online version here on issuu.

 

Krey vs Rio Tinto: a community struggle against coal expansion

This article was originally published in the April 2014 issue of New Internationalist.

John Krey moved to the village of Bulga in New South Wales expecting a quiet retirement. The 73-year-old did not expect to be taking up another full-time job: fighting mining giant Rio Tinto. For the last four years, Krey, with fellow-members of the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association (BMPA), has worked to stop the expansion of the Warkworth open-cut coal mine to within 2.6 kilometres of his community.

‘It’s a David and Goliath battle and we’re determined to beat the buggers,’ says Krey, a former quantity surveyor. ‘The history of open-cut mines in our area is that it destroys villages.’

In April 2013, the BMPA won a legal challenge against a previously approved expansion of the mine. In the ruling, the judge highlighted the project’s ‘significant adverse impact on biological diversity’, as well as negative social effects and noise and dust pollution. However, soon after, the New South Wales government proposed policy changes, which gave economic benefits a higher priority. Rio Tinto reapplied for expansion and it was granted by the Planning Commission in January 2014.

‘The Planning Department has worked hand-in-glove with Rio Tinto to ensure this project was fast-tracked to approval,’ said Steve Phillips in a press release for the Lock The Gate Alliance, an Australia-wide movement that fights coal and gas expansion.

The mine’s expansion should be global concern – Greenpeace predicts that Australia’s coal exports will account for 1,200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution each year by 2025.

The Supreme Court is now considering the case and, at the time of going to press, was expected to give its decision in March 2014.

Meanwhile, the BMPA has also taken its case to the Independent Commission Against Corruption and is not ruling out direct action. Activists from elsewhere have said they are prepared to ‘stand in front of the bulldozers,’ says Krey.

Rubber barons are robbing Cambodia and Laos

This post was originally published on the New Internationalist website on 13 May 2013…

A new report from campaigning NGO Global Witness has revealed how big-name financial institutions, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Deutsche Bank are subsidizing Vietnamese land grabs in Cambodia and Laos.

‘Rubber Barons’, published alongside a short film on Monday 13 May, is critical of a culture of secrecy around plantation investments. Two of Vietnam’s largest companies, Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and the state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) have acquired more than 200,000 hectares of land through deals with the Cambodian and Laos governments. Deutsche Bank has significant holdings in both companies, while the IFC invests in HAGL.

Cambodia and Laos have seen more than 3.7 million hectares of land handed over to companies since 2000, 40 per cent of which is for rubber plantations. The report explains a culture of corporate secrecy and shady connections with élites which mean that companies like HAGL and VRG get away with breaking the rules.

Land grabbing has accelerated in Cambodia over recent years, and so has the violence that surrounds it. By the end of 2012, 2.6 million hectares of land had been leased by the government, 20 per cent of which Global Witness says has been allocated to five of Cambodia’s powerful tycoons.

Laos has experienced a growing economy over the last decade that has attracted attention from foreign agribusiness looking to cash in on the quantity of arable land and cheap labour available. According to Global Witness, almost 20 per cent of all villages in Laos have been affected by at least one land grab. Forests are disappearing, along with journalists and activists who speak out.

Megan MacInnes, who heads the Land Team at Global Witness says that HAGL and VRG are adding to the human rights threat in the region: ‘Often, the first time people learn of a plantation is when the company bulldozers arrive to clear their farms,’ she adds.

Local people have complained of increased food and water shortages, loss of livelihood without compensation and poor employment conditions. Indigenous communities have lost burial grounds and sacred forests. Those who protest say they face violence, intimidation and arrest. ‘Rubber Barons’ outlines non-payment of compensation and routine use of armed security forces to guard plantations in HAGL and VRG’s operations.

The environmental impacts are also significant; the report accuses both companies of involvement in illegal forest clearance, beyond their concession boundaries.

‘Rubber Barons’ says that HAGL and VRG’s financial involvement lies behind an intricate web of shell companies, which allows them to disguise the fact that they have exceeded Cambodia’s legal limit on land holdings. Global Witness is calling for HAGL and VRG to be prosecuted for their illegal activities and for their plantation concessions to be cancelled.

‘Until governments bring in and enforce regulations to end the culture of secrecy and impunity that is driving the global land-grabbing crisis, international banks and financial institutions will continue to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses and deforestation they are bankrolling,’ says MacInnes.

Interactive timeline: 40 years of New Internationalist

One of my latest projects at New Internationalist has been an interactive timeline, covering 40 years of highlights…

New Internationalist is 40 in 2013 so we thought we would pull together some of our milestones into an online timeline.

40 years of New Internationalist

Click through to the full timeline here.

It was great to be able to look back over such an impressive history of independent journalism as it documented some monumental social movements.

Thanks to Charlie Harvey who used Timeline.JS to build a really easy to use template for me to put the editorial content into.

Youth activism, cross-border feminism and climate justice

My latest offerings from the New Internationalist website…

Podcast: Jody McIntyre on youth activism – As part of the lead up to October’s youth issue I made a podcast featuring an interview with guest-editor Jody McIntyre.

‘We were wrong to think the environment could wait’ – Interview with Lidy Nacpil, the inspiring Filipino economic and climate justice campaigner who started out as a student activist against the Marcos regime.

The dos and don’ts of cross border feminism – Last weekend I went to UK Feminista’s Summer School for a day and caught this session on building global solidarity.

Right, I’m off for a little holiday to Gent, Belgium now. Looking forward to catching up on some reading on the bus journey – am finally going to get through Paul Mason’s Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere – better late than never!