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When War Crimes Are Impossible
Bruce E. Levine
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Eleanor J. Bader
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Where All Life Matters
I n December 2005 they came from the deepest forest to the center of Amazonia to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Conselho Nacional dos Seringueiros (CNS), an organization founded by Chico Mendes that even today is still fighting for the rights of the rubber tappers and traditional populations of the rainforest. More than 350 representatives of the Amazon’s reserves met at their annual conference to take stock and unite to face new challenges ahead.
Much has happened in 20 years. When, in 1985, under military rule, Mendes and his companions founded CNS, nobody thought about sustainable development. When he was assassinated in 1988, the idea of Extractivist Reserves was considered revolutionary and met with fierce resistance.
Mendes was the first to promote Extractivist Reserves (RESEX)— small communities who live and work collectively according to a well-designed plan to use and extract the forest’s resources sustainably and without harm to the environment. The land remains property of the union, its use is defined by an association of local communities and government agencies. RESEX offers a variety of products, including rubber, coco, nuts, açai fruit, alternative medicine, fish, and handicrafts made of seeds, leftover wood, and other natural material. The profits go directly to the communities.
Today, about one-third of the Amazon has been declared a protected area, most of it indigenous reserves. Moreover, 19 Extractivist Reserves and 14 marine reserves have gained legal status, their numbers constantly increasing. Atanagildo “Gatão” Matos, one of the early activists, is happy to see more and more communities organize themselves independently to protect their land and work collectively and sustainably. The reserves have become an integral part of the Brazilian government’s Amazon policy.
Joy was not all that you saw at the CNS anniversary celebration. It was mixed with rage and sorrow. The world saw Chico Mendes and Sister Dorothy brutally murdered because they lived and worked for the preservation of the rainforest. The world didn’t see more than 700 others die because they believed in a sustainable way of living with nature and in their responsibility to the community and future generations. To this day, activists are being threatened, persecuted, and killed. The blacklist of big farmers, soy producers, and their “pistoleiros” contains hundreds of names. Three weeks after the conference another name was crossed off the list. João Batista died in Rondônia with four bullets in his chest (Rondônia is the state with the highest clearcutting rate in Brazil). The police have yet to investigate.
There is still a long way to go. A whole industry is profiting from exploitation. After the trees are cut and sold, the meat industry takes over the land to raise cattle. When all is grazed and the ranchers move on, soy farmers finally exhaust the soil. It is hard to imagine that once there had been thick forest with millions of insects, birds, wild cats, and other species.
In numbers it looks like this: in 2004 27,200 square kilometers
of forest land were clearcut (about 4.5 million football fields),
much of it illegally. This is the second highest deforestation rate
in the history of Brazil. Mega projects such as hydro dams and the
Transamazonian Highway seldom consider social or environmental aspects
that threaten communities, wildlife, and the forest. Those living
in the already-created reserves continue to defend themselves against
illegal invasions while the state authorities react slowly, if ever.
The northern state Pará is still in the hands of big landowners,
its justice system corrupt and a life easily lost. Challenges are
also encountered within the reserves. Many lack adequate schools
and access to health care and communities have difficulties with
market access, administration, and budgets. Many have to work in
small huts without electricity.
For 20 years CNS has been trying to convince outsiders that Amazonia’s people are not poor, uneducated farmers that have no idea what development and politics are all about. They know very well, if not best of all, what is good for the communities and the forest they live in. They don’t need sympathy and pittances. They deserve our respect, recognition, and support to continue protecting and preserving this wonderful, unique source of life called the Amazon Rainforest.
Julia Kendlbacher works with the Brazilian Amazon Working Group in Belém. For information on CNS: www.cnsnet. org.br.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.