Sunday, February 20, 2011

CORALINA takes legal action to block proposed oil exploration

The regional Colombian government agency, CORALINA, that established and manages the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve and Marine Protected Area (MPA), has submitted an “Accion Popular” against Colombia’s National Agency of Hydrocarbons (ANH) to halt leases to Reposol-YPF and Ecopetrol to begin oil exploration inside the borders of the Seaflower MPA.

An “Accion Popular” is a legal instrument granted to citizens by Colombia’s National Constitution (Art. 88) that allows them to seek protection of collective rights and interests related to their homelands, environment, public safety, health, etc. The legal action was presented to the High Tribunal by CORALINA’s general director, Elizabeth Taylor-Jay on Wednesday, February 16.

Seaflower -- located in the Archipelago of San Andres, Old Providence, and Santa Catalina in the Southwestern Caribbean -- has been a member of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2000 and is on the tentative list of proposed World Heritage Sites.

The largest MPA in the Caribbean and among the largest in the world, it spreads over 65,000 square kilometers (6.5 million hectares) and encompasses 76 percent of Colombia’s coral reefs and the most extensive open ocean reef systems in the Caribbean; more than 2,000 km2 of productive coral reef ecosystems with atolls, barrier reefs, fringing reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and lagoons. All the mangroves in the Seaflower are fully protected in "no-take" zones, with the two largest forests having additional protection as a national park and community-run regional park, respectively.

The MPA is known to be exceptionally rich in marine biodiversity for the region -- to date more than 407 species of fish, 48 hard corals, 54 soft corals, 130 sponges, 157 birds, and many other significant species have been identified, along with 192 IUCN red-listed species including sea turtles, marine mammals, hydrocorals, and others. The archipelago was declared a Significant Bird Area by BirdLife International in 2004 and is part of the western Caribbean biodiversity “hotspot.”

Besides its unique environment, San Andres also has a long social history distinct from that of Colombia. The descendants of the original inhabitants, now called raizales, are recognized as an indigenous people internationally and protected as an ethnic minority nationally. The Seaflower MPA was established in 2005, with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and resulted from a uniquely participatory process between CORALINA and the local community. This innovative MPA protects the livelihoods and tenure of the indigenous people, integrating conservation with sustainable fishing, harvesting, and locally run tourism.

CORALINA’s work in establishing Seaflower was recognized in 2008 by IUCN as one of the 60 most significant approaches to conservation that will influence the environment in the coming century. Last October the Seaflower MPA took top honors as the initiative that best realized the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) in Nagoya, Japan, beating out more than 1,100 other organizations around the world, both governmental and non-governmental, for its ground-breaking efforts in sustainability.

In addition to conserving marine biodiversity and ecosystems, "the intention is to open an umbrella of possibilities of livelihoods, including low-impact aquaculture, and some alternatives on land such as iguana farming which is done by the fishers in some places, and also creating interpretation trails [for tourism]," Taylor-Jay, told the BBC at COP 10 after the award was announced.

The Popular Action claims that the oil leases violate the Convention on Biological Diversity, which the Colombian Congress ratified in the National Law 165 of 1994, as well as the rights of the indigenous people of the archipelago, whose rights are protected by the National Constitution (Art. 310) and by international instruments including ILO Convention 169 that protects tribal and indigenous people, ratified by Colombia in National Law 21 of 1991, and the recent United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by Colombia in April 2009. The participatory process to establish the Seaflower MPA was presented by invitation last year at the UN Ninth Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City.

Most residents of the islands are strongly opposed to the oil exploration, along with local and national non-governmental organizations that have publicly rejected the leases, including the archipelago’s Old Providence Foundation and Colombia’s Fundacion ICRI (International Coral Reef Initiative).

To sign the Old Providence Foundation’s petition against the oil exploration, go to:

To contribute to strengthen management of the Seaflower MPA and its community-based livelihood projects, go to The Ocean Foundation, Friends of the Seaflower:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

MAP Editorial: The UN has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests.

This presents a couple of important opportunities for MAP and our allies to consider in our common struggle to conserve and restore our planet’s beleaguered mangroves. For one thing, how can we ensure mangrove forests are duly considered as vitally important forests to highlight in this Year of Forests? Too often, mangroves are looked at as muddy swamps and their value as coastal forests is not emphasized enough. In consequence, upland tropical and sub-tropical forests, as well as temperate forests are the focus of most forest conservation proponents, and mangroves are barely mentioned or considered. How can we change this misconception?

Additionally, we at MAP agree that the real causes of deforestation are not being given concerted attention, and we are concerned this “Year of Forests” will just be another ineffective publicity campaign bringing little hope for effective solutions. And effective solutions that deal with root causes and find ways to halt deforestation are truly needed- in fact, urgently needed- to prevent further forest loss and consequent biodiversity decline. Most mangrove loss today still emanates from anthropogenic causes that we must address in order to halt further losses of our planet’s mangrove wetlands. Shrimp farming still ranks as one of the leading causes of mangrove loss, along with industrial tourism, urban and agriculture expansion, new dams on rivers, oil exploitation, mining and port and jetty construction. All of these human activities need to be modified in order to have less impact upon our mangrove forested coastlines. We as consumers can make a big difference in this Year of the Forests by reducing our consumption of imported shrimp, being more selective in choosing our vacation resorts to be sure no environmental harm resulted from their placement and demanding the products we buy come from greener sources, whereby forests are not lost to
our consumer demands.

In this year of 2011, we ask our readers to help MAP place mangrove forests clearly as a priority ecosystem needing conservation and restoration. We ask our readers, in fact, to step up to the plate and help support MAP’s efforts to implement Ecological Mangrove Restoration (EMR) on a wider scale to ensure longer-term, more biodiverse mangrove ecosystems are restored, getting away from the too popular, but problematic mono-culture plantations whereby only one or two species are planted by hand in what we term the “gardening approach.” Gardens are good for growing vegetables for the table, but inadequate in addressing the needs for restoring real forest biodiversity, which is really the essence of life on this planet.

One other important way for our readers to participate in this Year of the Forests is to make a generous donation to MAP so we can continue to work for the mangroves in 2011 and beyond. Both MAP and the mangroves need your help right now, as this is the year to make things happen!

For the Mangroves in 2011
Alfredo Quarto,
Mangrove Action Project

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Help Reject Proposed Rail-line in the adjacent areas of the Sundarbans

Recently, the Government of Bangladesh announced plans to set up rail-line from Navaran of Jessore District to Munshiganj of Satkhira District which is adjacent to the Sundarbans. According to the news, there are deep forests and shrimp farms on the designed rail-line and hundreds of the mangrove trees will be subjected to clear-cut for installation of the infrastructures. Wildlife may be hampered due to loud sound of the railway and environment and ecology will be threatened for regular operation of the rail coaches. Please write to the following officials asking them to reject these plans. Sample letter below.

Dear {Enter Name Here}
Recently, I have come to know that the Government of Bangladesh is going to set up rail-line from Navaran of Jessore District to Munshiganj of Satkhira District which is very adjacent to the Sundarbans. According to the news, there are deep forests and shrimp farms on the designed rail-line and hundreds of the mangrove trees will be subjected to clear-cut for installation of the infrastructures. The news also said that the wildlife may be hampered by the loudness of the railway and environment and ecology will be threatened for regular operation of the rail coaches.

I am personally concerned that yet another serious threat looms on the horizon the Sundarbans- the largest contiguous mangrove forest on our planet and a declared World Heritage Site. Mangroves need conservation and restoration more than ever. Already, over 16 million ha of mangroves have been lost to development pressures- over half the mangroves of the world-, so the Sundarbans is not unique in that sense. But I believe this is the time take a stand against further losses of precious mangrove habitat. Mangroves support a rich biodiversity, including important wild fisheries, endangered species such as the Bengal tiger, and also support many local fishing communities. The mangroves also provide a vital, life-saving buffer against tsunamis and cyclones, as well as sequester and store massive amounts of carbon, thus mitigating the effects of climate change.

With these and many other important reasons to conserve and sustainably manage the mangroves of the Sundarbans, I urge you not to support the proposed rail line.

{Your name here}

Send letter to:
1. The Director General
Department of Environment
E/16 Agargaon, Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka

2. The Director General
Bangladesh Railway, Rail Bhaban
16 Abdul Gani Road, Dhaka

3. Director
Department of Environment
Khulna Division, Boyra, Khulna

MAP’s Mangrove Curriculum selected for funding – BUT WE NEED YOUR VOTE

MAP is excited to announce it’s mangrove curriculum development in China has been selected by Disney in their Friends For Change programme to receive a substantial grant. There are only five organisations that qualify for this round of funding, and MAP's curriculum has been chosen as one to be voted for. MAP will receive a minimum of $25,000 but, if enough people vote, the amount could double or potentially be awarded the top prize of $100,000 (just one organisation). VOTING ENDS April 1st, 2011 so please encourage anyone with children to sign on and vote for OUR PROJECT!!!
Here's what you do:

Follow link given below based on your country of residence

Click on: Take Action - top left of screen

Click on: Register - top right of screen

Fill in the blanks and register on-line

Go back to the Home page and

Click on: "Explore & Vote"

Vote for the MAP's curriculum

U.S. Voters SIGN IN TO VOTE here

European registration:

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What if We Stopped Fighting For Preservation?

A Response to Tim Murray's “What If We Stopped Fighting for Preservation and Fought Economic Growth Instead?

by Tom Butler

Tim Murray’s essay[1] “What If We Stopped Fighting for Preservation and Fought Economic Growth Instead?” is provocative for sure. Murray is a compelling writer, and I admire his unflinching focus on the root causes of ecological collapse including human overpopulation, consumerism, mass migration, and the religion of endless growth. He’ll get no argument from me about these factors as systemic drivers of biodiversity loss, and I share his frustration that many reform-minded environmentalists and large NGOs are unwilling to address the fundamental contradiction between wild nature’s flourishing and the intrinsic logic of a techno-industrial growth society based on corporate capitalism.

But for Murray to turn his wrath on protected areas, and suggest that preserving places for wildlife and wild processes to proceed unmolested is futile or even counterproductive as a conservation strategy, is a dangerously misguided idea. I hope it will be rejected by everyone who cares about the health of the biosphere.

Let’s consider his points:

Murray contends that “Each time environmentalists rally to defend an endangered habitat, and finally win the battle to designate it as a park …the economic growth machine turns to surrounding lands and exploits them ever more intensively, causing more species loss than ever before, putting even more lands under threat.” Here Murray is casting blame in the wrong direction—the parks and preserves secured by activism—and not the growth machine itself. By his logic, if there were no protected areas anywhere, no parks or preserves or wilderness areas of any kind, the growth machine would treat the entire landscape with less rapaciousness and the overall status of the Earth would be better. I know of no evidence to support this opinion and much to refute it. The ecosystems showing the most health, beauty, and integrity left on the planet correlate well with designated protected areas.

It is a little startling to hear a conservationist like Murray echo a talking point of the pro-exploitation forces who regularly oppose protected area designations. Timber industry boosters in my home state, for instance, have fought new wilderness areas on public land by claiming that “locking up the land” here meant they’d then have to go cut trees elsewhere in the world where regulatory oversight is even weaker than on US national forests. Should conservationists bow to that perverse threat, or work ever harder to mount a defense to industrial resource extraction everywhere it is proposed?

Murray says that two acres in Canada are developed for every acre conserved. I don’t know enough about that country’s development patterns to argue with his numbers but if that ratio of new protected areas to conservation land is correct, the destruction to preservation equation in Canada is far preferable than the status quo in most parts of the world. It may be bad, but could be and would be a whole lot worse without tenacious activists working to establish protected areas. Absent those legal safeguards, the growth machine would chew up every acre.

That protected areas alone are not sufficient to halt the extinction crisis does not mean they are unnecessary. Protected areas are crucial, the best available tool for slowing the extinction crisis in the short term until its root causes (human overpopulation, technology, worldview, and growth-based economic organization) can be changed. Murray essentially argues that environmental action is a zero sum game, that conservationists can’t address symptoms and systemic drivers concurrently, so abandon treating symptoms. When a heart attack victim gets to the hospital, the doctors don’t say, “this fat bloke eats poorly and doesn’t exercise; it would be silly for us waste any time saving him. Let’s direct all our energy to childhood nutrition and physical exercise programs.” As in a medical crisis, the first job in nature conservation sometimes is to treat the symptoms.

But in fact, conservationists who have worked to save parks and wilderness areas have long highlighted the threats to nature inherent in the growth economy. When Robert Marshall put out his call in the 1930s for a new organization of “spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness,” he said that such people were “the one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth.” The genesis of The Wilderness Society came as an explicit reaction to the growth machine. Every wilderness area, park, or nature preserve established today, places where natural processes rather than not human will direct the ebb and flow of life, are tangible examples of resistance to the ideology of limitless growth spread by the dominant culture.

What about Murray’s contention that environmentalists “are like a fire brigade that never rests, running about, exhausted, trying to extinguish one brush fire after another, year after year, decade after decade, winning battles but losing the war”? Are we losing the war? Sure. It is indisputable that the overall trajectory for wild nature is toward destruction, but winning some battles (saving specific wild habitats) is certainly better than losing every battle by choosing to quit fighting. To extend Murray’s metaphor, he would have the fire brigade simply abandon the fire fighting business. Or, to be fair, redirect their energies to the root causes of fire, namely oxygen, fuel, and heat. But what if the fire brigade has only marginal capacity to affect those underlying factors? Or, more immediately, what if it is your house that may burn up tomorrow? Would the caribou of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain care about our high-minded strategic shift if conservationists gave up defending that landscape from the oil and gas industry? We could name a thousand other places where wild habitat and the creatures who call it home would be immediately extinguished if conservationists stopped “fighting brush fires.” On the day we make that decision, the conflagration burning up the earth’s wild beauty will flare ever hotter, and the people who benefit from the inferno will grow even richer and more powerful.

What should we make of Murray’s central point, that if environmentalists and conservationists would “stop investing time and effort in fighting for park preservation, and instead direct that energy into stopping economic growth,” then the growth machine would have been halted in its tracks and a wonderful steady state utopia would be at hand? Murray confidently declaims: “If the same energy that has been put into battles to save the environment piecemeal had been put into lobbying for a steady state economy, development pressure everywhere would have ceased, and habitat would be safe everywhere.”

Of course there is no way to prove or disprove this opinion but even a cursory examination of the idea suggests it is wildly implausible. How much “energy” could be generated to lobby for a steady state economy, and how effective might this lobbying really be? What form, precisely, might this steady state economy take? As that is just now a ripe area of discussion among progressive economists, with no consensus view, how could the environmental movement have been lobbying for it in past decades?

As for the present socio-political landscape, it is industrial growth based on corporate capitalism that generates the surplus affluence which makes charitable giving possible; every large NGO depend on growth economy-derived philanthropy. The idea that all large conservation and environmental groups could be convinced to directly, publicly, and effectively oppose the growth economy is fanciful. But for argument’s sake, let’s say every habitat preservation group from local land trusts to The Nature Conservancy got on board with Murray’s agenda, every wildlife advocacy group from Patagonia to Ottawa signs up too. These organizations, in total comprising the conservation movement, have not even been able to reform industrial growth civilization, only stave off its worst abuses. What gives Murray such confidence that if they just tried, they could abolish it entirely?

Moreover, assuming this new mass of environmental organizations became a unified growth monster-fighting coalition, what are the specific mechanisms for them to direct their energy into killing the beast? What are the practical levers of engagement and influence that the coalition could wield to counter the existing global model of economic organization? There are relatively few, and if one of the most important means of resistance—direct work to preserve and defend wild habitat—has been abandoned, then the ability of activists to fight the growth monster is greatly hampered.

Even if every self-identified environmentalist joined Murray’s “lobbying” campaign (he doesn’t say who that lobbying effort would target) it would do little to slow down the techno-industrial growth economy. The tiny fraction of the population worldwide that would fit in this camp has so little leverage politically and economically that it would be insignificant. The growth economy will fail (it is already faltering) of its own terrible weight, brittleness, and complexity, regardless of active opposition or active support. It will fail because it must, as an economy based on unlimited expansion on a finite planet is a practical impossibility.

It is well and good for anti-growth agitators to agitate, for anti-globalization forces to organize, for creative thinkers to develop visions and models for a steady state economy. But the relatively small number of conservationists active in the world—particularly those who have a biocentric worldview and will work hard for wilderness and wildlife—are much more effective using the bulk of their time and energy to save particular places. Real habitat, real creatures, as much and as fast as possible, so that when the big unraveling comes there will be the seedbed of recovery for wildness to begin the long dance of evolutionary flowering again after this dark episode of human-caused extinction.

Can these protected areas remain secure during a time of economic and political collapse? That will difficult for sure, but again, nature is likely to fare better during civilizational collapse if big, wild, interconnected systems of conservation lands (at least some of which are far away from population centers) are already established and enjoy a historic legacy of public support.

Over the past 150 years, a relatively small number of visionary conservationists have preserved many thousands of protected areas around the globe. Those places, and the intellectual foundations of the conservation movement built by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Arne Naess, and others are what makes this kind of dialogue about strategy possible. Without them, we’d not even have the philosophical, legal, and tactical tools to oppose the growth machine. Without the parks and wilderness areas earlier conservationists protected, we’d not have a broad base of cultural appreciation for wildlands and wildlife. The wilderness movement, in asserting that some places should be self-willed, unyoked from human dominion, free to exist for their own sakes, offers the best hope to counter the growth economy’s underlying philosophy that the world is a commodity for human use and profit.

What if we stopped fighting for preservation? In the short term, that would consign many wild places and creatures to destruction. It may seem a Sisyphean labor to Murray, but wilderness conservation and defense is work that matters, and hopefully, endures. Abandoning it would be bad strategy, and an ethical breach with our fellow members of the biotic community.


Writer and wilderness advocate Tom Butler is the former editor of the journal Wild Earth. His books include Wild Earth: Wild Ideas for a World Out of Balance, Wildlands Philanthropy, and Plundering Appalachia. He currently serves as the editorial projects director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology.


Don’t Let Open Pit Coal Mine Destroy Homes, Lives & Mangrove Forests in Bangladesh

Tens of Thousands of People Will Be Affected By This Destructive Project: Impacts on People, Land, Food & Water Forewarned

The Phulbari Coal Mine Project would establish one of the world’s largest open pit coal mines in northwest Bangladesh, forcibly displacing as many as 130,000 people, including more than 2,200 indigenous households.

The project would acquire and destroy nearly 6,000 hectares of land, 80 percent of which is fertile agricultural land that produces three crops per year. This land currently serves as a vital rice bowl for a country in which half of all people do not have enough to eat (are food insecure, or exist below the ‘nutrition poverty line’ of 2,122 kcal per day). How you can help: your letter can make a difference. The campaign to halt the Phulbari Open Pit Coal Mine is at a critical turning point, with a decision on whether to approve this project expected at any time and a new Prime Minister in place.

Below is a sample letter for your use and names/addresses where you can send it.

Dear {insert name of person you are writing from list below}

I am deeply concerned about plans to construct one of the world’s largest open pit coal mines in Phulbari, and the impacts on the tens of thousands of people whose homes, lands, livelihood, and communities are threatened by this project, including at least 2,200 indigenous people.

The fact that most of the people who would be forced off their lands are from farming households that depend on their land for their livelihoods and subsistence is of great concern - particularly because project plans clearly state that their lands will not be replaced.

Because the vast mine would destroy an important agricultural region that produces three crops a year, I am also concerned that it threatens Bangladesh’s progress toward achieving food security.

The impact on access to water is a further concern, with as many as 220,000 people expected to suffer reduced access to water for household and agricultural use as a result of dewatering operations at the mine, that are expected to lower the water table by as much as 15-25 meters in an area extending far beyond the mine itself.

Additional environmental risks posed by this project are numerous and grave. Bangladesh’s Sundarbans Reserve Forest is the largest remaining mangrove forest in the world. This UNESCO-protected ecosystem supports many critically threatened species, including the royal Bengal tiger, and provide a life-saving natural buffer against the devastating impacts of floods, tropical storms, and cyclones, to which Bangladesh is so vulnerable.

As such, the Sundarbans Reserve Forest deserves and needs to be protected as a national resource and treasure. Yet the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the proposed Phulbari mine clearly states that plans to transport coal by a fleet of barges and offload it to ships at Akram Point pose extremely high risks to the Sundarbans. Experts also warn that the risk of acid contamination of soil and water is extremely high in this project.

I am aware that the opposition to the proposed Phulbari mine within Bangladesh has been strong and sustained - despite the use of lethal force in August of 2006, when thousands of people gathered to protest the mine were fired upon and three people were killed, including a 14 year old boy. I am also aware the World Organization Against Torture has expressed concern regarding the potential for further violence and bloodshed in this project it is pushed forward without the consent of those most directly affected.

In light of the magnitude and gravity of the risks posed by this project, I respectfully request that you to do everything in your power to oppose plans for open pit mining at Phulbari and ensure that this project does not move forward.

Thank you for your consideration.


{Insert your name here}



Sheikh Hasina, Honourable Prime Minister
Government of the People’ s Republic of Bangladesh
Prime Minister's Office
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215, Bangladesh
Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490
Tel: +880 2 882 816 079 / 988 8677

Advocate Mostafizur Rahman, M.P.
Honourable State Minister
Ministry of Land
Room # 305, 3rd Floor, Building # 4,
Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dr. Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, BB, Advisor
Prime Minister's Office
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215, Bangladesh

Dr. Hasan Mahmud, M.P.
Honourable State Minister of Environment and Forests
Government of the People’ s Republic of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh
e-mail :

Michael Anderson, Director General, Policy and Global Issue
Department for International Development,
1 Palace Street, London SW1E 5HE
Tel: 020 7023 0000 | Fax: 020 7023 0019 | GTN: 3535 7000

Richard Calvert, Director General, Finance and Corporate Performance
Department for International Development,
1 Palace Street, London SW1E 5HE
Tel: 020 7023 0000 | Fax: 020 7023 0019 | GTN: 3535 7000


United States Ambassador to Bangladesh, James F. Moriarty
International Mailing Address:
James F. Moriarty, US Ambassador to Bangladesh
Embassy of the United States Dhaka
Madani Avenue Baridhara
Dhaka Bangladesh 1212

U.S. Mailing Address:
James F. Moriarty, US Ambassador to Bangladesh
U.S. Embassy Dhaka
6120 Dhaka PL
Department of State
Washington D.C. 20521-6120