Posts Tagged ‘ecology’

The commons fight against big oil.

December 11, 2016


Standing Rock.

A small but mighty blow was dealt last week to the big oil industry. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe had protested for months against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. A multi-billion pipeline of 1,200 miles that crosses four state was intended to slash the cost of crude transport. A section of the pipeline was planned to run right under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri river. The Local standing rock Sioux tribe and thousands of Native Americans have protested the oil pipeline project as they believe the project threatens sacred native lands and has a great chance of contaminating local water supply from the Missouri river (the longest river in North America).

Going by the name “water protectors”, these activists are adamant that the pipeline poses a similar threat surrounding area. Also, the tribal leaders say the initial decision by the US army corps of engineers for the pipeline to run within half a mile of the local reservation was done without consultation of tribal governments and a thorough impact study. The pipeline project clearly violates federal law and native treaties. The news of the permit not been granted for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a major win not just for environmental activists but also native American rights.

It is interesting to notice how there was little to no coverage of the protest on mainstream media. It took the arrest of Shailene Woodley (celebrity) whom was protesting the North Dakota oil pipeline to bring in any mainstream media attention. Also, credit has to be given to online news network TYT and their political reporter Jordan Chariton for bringing attention to the water protector’s peaceful protest. One reason for the mainstream media blackout is down to the non stop reporting of the 2016 American presidential election which saw Donald Trump win against Hillary Clinton.

While the victory at standing rock demonstrates how a common and commoners can peacefully protest a big corporation and win. The fight may have been won but the war is not over. The oil pipeline company can appeal the decision taken by the US army corps of engineer and also the Obama administration in court. Also, the incoming Trump administration can try to overturn the decision as it is in favour of the pipeline. Some have attributed the recent victory to the Obama’s administration while a majority of people have criticised the government for its slow reaction to the dispute.


Bodo community.

In 2008 and 2009, two oil spills devastated the fishing residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell agreed to a $84 million settlement with the residents. The two oil spills which were among the biggest oil spills in decades resulted in 15,600 Nigerian fishermen that depended on fishing for feeding their families and work lose their way of life. Due to the oil spill, the price of fish, a local staple food sky-rocketed as much as tenfold. With so many fishermen abandoning their way of life in search for other to provide for their families.

Each year, there are hundreds of oil spills in Nigeria caused by leaks and others by sabotage as local people steal oil to refine locally and sell to generate a livelihood. The settlement by the oil giant comes as a great victory for the local people after years of protesting oil exploration in the Niger Delta which has affected thousands of hectares of mangrove. Shell explained that both spills were as a result of operational failure of the pipeline.

The law firm that represented the Bodo community Leigh Day described the settlement as one of the largest payout to a community after a devastating environmental damage. This victory by the Bodo community came after a three year long legal battle setting a precedent. It is a disgrace that it took so long for the situation to be taken seriously. The clean-up of the oil spill does not reverse the damage done to the ecosystem.

Fight for survival.


These two examples are just drops in an ocean of a global movement of commoners fighting back the oil industry and other big multinational industries that pose a danger to their way of life. Across the world, a lot of ecological disasters are occurring as a result of the actions of industries, governments and people. For the commons to survive, it will not only need the commoners as activist but people around the world to join the movement.


“Please take ivory poaching in Africa seriously “ plea the African community. “There’s so much more at risk!”

November 2, 2015

Poachers killed over 30,000 elephants last year and around 4 every hour this year. Elephants will be extinct within the next decade if the killing continues at this rate. Prince William recently urged Chinese citizens to stop buying illegally traded wildlife products, where ivory is of cultural importance and used for novelty items including chopsticks and statues.

Elephants dead from poaching

Elephants dead from poaching

Illegal poachers, who kill the elephants because it’s too dangerous to remove their tusks while they are still alive, do so in a variety of inhumane ways. Many poachers are essentially unskilled marksmen using underpowered rifles, which results in the elephant being severely wounded and dying a slow, painful death. Alternatively, some poachers actually use land mines to hunt ivory, resulting in the elephant not being killed instantly due to it’s size, and consequently bleeding out over many days or dying of infection first. Some poachers dump cyanide into watering holes, killing not only elephants, but every animal that drinks there.

Elephant poaching happens in many African countries, but largely in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and in light of the severity of elephant poaching, Guardian columnist and wildlife activist Dr. Paula Kahumbu, also a Kenyan native, penned a damning commentary questioning why African leaders are silent on the subject of animal poaching.

Whilst Dr. Kahumbu did not necessarily answer the question, I was left pondering whether action had not been taken due to poaching only having a negative affect on the elephants themselves. But this is not so. Wildlife poaching has negative affects on not only wildlife populations, but also the environment and consequently, the local communities too.

Elephants are ecologically important as they are responsible for the distribution of plant seeds, so extinction, or even a reduction in elephants, will have a negative impact on local vegetation, affecting the food supplies of other animals and the local community.

Additionally, wildlife tourism plays a vital role in the local and national economies of some of the African countries where poaching is most prevalent. Therefore economic hardship resulting from a loss of wildlife is a possibility. If Safari tours lose business, so do local restaurants, hotels, airports and a multitude of other businesses. It is the local community that whose livelihoods and welfare depend on the animals who will suffer first.

Distressingly, some of those illegally poaching are people from the local community, with poaching being more lucrative than other jobs that are available in the region for the locals. But it is not only those simply looking to earn a wage to survive that are poaching. In her call for action, Kahumbu states that poaching’s highly profitable proceeds (with demand being so high and supply low) fund criminal and terrorist activities. In late 2013, the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya was attacked by terrorists, which Kahumbu believes may have been funded in such a way. Apparently, al Qaida alone raises $600,000 a month from poaching to fund its activities. And Nigeria’s Boko Haram is targeting elephants in Cameroon.

Henceforth, it can be assumed that the affects of elephant poaching on the populations where poaching is prominent indeed has a range of negative socio-economic impacts on the local community and the country as a whole. Why then are the African leaders and governments still silent when the monarchs and governments of the international community are responding? Could it possibly be that the personal profit gained by these leaders and need for capital to fund their wars is more appealing than eradicating the negative affects for these animals and the communities that these leaders are supposed to serve? This may possibly be the case. Still, others fight on in the bid to save the elephants and the communities who rely on them. The African leaders may be silent, but with this petition, you don’t have to be!

Sandford Housing Co-op

November 16, 2014

Through my work I recently came across the folk at Sandford Housing Co-op. Forty odd years ago this coop was set up by a bunch of students in Deptford. At a recent Open Day they invited John Hands, one of the instigators, to give a talk (here). This is available on their website. It is well worth listening to, particularly as regards the piece at the end which is to do with how collaboration rather than competition is necessary for ecological sustainability.

Sandford Housing Co-op was part of a BBC documentary in 1974. This is available on You Tube. Part 2 is particularly interesting as they decide whether a house or the membership panel of the whole co-op should have the final say on who is allowed to become a member.

To repair or to discard

October 16, 2009

What can the Western world learn from developing countries with regards to sustainability of personal electronic devices and general appliances?

One of the examples that made an impression on me following the second lecture was Massimo’s story about his defective Canon camera and the prohibitive cost of fixing it.

This got me thinking. I pondered why “fixing” remains a thriving business in developing countries as opposed to the West and other developed countries. Mobile phones, computers, televisions, fridges etc are easily repaired in remote parts of Africa.

Why is this practice not so prevalent in developed countries considering the ecological effect of  discarding defective appliances / items?.

Is this due to the ever growing  pressure of commercialism ?

Is high cost of  labour (as is precipitated by a very high cost of living) to blame ?.

Is such ecological effect well neutralised by recycling ?