Planet Watch
Fikile Ntshangase

Record number of ecologists slain in 2020

A record number of environmental defenders were murdered last year, according to a report by advocacy group Global Witness. The report, “Last Line of Defense,” counts 227 activists killed around the world in 2020—the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year. Many of the murders were linked to resource exploitation—logging, mining, agribusiness, and hydroelectric dams. Since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the organization found on average of four activists have been killed each week. (Photo via Groundwork)

North America
thacker-pass

Paiute and Shoshone oppose Nevada lithium mine

Local indigenous peoples and their environmentalist supporters have rallied outside the federal courthouse in Reno, Nev., as they await a decision on their request for an injunction to stop the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project, set to be developed on public lands within the ancestral territory of the Paiute and Shoshone. Opponents have also established a protest camp near the mine site. If the injunction is denied, Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Canada-based Lithium Americas, will be able to move ahead with an archaeological survey in preparation for breaking ground on the mine. (Photo: Protect Thacker Pass)

The Andes
castillo

Peru: populist president prevails amid polarization

Proclaiming that “change is coming,” Pedro Castillo, a left-populist former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru’s new president on the bicentennial of the country’s independence. He pledged to redraft the constitution, raise taxes on mines, and form a “Binational Cabinet” with neighboring left-led Bolivia. But Castillo assumes office amid a profound political crisis and growing polarization—as well as the highest COVID-19 death rate in the world. His far-right opponent Keiko Fujimori, who challenged his victory with baseless claims of voter-fraud, has a formidable bloc in Congress and promises to obstruct his agenda. (Photo: Diario Uno)

Planet Watch
greenland

Greenland suspends oil exploration, citing climate crisis

The government of Greenland announced that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory “wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis… The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain.” The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory’s lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to acheive independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Andes
pedro castillo

Peru: Keiko takes page from Trump playbook

One week after Peru’s close and hotly contested presidential run-off election, far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori appears to be taking a tip from the Donald Trump playbook. The official results from the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) give Fujimori 49.8% of the vote, and 50.2% to her left-populist challenger Pedro Castillo. However, the results only become official when they are certified by the National Jury of Elections (JNE)—and Fujimori is calling for some 200,000 votes to be nullified as fraudulent, enough to throw the race in her favor. The JNE initially said it would extend the deadline for filing challenges to votes, which has now passed. However, it quickly reversed this decision in response to a public outcry and accusations by Castillo and his supporters of an attempted “coup d’etat.” (Photo: Diario Uno)

The Amazon
Madre de Dios

Podcast: indigenous survival and the crisis in Peru

In Episode 73 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Thomas Moore, anthropologist, advocate for indigenous cultural survival, and author of the newly released book, Madre de Dios: Refugio de Pueblos Originarios. The remote rainforest region of Madre de Dios in Peru’s southern Amazon is a last refuge for isolated indigenous peoples, but is now massively threatened by mining, timber and other resource interests that operate in a semi-legal gray zone in a nexus with criminal networks. Peru has made some progress in complying with international norms on protection of isolated peoples, but these advances stand to be dramatically reversed if far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori comes to power in the pending run-off election. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Amarakaeri)

The Andes
castillo

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru’s electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country’s elites, and has actually been assailed as a “mafia organization.” Castillo, in vivid contrast, is a former school-teacher and trade unionist of campesino background from the poor and rural Andean region of Cajamarca. His successful grassroots campaign is seen an upsurge from such forgotten parts of the country, in rejection of the Lima-based political class. (Photo of Pedro Castillo in Lima via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Narsaq

Mining project behind Greenland political upheaval

In snap elections, Greenland’s indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit(Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland’s south, has divided the territory’s political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths,” adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resourcesowns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing’s perceived design to establish control over the planet’s rare earth minerals. (Photo of Narsaq via Polar Connection)

Central America
boswas

Nicaragua: armed colonists invade indigenous lands

In a video conference with representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, indigenous leaders from Nicaragua’s eastern rainforest protested an illegal “invasion” of their titled territories by armed campesino colonists, who seize lands, clear trees and terrorize their communities. The Miskito and Mayangna leaders said 13 indigenous residents were killed by settlers last year, with eight wounded and hundreds forcibly displaced. Lottie Cunningham of the Center for Human Rights & Justice of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) said some 30,000 hectares have been expropriated, and the colonists often work in league with timber and mining interests—illegal operations that nonetheless have total impunity in the lawless region. Among the impacted areas is the ostensibly protected Bosawas Biosphere Reserve. (Image: CafeConVoz)

Southern Cone
Chubut

Argentina: anti-mining protesters chase off president

Protesters against a mining project pelted stones at the vehicle of Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández on a visit to southern Chubut province, forcing him to flee. The incident took place at the pueblo of Lago Puelo, in an area affected by devastating forest fires. Fernández was assailed as soon as he tried to step out of the car, with protesters chanting slogans against both him and the provincial governor. Fernández cut short his tour, and after escaping the confrontation was whisked from the area by Federal Police helicopter. The provincial legislature is considering a measure to allow Canadian firm Pan American Silver to move ahead with its $1 billion Navidad mining project, but the vote has been held up by protest mobilizations by local communities, under the slogan “No is no.” (Photo via Twitter)

Planet Watch
baffinland

Nunavut hunters blockade Baffin Island mine

After a week of blockading an airstrip and road to an iron mine on north Baffin Island, a small group of Inuit protesters packed up their tents, agreeing to give dialogue with authorities a chance after the mining company won an injunction ordering them to disband their encampment. The self-declared Nuluujaat Land Guardians began blocking access to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp’s Mary River mine to oppose a proposal for expansion that would see its output of iron ore double to 12 million tons per year, as well as construction of a 110-kilometer railway to the facility. The Land Guardians say the expansion would drive caribou away and harm other wildlife in the area, including narwhal, upon which their communities depend for subsistence. (Photo: Baffinland Iron Mines Corp via Nunatsiaq News)

Africa
niger delta flare

UK court approves Nigerian suit against Shell Oil

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom allowed a case filed by 42,335 Nigerian claimants against Shell Oil and a Nigerian subsidiary to proceed in the UK courts. The claimants first sued Shell and its subsidiary in 2015 over leaks from pipelines in the Niger Delta that resulted in the destruction of farmland, the death of fish stocks, and poisoned drinking water. They argued that the oil spills occurred due to the negligence of the subsidiary company responsible for operating the pipelines. They charged that Shell’s parent company owed them a “common law duty of care,” since it exercised significant control over the operations of the Nigerian subsidiary. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)