Greenpeace activists climbed Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Família cathedral today. We talked to their spokesperson.
Chemical Valley, Part 1
Forty percent of Canada’s petrochemical industry is packed into a 15-square-mile area in Sarnia, Ontario, called the Chemical Valley. More than 60 chemical plants and oil refineries operate there 24/7. As a result of the Chemical Valley’s emissions, in 2011 the World Health Organization gave Sarnia the title of the “worst air” in all of Canada.
Romania’s Fish Aren’t Being Asphyxiated (Just Poisoned)
Remember that time thousands of dead birds fell out of the sky above Arkansas? Well, nature is back on the warparth. In May, reports emerged of thousands of dead fish floating along the Arieş River in Romania. The explanation the local administration came up with was that the fish had died from asphyxiation, caused by the mud brought in by heavy rains in the area. However, local NGOs have good reason to suspect that it was humans who caused the calamity, not a bit of rain churning up mud at the bottom of the river.
This isn’t the first time the Arieş has suffered. There is an artificial lake in the nearby town of Valea Șesii, and many say that it is often to blame for the Arieş’s problems. Or rather, the Cuprumin Company, owner of the nearby Roşia Poieni copper mine, is to blame, as it seems to be dumping all of its waste into said lake.
In 1999, several thousand cubic meters of water and sludge containing cyanide and heavy metals were released from the Baia de Aries gold mine into the Arieș River. All the fish died and the drinking-water supply for the nearby city of Turda was disrupted. In 2004, all plant and animal life in the Arieş River mystically perished.
In 2008, millions of dead fish floated along the river for three days because Cuprumin had forgotten to charge the electric pumps that protected the area from biohazards. In 2011, a pipe broke and 100 tons of waste poured into the Curmătura River before making its way into the Arieș River. Finally, last year a few mineshafts were flooded, which caused the red water to spill into the Arieș. However, no dead fish were reported. Every year, Cuprumin receives fines from the local authorities, yet these are obviously minor compared to the damage and don’t seem to be having much, if any, effect whatsoever.
New Laws Would Make Environmental Protest “Terrorism”
Most people have heard of tree-sitting—a tactic environmentalists use to prevent old-growth trees from being cut down and whole forests decimated. In its heyday, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, members of groups like Earth First! climbed 100-foot-tall Redwoods and stayed there to save them. Beginning in 1997, one woman in Humboldt, California, named her tree Luna and stayed in it for two years, until enough money could be raised to prevent it from being axed. In 1998, in a Northern California old-growth forest, another treesitter named David Gypsy Chain was “accidentally” killed when loggers felled a tree that came crashing into the protester. He died instantly of massive head trauma.
This style of protest was also hugely successful—that is, until a series of arrests in 2005 against radical environmentalists who were labeled “terrorists.” It scared the shit out of the environmental-activist community, and folks started drifting away.
Now, there’s a vibrant national protest movement reviving those “direct action” tactics of civil disobedience again, and adding a new political savvy to the mix. They, too, have been incredibly effective. In Oregon, in the summer of 2011, one blockade took 50 cops, a backhoe, and a 125-foot-crane to remove treesitters. A few days later, activists locked themselves together in an Oregon Department of Forestry office. The group responsible, the Cascadia Forest Defenders, say they won’t stop until the Elliott State Forest is protected from clearcutting.
As a result—surprise, surprise—politicians are trying to create new laws that make tree-sits and other direct-action techniques illegal. The bills even single out the Elliott State Forest campaign by name and allow corporations to sue protesters for costing them money.
For VICE’s upcoming piece on post-war Iraq, premiering on HBO tomorrow night at 11, we interviewed Congressman Jim McDermott of the Seventh District of Washington State. Congressman McDermott has been one of the only experts and advocates in the US government on the issue of depleted uranium in Iraq. We sat down with him to get a firsthand account of the military’s history of using depleted uranium munitions, the legacy it has left behind in Iraq, and why the US government refuses to do anything about it.
Watch more over at hbo.vice.com and tune in tomorrow at 11 PM on HBO to watch the full episode.
Also, earlier today, VICE producers Eddy Moretti and Jason Mojica, along with Congressman McDermott, were guests on HuffPost Live to discuss the rise in birth defects and abnormalities in Iraq. Watch the episode here.
Injustice in the Amazon: Brazil Lets An(other) Environmental Murderer Go Free
The city of Marabá was founded on April 6, 1913, in the southeastern edge of the Amazon rainforest on a narrow strip of land where the rivers Tocantins and Itacaiunas meet. For the first several decades of its existence, the city’s economy was dependent on the abundant Brazil nut trees in the surrounding forest, but starting in the 1960s, the forest was cut down to make way for pasture. Since then, Marabá’s main claim to fame has been as one of the most violent places in Brazil. Last week, as the town geared up to celebrate its centennial, it was also wrapping up the trial of the killers of environmental activist couple Zé Claudio and Maria do Espirito Santo, the case VICE covered in Toxic: Amazon. But instead of closing the book on this violent chapter of the region’s history, Marabá’s justice system has given the green light to those who think murder is the best way to solve a problem.
Zé Claudio and Maria came from generations of nut foragers, people who made a meager living selling Brazil nuts in Marabá while getting most of their food from the forest. In the late 90s, the couple settled in a newly created extractive reserve called Praia Alta-Piranheira. The reserve was made exclusively for extractivists like them; logging and ranching the land is illegal and its occupants are expected to make a living collecting rubber, nuts, fruits, and other forest products in a sustainable fashion. However, from its inception the reserve had been the target of loggers and ranchers hungry for one of the few remaining patches of forest in the region. As a result, Zé Claudio and Maria became increasingly active in protecting the area, constantly reporting illegal activities to the authorities, receiving threats from loggers, ranchers, and charcoal producers—and eventually being murdered for their defense of their land. Their deaths would have gone unnoticed had they not happened on the same day Brazil’s congress was voting on revisions to the country’s forest code, and the attention the case received led to unusually fast investigations by Brazilian standards.
In the days after Toxic: Amazon was made, investigators looked into the local loggers and charcoal producers who constantly threatened the couple, but found no evidence that they were responsible for the murders. Once those avenues had been exhausted, they started to investigate a rancher named Zé Rodrigues, who had recently moved into the settlement. Rodrigues had illegally acquired two plots of land in the area and forcibly removed the three families who had been living there. Those families came to Zé Claudio for help, and this is when the couple became the target of Zé Rodrigues’ rage.
Meet 73-year-old Arthur Boyt, notorious resident of the remote town of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall and roadkill connoisseur. Nothing is too far-fetched or fancy to end up on his plate. In this film, we take a trip to Arthur’s house and learn how to cook a badger casserole and how to best prepare polecat meat before cooking.
Here’s a quote from Arthur to whet your appetite:
"I ate a badger once that someone else had picked up because they wanted its skull. It was blown up like a horse on the Western Front and smelled rather horrible. When I cut into it, the flesh was green, but nevertheless, I persevered and stewed it. It made the house smell like the old-fashioned mental hospitals used to, but boy, it tasted delicious!"