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!”
Watch the new documentary Alone in the Zone, produced by VICE Japan for their YouTube channel
Interview and photos by Ivan Kovac and Jeffrey Jousan Article translated from the Japanese by Luke Baker
Today marks the second anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Japan and caused one of the most serious nuclear disasters in world history, when the Fukushima Daiichi power plant started leaking radiation. The surrounding towns were evacuated in a rush, leaving empty homes, silent streets, and uncared-for animals. In the small town of Tomioka, however, less than six miles away from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, one man refused to leave: Naoto Matsumura, a 53-year-old fifth-generation rice farmer who is surely the most stubborn man in Japan, if not the world.
“I was born and raised in this town,” he told us. “When I die, it’s going to be in Tomioka.” Naoto’s face is browned by the sun and wrinkled from smiling; his dark eyes peer out from under heavy lids—it’s not the face of someone you’d expect to defy the government by living in an area other people aren’t even allowed to visit, but Naoto wears his iconoclasm lightly.
Because he is being bombarded with as much as 17 times the amount of radiation a normal person is, and because for a while he was eating meat, vegetables, and fish that were contaminated by radiation, as well, some researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency wanted to run some tests on him. “When I went down and let them look me over, they told me I was the ‘champion,’” he said, meaning he had the highest level of radiation exposure in Japan. “But they also told me that I wouldn’t get sick for 30 or 40 years. I’ll most likely be dead by then anyway, so I couldn’t care less.”