sábado, marzo 10

A Note from the ED

Saúl Alarcón Farfán, Executive Director

“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardor which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.” - Adam Smith (The Theory of Moral Sentiments)

From November 1884 to March 1885, the major European powers and the United States met in Berlin to negotiate the control over Africa. With a complete disregard of the one thousand indigenous cultures and the cultural and linguistic boundaries already established by the indigenous African population, the Berlin Conference subdivided the natural landscape of Africa in a hodgepodge of geometric boundaries that divide Africa in fifty irregular countries controlled mostly by seven European countries and eliminated most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance.

Map Source: Wikipedia.org

We all know the consequences the colonization of Africa had over the natural resources and the cultures in the continent. "The Berlin Conference was Africa's undoing in more ways than one. The colonial powers superimposed their domains on the African continent. By the time independence returned to Africa in 1950, the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily.” (de Blij, H.J. and Peter O. Muller Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997).

Many people think that episodes like the Berlin Conference are things of the past. That appropriation of other people’s land, the displacement of indigenous people or the destruction of natural landscapes do not happen in Western countries. But unfortunately this is happening right now in front of our eyes at a massive scale.

Violating the Mexican Constitution and international treaties and without taking into account the hundreds of indigenous communities that have inhabited the region for thousands of years, more than twenty multinational energy corporations have subdivided the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Map Source:  Servicio Metereológico Nacional

Map Source: ITESO

Map Source:  Google

Also in Mexico, Energia Sierra de Juarez (a subsidiary of Sempra Energy) is planning to install thousands of wind turbines in Sierra de Juarez, one of the best preserved forests in North America. Using Mexican tax-payers money and destroying more than 700,000 acres of forested land, 100% of the electricity generated will be exported to the US.

Msp Source: ENTRIX Environmental and
Natural Resource Management Consultants

In the Brazilian Amazon, one million acres of forest, an area bigger than the Panama Canal will be flooded, expelling 40,000 indigenous and local populations and destroying habitat valuable for many species - all to produce electricity at a high social, economic and environmental cost, which could easily be generated with greater investments in energy efficiency. This is a death sentence for indigenous people such as the Great Bend of the Xingu River.

The chief Raoni cries when he learns that brazilian president Dilma released the beginning of construction of the hydroelectric plant of Belo Monte, even after tens of thousands of letters and emails addressed to her and which were ignored as the more than 600,000 signatures.   Photo source: climateadaptation.tumblr.com

Unfortunately for Californians, the US is not exempt from these projects. In the California, with taxpayers and ratepayers subsidies worth almost the entire cost of the projects, energy corporations are planning to fill the desert with solar panels and wind turbines. To carry out these projects, the companies are lobbying the US Federal and California State governments to get exemptions on environmental and cultural preservation regulations.

Map Source: LUEG GIS
All these projects are being pushed by corporations (and unfortunately many government agencies) as the only choice to traditional energy projects. These projects, that are being marketed as "green" energy projects, will cover vast areas of private and public lands (that are already sequestering climate change gases naturally) with solar panels and wind turbines, displace or kill endangered or threatened species such as bighorn sheep and California condor, destroy Native American sacred sites and affect the livelihood of hundreds of people living in rural communities. The remote large-scale solar and wind energy projects will require expensive transmission lines. But that is the main reason energy projects are being planned as far away as possible from the places using the power generated: investor-owned utilities make the highest profit on transmission line construction. These projects are crony capitalism at its best.

The same companies that are pushing these large-scale projects are lobbying politicians at all levels to block and put unfair tariffs on less costly alternatives such as distributive solar that produces energy locally. Meyer and Kirby states that "in the U.S. economy today, the curious effect of advocating "free markets"-free, that is, from regulation- is to strengthen the ability of companies that already possess market power to pursue even more of it. It is important to note that no firm actually wants to compete. Individually, all firms seek a so-called competitive advantage, which is to say the kind of relief from competitive pressure that allows form ample margins, innovation on their own schedule, the pick of the graduating class, and many other perks. Thus the effect of empowering alpha competitors is not to make an economy more competitive. Instead, what arises might be called pseudo-competition" (Meyer C. and J. Kirby: Runaway Capitalism. Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012).

Energy development companies are pushing hard to get these destructive projects approved for a short-term profit. Everybody else will pay a big price: the taxpayers will be left with highly costly and inefficient energy projects, rural communities will have landscapes full of wind turbines and transmission lines, indigenous communities will be displaced or their sacred sites destroyed and many sensitive species will disappear. Are you willing to shrug your shoulders and say: "oh well, we have no options." We are not.

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