Greetings my friends, and welcome to the conference, the Peoples’ Arctic: Unified for a Better Tomorrow. My name is Kumi Naidoo and I have the pleasure and honour of welcoming you here today. Continue reading →
The executive director of Greenpeace International tells us how he stayed motivated while getting hosed down with freezing water during environmental action, what he learned from living through apartheid, and why he believes anything is possible.
When Kumi Naidoo was 15 years old, he began making his way to the frontlines of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. A student in the city of Durban, he was kicked out of high school and thrown into jail several times for protesting against racial segregation, until he eventually went abroad to study as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford in England. Returning home after Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Naidoo helped the African National Congress win democratic national elections in 1994, turning a new page in South African history.
After that, Naidoo shifted his attention to global campaigns for education, women’s rights, poverty alleviation, and environmental conservation, where he finds himself again on the frontlines of a major movement today as executive director of Greenpeace International, one of the world’s best known and most vocal environmental groups. Continue reading →
Has Doha delivered? Here’s the Al Jazeera Inside Story Special with Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International; Wael Hmaidan, Climate Action Network International; and environment specialist Mohammed Jassim Almaslamani.
“What is the most surprising thing about working at Greenpeace?” I asked a new colleague at work the other day. She looked to the side and took a moment before she replied. She finally turned to me and said: “The most surprising thing is Greenpeace staff: there is nothing really shocking about them. They are…normal.”
I immediately understood what my colleague was referring to. When I joined Greenpeace three years ago I expected to see more people who looked like me, with long beards, shirts with flowers on them and so on. Actually what I found here were scientists, intellectuals, some of the best communications specialists and interestingly enough, people from the business community: an eclectic community made up of people with a wide variety of skills and maybe most importantly, with an infinite passion for our planet. Continue reading →
These seeds are ready for the press. The fruit itself is turned into "Palm oil," while the nut is used for "Palmiste oil." This is the local variety grown by smallholders.
Ecological and economic welfare are two sides of the same coin and having to choose between developing economies and societies on one hand, and protecting the environment on the other, is a false dilemma. This false dilemma is often used by private companies to dismiss civil society and local communities, mislead policy makers, and then carry on with questionable practices.
Let me explain. Sub-Saharan Africa has been the scene of a huge land grab in recent years, with overseas governments and businesses buying up or securing long-term leases on large tracts of land. Some of the deals are straightforward acquisitions but many are contentious to say the least.
According to a number of the agribusiness corporations that are investing heavily in developing vast palm oil plantations throughout Central and Western Africa their primary aim is bringing much-needed revenue to local economies, providing jobs and improving the lives of the people living there. Don’t let yourselves be fooled by this seemingly altruistic discourse: we rarely hear any mention of the millions to be made in trying to satisfy the unquenchable global thirst for palm oil. Could this be the real motivation?
You may be aware that this morning at approximately 4am, five activists and I scaled the Prirazlomnaya oil platform to take peaceful action against Gazprom’s work in the Arctic, to highlight the dangers of its plans to drill here in the Pechora Sea.
The amount of oil that is lost every year in spills throughout Russia is roughly equivalent to the amount that Prirazlomnaya would produce annually. It would be far less expensive for the oil companies, the government, the people of Russia, and certainly the Indigenous Peoples who depend on this environment, to simply recover and use the oil lost in spills, than it would be to exploit the pristine Arctic shelf. In short, drilling in the Arctic will not benefit the average Russian citizen.
Gazprom is set to begin dangerous drilling on the Arctic shelf with no viable oil spill response plan. It’s not a question of if an oil spill will happen, but when — and when it does, Gazprom would be powerless to stop it. Just last week Greenpeace Russia uncovered a startling secret: Gazprom’s emergency plan has expired, meaning any drilling they do here would be illegal under Russian legislation.
During my time in Moscow last week, I met with the Federal Minister of Environment and Natural Resources and his senior advisers. I met with several journalists and civil society activists, and had the privilege of speaking with Indigenous Peoples representatives on whose traditional territory much of Russia’s onshore oil drilling is carried out, with disastrous results.
Together with Greenpeace Russia, we presented data from esteemed Russian scientists — the same ones often hired by the oil industry — that confirmed those fears: Gazprom and emergency services could not cope with an oil spill disaster here. The scientists calculated 60,000 different scenarios if an oil spill were to occur at this platform, and their research showed very clearly that in fact it would take the company days to mount a serious response. Meanwhile, the toxic oil would reach the shores of three protected wildlife and nature reserves in just 20 hours.
I took part in this peaceful action today to declare — together with Russians and citizens around the world — an end to the madness that is putting the profits of an elite few above the interests and safety of the rest of us. We are also here standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Indigenous Peoples of Northern Russia, many of whom last week signed a powerful joint statement opposing further disastrous oil drilling on and near their traditional territories, and demanding that their voices be heard in this critical debate. We humbly stand with them in their struggle.
In our desire to highlight this plight, we hope – and know – that actions do speak louder than words.
As you well know, Russia is also experiencing climate impacts. Scientists have concluded that the 2010 heat waves and forest fires were induced by a changing climate. In addition, more than 60% of Russia is covered by permafrost, which releases methane gas as it melts — a powerful greenhouse gas that is even more dangerous than carbon dioxide. And as the permafrost melts, the ground shifts, damaging buildings, bridges, roads, and dangerous oil and gas infrastructure. Even the Russian Ministry of Emergency has warned that by 2030, more than 25% of all buildings in Northern Russia could be damaged by the impacts of melting permafrost.
Time is running out for us to avert catastrophic climate change — and oil giants like Shell and Gazprom must be stopped from profiting from a disaster of their own making while doing further damage to our planet. It is clearly madness to ignore the fact that the only reason we are able to even consider drilling in these remote parts is as a result of the melting arctic ice, which is caused by emissions from oil, coal and gas. As the ice melts, our planet warms, which causes the ice to melt, and our planet to warm — it is a vicious circle.
We are effectively destroying the refrigerator or the air conditioner of our planet, destabilizing our global climate and threatening our children and grandchildren’s future. Any day now, the scientific community will announce that the Arctic sea ice has reached an all-time low, below even 2007 levels. This is a disastrous record that we continue to break, and a warning cry of a planet in peril that we must not ignore.
Join me and my fellow activists at www.greenpeace.org or www.savethearctic.org and watch for live updates as the action unfolds. And please, take action with us – you can follow me onTwitter and Greenpeace on Facebook. Please share with your friends, so that together we can shine a light on this global environmental crime, and stop it before it becomes a global disaster.
Today marks my third visit to Russia, the last being in 2006 when I had the privilege of meeting President Putin to talk about the freedoms with which NGOs can operate in this country. In a curious turn of events, and some six years later, both Putin and freedoms are still very much in the news.
You can take your pick from any number of scandals currently making headlines in Russia: planned legislation aimed at hampering NGO activity and the right to protest, draconian laws aimed at internet censorship – even the fallout from the recent performance by punk group Pussy Riot, which has garnered international attention.
What is different, between my last visit and now, however, is the scale and unbridled nature of the public’s response. Russians have taken to the streets en masse to protest the shrinking democratic space in their country – up to 100,000 at various times in Moscow alone to speak out against Putin’s rule. It’s clear that Russians are no longer prepared to tolerate civil injustices and are increasingly prepared to speak up fearlessly in their own defense. Continue reading →
Seoul, South Korea, 2 April, 2012: Three Greenpeace senior staff members accompanying the organisation’s International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo were today denied entry and deported from South Korea, highlighting the Government’s growing willingness to suppress voices speaking out against its nuclear energy expansion ambitions.
With the environmental organisation’s ship M/Y Esperanza due to tour South Korea in mid April to launch its local Energy [R]evolution and no-nuclear campaign (1), Naidoo and Greenpeace East Asia Executive Director Mario Damato were visiting the country to promote the launch. The two were also to meet with the Mayor of Seoul Park Woon Soon, the Mayor of Incheon Song Young Gil, local politicians, media, and other NGOs. However, Damato and two other staff were stopped at immigration, and will be deported at 8pm today despite Naidoo being granted entry. Continue reading →