Opinion: Misinformation Hides Real Dimension of Greek “Bailout”

InterPress Service

By Roberto Savio

In this column, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, writes that the purpose of Greece’s third bailout is clear – all but seven percent of the 86 billion euros will go to pay debt with the other European governments, recapitalize Greek banks, pay interest on Greece’s debt and pay the debt of the state with Greek enterprises, while the country’s citizens will see none of it.

SAN SALVADOR, Aug 20 2015 (IPS) – The long saga on Greece is apparently over – European institutions have given Athens a third bailout of 86 billion euros which, combined with the previous two, makes a grand total of 240 billion euros.

“How could any economist, even in the first year of studies, fail to understand that, by cutting consumption and raising taxes you are bound to depress an already depressed economy?”

There is no doubt that the large majority of European citizens are convinced that this is a great example of solidarity, and that if Greece is not now able to walk on its own feet, the responsibility will lie solely with Greek citizens and their government.

But this is only due to the fact that the media system has, by and large, ceased to provide alternative views … and some people even ignore that the bailout is a loan, and therefore increases the country’s debt.

In fact, the productive economy of Greece saw very little of that money because the bailouts were merely financial operations and Greek citizens, not only did not see anything, they have even had to pay a brutal price.

The truth behind the operation has been aptly described by Mujtaba Rahman, the respected chief Eurozone analyst for the London-based Eurasia Group, who said: “The bailout is not really about a growth plan for Greece, but a plan to make sure the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) get paid, and the euro area does not break up.”

And the purpose of this third bailout is clear. Of the famous 86 billion, 36 billion will go to pay the debt with the other European governments (and first of all Germany). Another 25 billion will go to recapitalize the Greek banks, because much capital left the country, heading for safer European banks. Another 18 billion will go to pay interest on the debt which Greece has been piling up. And, finally, seven billion will go to pay the debt of the state with Greek enterprises.

So, seven will go to the real economy and nothing to the citizens, who will have now to go through several new drastic measures of austerity, which will further depress their standards of living and their ability to spend.

Financially, the bailouts have been a success. All the losses and bad exposure of European institutions have been passed on to Greece. Before the first bailout, French banks were exposed with bad bonds for 63 billion euros, now only for 1.6 billion with no losses. German banks have gone from 45 to five billion.

What is intriguing is that a number of studies show that until the very last moment, when it was widely known that Greece was in deep crisis, European banks and investors continued to buy Greek bonds.

Were they certain that Greece would pay? No, but they were confident that the Greek government would be rescued, and that they would therefore recover their investments, which is exactly what happened.

The financial system has now a life of its own and has nothing to do with real economy, which it dwarfs by being 40 times larger (if we judge by the volumes of daily financial transactions against the production of good and services). Capital is untouchable and circulates freely in Europe, unlike its citizens. And now there is a great wave of legislation to introduce lower taxation for the richest one percent!

During the negotiations, one frequent accusation levelled against the Greeks was that they were unable to have their rich ship-owners pay their share of taxes. Of course, ship-owners place their money where it cannot be reached.

But is this not hypocritical when we know that there are at least two trillion euros stashed in fiscal paradises, and that, just to give one example, nobody has got Ryanair to really pay taxes? Not to mention the fact that when he was prime minister of Luxembourg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker granted secret tax rebates to over a hundred international companies?

Now Agence France Press has circulated a new astonishing study from the German Leibnitz Institute of Economic Research, which says that Germany has profited from the Greek crisis to the tune of 100 billion euros, saving money through lower interest payments on funds the government borrowed amid investor “flights to safety” and “these savings exceed the cost of the crisis – even if Greece were to default on its entire debt.”

Meanwhile, a large number of studies point out how, by having a positive balance of trade with its European partners, Germany is in fact sucking capital from Europe.

Interpreting the third bailout and its conditions of austerity as a mere economic operation would be to commit a great error.

No economist can believe that Greece will be able to pay back and not only because it has always had a fragile economy, with little industry and with tourism as its main source of income (aggravated by decades of mismanagement and the corruption of its traditional parties, the very parties that European leaders would like to see come back).

Greece is already in recession and now the doubling of VAT is going to compress consumption further, also because there will now be further reductions in pensions and public salaries (which have been already cut by 20 percent). It is widely believed that the Greek debt will now reach 200 percent of its GDP, up from 170 percent prior to the bailout.

How could any economist, even in the first year of studies, fail to understand that, by cutting consumption and raising taxes you are bound to depress an already depressed economy?

Well, it is no coincidence that the IMF, which is the Rotary Club of conservative economists, has refused to join this bailout. The IMF has said it will not put in any money unless European creditors (which is a diplomatic way of saying Germany) accept a restructuring of the Greek debt.

It is clear that the bailout has not been a technical but a political operation. Many European leaders, starting with Juncker himself, intervened in last month’s internal Greek referendum, asking Greeks to vote against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. They indicated clearly and openly, in a campaign that the Wall Street Journal repeated in the United States, that the revolt against austerity and the neoliberal economy should be stopped dead in its tracks to avoid political contagion.

For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared on German television that she has come to the conclusion that °Tsipras has changed°. This has an air of dejà vu … was it not then British Prime Margaret Thatcher who, intent on destroying the trade unions, launched her famous TINA slogan – There Is No Alternative?

And is there no alternative to this kind of Europe? (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

REFLECTION: Mining conference in Rome reveals indifference, exploitation

Pax Christi USA
Rev. John Rausch, glmy
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

extract3I was invited to attend a gathering in Rome, “In Union With God We Hear a Plea,” to discuss mining practices with representatives of communities affected by mining activities around the world. The meeting was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) from July 17-19, 2015.

In 2013 certain mine executives asked to meet with PCJP for a dialogue about mining practices, principally because Catholic groups and international organizations were raising questions about the treatment of workers, dangers to local communities and threats to the earth itself. They offered to discuss with priests the positive contributions of mining, because the world needs metals. Two meetings, one in London and one in Rome, started the dialogue with a third scheduled again in Rome for September, 2015. Vowed religious groups of men and women, especially Franciscans, urged the PCJP to convene a meeting also of grass roots folks to complement the meetings with business executives. That was the meeting I attended, July 17-19. Continue reading REFLECTION: Mining conference in Rome reveals indifference, exploitation

Julian Bond, Race Man, Poet, Movement-Builder — and Friend

Huffington Post
America has lost a great leader, and many of us have lost a good friend.

Julian Bond, black leader and member of the Georgia State legislature, March 31, 1978. (AP Photo/S. Helber)
Julian Bond, black leader and member of the Georgia State legislature, March 31, 1978. (AP Photo/S. Helber)

ASSOCIATED PRESS
By the time Julian Bond was 20 years old, he had helped lead the sit-in movement that began dismantling official segregation in Atlanta and he had left the academic life of Morehouse College to help found the legendary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As the communications director of SNCC, he worked to call attention of the rest of the world to the struggle by some of the poorest, most disenfranchised Americans to wrest political power from the white establishment in some of the most dangerous parts of the Jim Crow South. SNCC was the #BlackLivesMatter movement before there were hashtags.

By the time he was 30 years old, Julian Bond had been elected to the Georgia Legislature, whose all white members refused to seat him because of his opposition to the war in Vietnam. He was elected to his own vacant seat three times and seated only after a unanimous decision of the united states supreme court. Also before he was thirty he led an insurgent Georgia delegation to the 1968 Democratic Convention, where they unseated the segregationist “regular” democratic party delegation. And at that convention he was nominated for Vice-President – an office he was too young to win — in order to raise the visibility of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war forces in the Democratic party.

For those of us becoming active in the movement — especially those of us in the South — Julian Bond was an absolute hero. He had the courage under fire of the SNCC organizers. And he stood up to the whole Georgia power structure not only against racism but also against the war in Vietnam. He was cool.

The man who shook the world at an early age stayed engaged — as a movement builder and networker for our 21st Century movement. I first met him in 1970 when he and friends of mine from the Southern Students Organizing Committee worked together to create the Institute for Southern Studies.

He became Chairman of the NAACP in 1998 and worked with others to revitalize that old and respected organization. And he always sought to build a larger, more powerful progressive movement.

Julian was part of the core group who attended the first planning retreat that eventually gave birth to our economic-change organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.

In June 2004, I had the honor of introducing Julian at our Take Back America conference. We asked him to speak at a fascinating plenary with the two founders of MoveOn.org, Wes Boyd and Joan Blades. Everyone in the audience was transfixed as Julian imagined what SNCC organizing might have been like with the online networking, actions and fundraising that MoveOn were then pioneering. And Julian, Wes and Joan (who later helped launch Moms Rising) joined together to discuss how the work of the civil rights and anti-war movement had to be expanded to fight for the rights of women, families, LGBT people, and the rights of workers around the world.

Sunday night on PBS Newhour, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, another SNCC veteran, shared her memories of Julian — and declared that she was unprepared because she had just seen him at a Howard University forum with Black Lives Matter activists, and, though she had memories of him going back to the 1960s, he was still a man of the moment:

What Julian managed to do was something that most of us who were in SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, didn’t do. He managed to spend his entire life in civil rights, not the sentimental civil rights of our SNCC days, but the civil rights of our time. And that’s why he was so respected.
In addition to his ongoing movement-building, Julian eventually became a professor and a scholar, teaching, among other places, at the school I attending in the 1960s, the University of Virginia. He was teaching Southern history and the movements of the 1960s, and in 1990 he invited me and another comrade from those days to take over one of his classes to talk to 300 of his students about the Virginia of the segregationist Sen. Harry Byrd machine — and the almost completely segregated UVa. And, since it was Julian Bond’s class, we were able to get the Charlottesville Daily Progress and the Cavalier Daily to come and cover a discussion of how things had changed at that campus and that Southern State — and how they had not changed enough.

Julian only recently retired from teaching at UVa, and in the process of moving on, he gave and interview to the University of Virginia Magazine that is worth reading. At the end, he was asked “What would you like your tombstone to say?” His answer was classic Julian:

I want to have a double-sided tombstone, so you have something on each side. And on one side, it’s going to say “Race Man.” A race man is an expression that’s not used anymore, but it used to describe a man–usually a man, could have been a woman too–who was a good defender of the race, who didn’t dislike white people, but who stood up for black people, who fought for black people. I’d want people to say that about me. He was a race man. There’s no implication here that white people are evil, just that black people are good people and they need somebody to fight for them, and I’m that person. The other side is going to say “Easily Amused,” because I am easily amused.
The obituary by Roy Reed that ran on the New York Times website on Sunday ended in a way that captured the easily-amused and poetic, soulful side of Julian Bond.

His most famous [piece of poetry] was perhaps a two-line doggerel that he dashed off after one too many overly concerned white students offended him by saying, “If only they were all like you.”

The verse:
Look at that girl shake that thing,
We can’t all be Martin Luther King.

Sold for $90: The Girl Who Went from Slave to CEO

BY REAL LEADERS

• Rani Hong has gone from a slave to the CEO of a global organization, who speaks regularly at the United Nations.
• Moving from a victim to a leader, she is leading an international awareness campaign on human trafficking to help stamp it out.
• She believes that many companies might support child labor without even realizing it.
• Hong and her husband have developed the Freedom Seal – a qualification awarded to companies that have examined their supply chains and found them free of slave labor.

traf2At age seven, Rani Hong was taken from her mother by a kindly neighbor who promised to give her an education, something her poverty-stricken family could never afford. After a few months, Hong disappeared, sold into slavery by her supposed caregivers, who were actually a front for a child slavery syndicate. It would be 21 years before Hong would see her mother again.

Worldwide it’s estimated that between 21 and 30 million people are victims of human trafficking. And it’s not something restricted to poor countries either, at least 127 countries have active human trafficking networks, with recruitment often carried out by nationals of the same country as the victims. In the United States more than 100,000 children are trafficked every year.

Hong is one of the lucky ones. After being shipped out of slavery in India to Canada, she eventually found freedom, but didn’t wallow in victimhood for long. Instead, she decided to devote the rest of her life to raising awareness around human trafficking and slavery. She founded the Tronie Foundation with her husband Trong Hong, and together they have set out to make companies aware of their role in the slave trade.

“I tell my story because there are millions of children just like the little girl that I was – enslaved, imprisoned, beaten and not able to speak. I speak for them, to give them a voice,” says Hong.

While there are thousands of dedicated people and organizations around the world fighting human trafficking and helping victims, the Tronie Foundation is the only one founded by two former victims. They are working to include a “survivor voice” in the solution to this global scourge. While most are shocked by the statistics and scale of modern-day slavery, people have responded most strongly to their firsthand account of what happened to them.

While 79 percent of human trafficking is made up of girls and women who are sexually exploited, the remaining 21 percent are forced labor. “That’s around 21 million people,” says Hong. “Another 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals and enterprises.”

Many CEOs will condemn slavery without realizing that their company might be part of the problem. Unknown to them, forced labor might be part of a supply chain that produces their goods.

“You’ll find children in the agricultural industry, in the chocolate industry, forced labour within our supply chains,” says Hong. Private individuals and enterprises are exploiting million of victims, and we need to bring this to the attention of CEOs around the world. It can destroy reputations and damage brands among consumers,” she explains. The abuse sometimes happens in a third world country, out of sight to Western corporations, where a child might carry bricks for construction, or pick cocoa beans that we eventually eat as chocolate.

“I don’t know how much I was sold for, but today we know of children being sold for as little as US$90,” says Hong. Human trafficking is a massive industry worth an estimated US$150 billion, yet the price that trafficked children pay is incalculable, their lives are ruined and they rarely return to any semblance of normality. “ If they’re lucky and break free of slavery, the trauma, physical and psychological damage is for life,” says Hong.

While Hong was a wreck at first from her ordeal, it took the support and encouragement of a woman in Washington to help her believe in herself again and to help get her voice heard. “Someone like her, a mentor, has really helped,” says Hong. “Love and care from others has helped me heal.”

Hong served as a UN special advisor for a global initiative to fight human trafficking. She has presented several UN general assembly speeches, one of which saw her lead a global plan of action in 190 countries. Not bad for someone who was once kept in a cage and traumatized to the point that her captors considered her worthless. Hong also initiated the first World Day Against Trafficking and Persons, which is now marked on July 30th every year.

The increased awareness is welcome, but there’s still a long way to go. Some countries impose $500 fines on companies caught exploiting children. “That’s just a slap on the wrist,” says Hong. Convictions are rising, but in most countries conviction rates rarely exceed 1.5 per 100,000. This is even below the conviction rate for kidnapping in Europe, with 2007-08 statistics showing that two out of every five countries globally had not recorded a single conviction for human trafficking.

The Tronie Foundation has created a more proactive way of fighting this scourge. Called the Freedom Seal, the goal is to help businesses become more active in identifying and fighting human trafficking. The Freedom Seal is designed as a visual marker that businesses can use to clearly communicate to consumers that they have due diligence mechanisms in place and are actively taking steps to prevent forced labor and human trafficking in their practices. Company’s love boasting about awards and accolades and this is one that Hong hopes CEOs will want to add to their trophy cabinets.

It’s not enough for only companies to get involved, countries need to legislate too. South Africa recently banned children travelling through its borders without parents presenting unabridged birth certificates. The U.K. passed the Modern Slavery Act in March, an act closely modeled on the California Transparency Act, that requires companies to report how they are eliminate forced labour within supply chains.

“Research shows that if criminal syndicates and gangs are involved in human trafficking, there is a high likelihood that they’re also involved in drug smuggling, the trade of endangered species and illegal weapons,” says Hong.

“When we fight human trafficking, we are also preventing other illegal activities. Businesses and consumers can really make a positive difference by taking action,” she says. If Rani Hong can do it, then so can we.

8 signs of possible modern day slavery

  • Deception in the recruitment process and/or false promises about the terms and conditions of employment.\
  • Excessive recruitment fees charged to workers.
  • Confiscated or withheld identity documents or other valuable personal possessions.
  • Withheld or unpaid wages.
  • Unexplained or excessive deductions from wages resulting in induced indebtedness.
  • Imprisonment or physical confinement in the workplace or related premises such as employer-operated residences.
  • Deprivation of food, shelter or other necessities.
  • Physical or sexual abuse, harassment or psychological intimidation.

Laudato Si’ – A story of right relationships

National Catholic Reporter
by Patricia Siemen

Sr. Pat Siemen participates in the Earth Rights march in Durban, South Africa during the COPs 17 U.N. climate conference December 2011. (Robin Milam)
Sr. Pat Siemen participates in the Earth Rights march in Durban, South Africa during the COPs 17 U.N. climate conference December 2011. (Robin Milam)

“It’s all a question of story,” wrote Thomas Berry. “We are in trouble now because we do not have a good story .. . . and the old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. We have not yet learned the new story.”

Pope Francis’s long-awaited encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ tells a story and issues a call to all people to act on behalf of our common home. It offers much more than a treatise on the environment and climate change; it sets a cosmological context of belonging to creation as relatives, as brothers and sisters (11). It calls for an ecological spirituality and conversion (216), and offers a moral framework for both individual and collective response to care for our common home.

As an Earth lawyer and Catholic sister striving to awaken people to the peril of Earth’s desecration and the promise of acting as a single community of life, I hear Francis’s story with gratitude and relief.

Francis weaves a story of integral ecology (137).

“. . . [W]e have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate the questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (49).

He emphasizes the interrelationship between environmental destruction, anthropocentric domination of nature, disregard for people who are poor and vulnerable among us, extinction of species and the plunder of an unrestrained global economic system. Pollution and climate change, depletion of fresh water, biodiversity loss and disregard for human communities are the consequence “of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production” (32).

Francis connects the value of human life with the value of the Earth community which sustains all life. “It is not enough . . . to think of different species merely as potential ‘resources’ to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves” (33).

While sliding over the consequences of overpopulation (50), Francis boldly identifies the interrelated, causal dynamics that are destroying the fabric of our common home.

I was engaged, surprised, grateful and often in tears as I read Francis’s epic story. It was encouraging to discover how closely it aligns with the sacred story that guides me and the work of Earth jurisprudence that is rooted in kinship.

A call to right relationship

Francis tells the story in ordinary language. He sets a familial tone of belonging throughout the encyclical with his use of kinship language: “Sister” Mother Earth, or Brother Sun, Sister Water, or Brother Wind. He invites the reader to self-reflection and to listen to the voices of Earth and persons who are poor as they speak to us.

Like Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis calls us into right relationship with all beings who share our common home and to defend those among us who suffer the most.

While not explicitly endorsing his Jesuit brother Teilhard de Chardin, who taught a cosmology of an interrelated, co-evolutionary Universe that is Christic-oriented, Francis reveals an affinity without specifically endorsing the co-evolutionary nature of the Universe. He writes, “The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things” (83). He expands on this in paragraph 233: “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal . . . is to discover God in all things.” Thus Francis positions humanity as having “unique worth and . . . tremendous responsibility” (90), while also recognizing the inherent worth of other aspects of creation as well.

The end of a theology of domination

Francis calls for a new story of human relatedness with creation, and specific rejection of human domination over. “. . . [N]owadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures” (67).

Francis’ explicit rejection of a theology of dominion over the Earth is a needed correction. Humanity will never take the necessary action to counter and reduce the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction if we continue to subscribe to a human exceptionalism that legitimates our ongoing domination of nature.

Laying the groundwork for new legal systems that require shared responsibility

In my years as an Earth lawyer, there has been a silence in church teaching regarding the linkages between, and co-violations of, environmental and human rights. So it is particularly gratifying to have Francis issue a clarion call throughout Laudato Si’ that positions the church as a strong ally of both environmental and human justice.

The encyclical recognizes the need for new legal frameworks which are “indispensable” in setting “clear boundaries [that] ensure the protection of ecosystems” (53). This is a breakthrough moment for people who are working to advance legal recognition of nature’s rights to exist and flourish.

Francis’s call for people to listen to the laws of nature legitimizes the germinal efforts of organizations that strive to design and implement laws and policies that respect the inherent value of nature – for example: the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. the Earth Law Center, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Navdanya, and Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.

These organizations are joining with international indigenous organizations and other European-based “eradicating ecocide” initiatives in preparing for the third World Peoples’ Tribunal on the Rights of Mother Earth taking place in Paris during the U.N. climate negotiations in December. Our intent is to speak with one voice on the need for laws that respect the rights of Mother Earth. In alignment with the encyclical, and with the two previous Tribunals, there will be stories and evidence presented to a panel of renowned citizen judges of co-violations of environmental and human rights. People most affected by climate change and excessive environmental extractive practices will be the expert witnesses testifying to this peoples’ tribunal exercising moral jurisdiction.

We adopt this Peoples’ Tribunal, since the U.N. and international community remain derelict in implementing structures and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its consequences.

Mechanisms leading to climate justice

Although a key purpose and timing of Laudato Si’ is to influence the outcome of the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris in December, Francis does not endorse or promote any specific climate justice solutions. He does, however, reject “cap and trade” mechanisms (171). These market mechanisms expand increased economic commodification and objectification of nature; i.e., the atmosphere. Treating the atmosphere as a trade commodity, and then allocating to the market the right to sell the levels of air pollution, is a false economically-driven “solution” that is not consistent with an integral ecology. Rather, it exacerbates the problem.

Francis invites consideration of other solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He insists that wealthy, industrialized nations owe an ecological and social debt to other countries, as a result of disproportionate consumption of Earth’s minerals and natural resources. He speaks of common, but “differentiated responsibilities” for social and environmental justice (52).This term, which is often used in global climate discussions, means that all nations, industrialized and developing ones together, share a common responsibility for reducing carbon emissions. However, not every nation has contributed the same degree to climate change; therefore, there are historical responsibilities that need to be “differentiated.”

Clearly the developed countries have contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than the developing nations. Many of the developing countries argue they are owed technological and financial resources from the industrialized nations to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. They also need assistance in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. They have contributed the least to environmental devastation and carbon emissions, yet they suffer the most.

In addition, these “undeveloped” countries often have an abundance of natural resources that industrialized countries are grabbing quickly. This often lays the foundation for violence between mining and extractive industries and local residents. The resistance is often led by indigenous peoples who want to preserve their land and lifestyle from destructive mining practices.

For example, in Ecuador, there was a campaign started in 2007 to protect the Yasuni Amazon National Park from mining and oil extraction. The Shuar people have led the resistance campaign to keep “the oil in the soil.” President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado led a Yasuni-ITT Initiative for several years to keep this area protected from mining. He asked for contributions from industrialized societies to keep the oil in the ground rather than extract it and add to increased carbon emissions. After six years, over extensive protest of Ecuadorian citizens, Correa ended this initiative. However, the leaders of indigenous communities continue their resistance.

Last November, José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a former vice-president of the Shuar Federation of Zamora, was found murdered. He was last seen on his way to the U.N. Conference on Climate in Lima, Peru, where he was invited to testify at the climate talks about the Mirador copper and gold mine and the continued aggression of international mining companies that were destroying the land and cultures of indigenous people living there.

The killing highlights the violence and harassment facing environmental activists in Ecuador and elsewhere. A United Kingdom group, Global Witness, reported in April, 2015 that “at least 116 environmental activists died in 2014 while campaigning against mining, logging, water and land grabs.”

It is important to note that many of the industrial initiatives are legal: They have signed contracts with trade representatives of developing countries to extract resources in exchange for financial contributions to the country’s economy. These contributions, however, rarely extend to the members of the natural community, indigenous and ecological alike that have been devastated by the mining – and they do nothing to protect the integrity of the land or people. Consistently we see that the rapacious greed of an unrestrained global market does not balance the rights of people and the environment in their drive for constant economic growth.

Challenges and possibilities

Significant challenges exist to the adoption and ratification of a climate framework that all nations can agree to. Francis recognizes that “[e]nforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are incapable of effective intervention” (173).

One of the greatest barriers to a global climate treaty is the lack of international enforcement mechanisms that can hold nations accountable to achieving annual emissions reduction targets. The complexities of enforcing such a global mechanism seem daunting. Yet, as Naomi Klein (who recently was invited to the Vatican to consult with Cardinal Turkson on Laudato Si’) illustrates in her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, there already exists at least one model (albeit without transparency or impacted parties’ participation) for enforcing global regulatory agreements: the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The WTO has a set of rules that all signers agree to follow, sometimes with draconian results. These rules enable parties to challenge alleged “unfair and protectionist trade practices.” Frequently, challenges have applied to measures taken by countries to specifically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in 2009 Ontario, Canada, pledged to wean its province completely off coal by 2014 (Klein, 67). It adopted legislation which incentivized renewable energy providers by allowing them to sell power back to the grid. The legislation also provided incentives for local municipalities, co-ops and indigenous communities to enter the renewable energy market. In order to qualify, solar energy developers had to obtain at least 40 percent to 60 percent of their production material from within the province. There were also “buy local” and “hire local” provisions that added more than 31,000 jobs by 2014.

It seemed to be an incredible success story. Soon, however, Japan and the European Union submitted a complaint to the World Trade Organization alleging that Ontario’s “local-content requirement” was in violation of WTO rules. They specifically argued “that the requirement that a fixed percentage of renewable energy equipment be made in Ontario would ‘discriminate against equipment for renewable energy generation facilities produced outside of Ontario'” (Klein 68). The WTO decided against Canada, ruling that Ontario’s requirement to “buy-local” was protectionist and violated the free trade agreement. The manufacturing plant was closed down, and workers were again unemployed. The Ontario government did not appeal. Thus trade trumped climate. But the enforcement mechanism “worked.”

I cite this to illustrate two points. First is to demonstrate the economic prowess of global multinational behemoths that have designed international trade agreements such as the WTO Agreements, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the emergent Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). They can effectively counter local climate change remedies. Secondly, and even more importantly, is to illustrate that if international trade representatives can design global mechanisms that enforce alleged trade violations across international borders, why can’t similar mechanisms be adopted to enforce violations of carbon emission commitments? It is already being done in the name of free trade.

As Francis notes, workable solutions “must be respectful of each nation’s sovereignty” and they must “also lay down mutually agreed means of averting regional disasters which would eventually affect everyone” (173). Lasting solutions become a matter of respect, political will and commitment to the common good.

Francis’s call for people to listen to the laws of nature legitimizes the germinal efforts of organizations that strive to design and implement laws and policies that respect the inherent value of nature – for example: the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. the Earth Law Center, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action NetworkNavdanya, and Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.

These organizations are joining with international indigenous organizations and other European-based “eradicating ecocide” initiatives in preparing for the Third World Peoples’ Tribunal on the Rights of Mother Earth taking place in Paris during the U.N. climate negotiations in December. Our intent is to speak with one voice on the need for laws that respect the rights of Mother Earth. In alignment with the encyclical, and with the two previous Tribunals, there will be stories and evidence presented to a panel of renowned citizen judges of co-violations of environmental and human rights. People most affected by climate change and excessive environmental extractive practices will be the expert witnesses testifying to this peoples’ tribunal exercising moral jurisdiction.

Recognizing that we need a new story that has mythic and spiritual power to awaken us as a species to the “soul-sized” crises facing us, Francis asks each of us, “What kind of world do you want to leave to those who come after us. . . ?” (160). He boldly has set before us a vision of what it means to be human in the 21st century. He offers interconnected criteria for building an integral ecology and a moral compass for defending our common home.

What will be our response? What will be the response of the global community meeting in Paris in December? Will the United Nations be receptive to Pope Francis’s message when he addresses the General Assembly in September? Will the U.S. Congress? How about the people in the pews?

Finally, what story will we tell ourselves and our children when we look back at this pivotal moment in history? In the words of Terry Tempest Williams in Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, “The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint; that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come.”

Patricia Siemen, OP, JD, is a Dominican Sister from Adrian, Michigan, and a civil attorney who works to protect the long-term ecological and spiritual health of humans and all members of the Earth community. She is director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University School of Law, Orlando, Florida.

Costco and CP Foods face lawsuit over alleged slavery in prawn supply chain

The Guardian

Legal claim filed in California seeks injunction against US retailer to prevent sale of prawns produced by Thai supplier unless labelled a product tainted by slavery.

Human trafficking for forced labour and slavery has become endemic in the Thai fishing sector, a Guardian investigation found last year. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
Human trafficking for forced labour and slavery has become endemic in the Thai fishing sector, a Guardian investigation found last year. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Three California law firms are seeking an injunction to stop the US retail chain Costco selling prawns unless they are labelled as the produce of slavery.

The firms have filed a class action lawsuit against Costco and its Thai seafood supplier, alleging that Costco knowingly sold prawns from a supply chain tainted by slavery.

The claim, lodged in the federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, alleges that Costco has for several years bought and resold farmed prawns from the leading Thai food group CP Foods, and other companies, that have sourced the raw material for their feed from ships manned by slaves.

The plaintiff in the class action is a California resident, Monica Sud, who has bought prawns from the membership-based wholesale grocer, but the class action potentially affects millions of customers in California, America’s most populous state.

The action follows a Guardian investigation in 2014 that tracked the complex prawn supply chain and reports by the UN and non-governmental organisations, including the Environmental Justice Foundation, that human trafficking for forced labour and slavery have become endemic in the Thai fishing sector.

The investigation established that large numbers of men who were bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand were integral to the production of farmed prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, was buying fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that owned, were operating or buying from fishing boats manned with slaves.

Men who have managed to escape from boats feeding in to the supply chain of CP Foods and other companies like it told of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years and some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.

The co-lead counsel in the California legal claim, Derek Howard of the Howard Law Firm in Mill Valley, explained: “This lawsuit seeks to give Californians confidence that they are not serving slavery for dinner. Slavery in the Thai industry is a huge problem. Costco has the clout to dictate terms to its suppliers and sub-suppliers and enforce its policies against slave labour.”

The defendants have 30 days to file a defence.

Costco said in a statement: “Allegations concerning issues in the Thai seafood industry have been well publicised for over one year. Costco Wholesale has been working with and will continue to work with various stakeholders (including the Thai government, other retailers, and Thai industry) to address the issues that have surfaced.

“In the meantime, all of our customers know that if they are dissatisfied with any purchase from Costco Wholesale they can return the item for a full refund.”

At the time of our 2014 investigation, Costco said it would require its “suppliers of Thai shrimp to take corrective action to police their feedstock sources”. Its code of practice says it does not tolerate human trafficking or slavery in its supply chains.

A CP Foods statement said: “CP Foods notes that it has recently received a copy of a complaint filed in California concerning its shrimp business. CPF believes that it has complied with all applicable laws and regulations, and that the complaint is entirely without merit.”

Poverty-Care for Creation Appalachia Immersion Trip

CMSM

Lexington, KY
Oct. 25-28, 2015 (29th optional) *RSVP Deadline: Sept. 1st

tin_can_8_10-980-copyPoverty in the U.S. is too often a forgotten and misunderstood reality, especially in the rural area of Appalachia. With Pope Francis’ encyclical linking Carefor Creation and poverty with “integral ecology,” CMSM invites you to consider an immersion encounter with the people in the concrete struggle for “integralecology.”

ENCOUNTER: We will have the opportunity to visit organizations working closely with those on the margins. Such organizations address health care, housing, women and children, sustainable food, and alternative schools. We will also visit sites and organizations that illuminate the issue of environmental destruction and health issues, such as strip mining, coal, black lung, and deforestation. We will learn from speakers from various viewpoints on these issues. There will be regular times for group prayer and reflection on our encounters to deepen insight and friendship with each other. *See below for a more detailed schedule.

WHO: You are invited! But also consider others in your community who may have a desire or who you think it may be helpful for them to have this personal encounter.

WHEN: 6pm Sunday Oct. 25th to 7pm Wed.Oct. 28, with optional Thursday morning session.

COSTS: Travel to Lexington, lodging, and some food/drink. We will provide some meals. We also have some financial assistance for those with particular need.Please don’t let money be a barrier to this deeply spiritual encounter.

LODGING:

The only pre-booking required is for Sunday evening Oct. 25th and Wed. evening Oct. 28th. Monday and Tuesday we will be traveling and staying at other locations.
For Sunday and Wed. we have reserved a block of rooms at:

University Inn  [ www.Univestiy-lexingtonhotelsone.com ]
1229 S. Limestone
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 278-6625

Each participant will have to make their own reservations for each night. Rate: $90/night – bring your tax exempt information and its tax free. Both singles and double are available (share aroom and reduce expenses). Use the group name: CMSM when reserving a room. Please makeyour reservations before October 1st.

The hotel is about 6 miles from the airport. There is no shuttle service, so if you need a ride let us know ahead of time and we’ll pick you up.

CLOTHING and TRAVEL:

The fall is still warm in Kentucky and it is shaping up to be a nice trip. This trip is not well suited for people with limited mobility. We will be travelling by van and have many stops during the day. Airport to use is Lexington, KY. *Please don’t purchase plane tickets until we confirm adequate numbers for the trip.

COORDINATORS
Rev. Neil Pezzulo: 513-304-2878 (cell)
Eli McCarthy: 510-717-8867 (cell)

RSVP and CONTACT: If you’re interested in joining us, please RSVP by Sept. 1st to
Brian McLauchlin at bmclauch62@aol.com or 847-431-8145.

With Hope,
Eli
Schedule October 25 – 29, 2015

Sunday, October 25

6:00 p.m. Van pick up at Hotel for Dinner at Restaurant in Lexington, KY. Bp. John Stowe invited.

Monday, October 26

10:00 a.m. Orientation, Stanton, KY. Fr. John S. Rausch, Glmy

11:30 New Hope Clinic, Owingsville, KY–free clinic. Deacon Bill Grimes

Lunch

1:30 p.m. Frontier Housing, Morehead, KY–low income housing. Tom Carew

3:30 Sarah’s Place, Sandy Hook, KY–women’s and children’s issue. Sr. Sally Neale

Dinner

Tuesday, October 27

8:30 a.m. Prayer & Reflection about Monday

9:30 Christian Appalachian Project, Hagger Hill, KY–13th largest non-profit in U.S.

11:30 St. Vincent Mission, David, KY–sustainable food production. Sr. Kathleen Weiggen

Lunch
1:00 p.m. David School, David, KY–alternative school. Diantha Daniels

2:30 Mountaintop Removal (Martin Co. or Salyersville)–strip mining.

Dinner

Wednesday, October 28

8:30 a.m. Prayer and Reflection about Tuesday

9:30 Mt. Tabor Ecumen. Benedictine Monastery–only women’s monastery in E. KY

11:30 Vicco, KY–life after coal; Black Lung discussion

Lunch Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church–Franciscans

2:30 Robinson Forest Reclamation Project, Breathitt County

6:00 Arrive in Lexington (Prayer and Reflection TBD)

Dinner

Thursday, October 29 (optional)

10:00 Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, KY–discuss land use. Christy Brown