Environment

Anything on the ongoing ecocide of the planet we live on.

The Age reveals that AFP, ASIO and private subcontractors spy on environmentalists, protesters and left wing organisations opposed to a variety of environmentally destructive commercial developments.

Surprise surprise.

There is nothing abnormal about this. Create a secret intelligence gathering agency, and they’ll act like a secret intelligence agency. If a government has a secret intelligence gathering agency, it will try to use it. If it doesn’t have one, it will seek to create one.

The pursuit and maintenance of power demands information about threats and opponents. The state, business, political parties, it doesn’t matter. Once created, the agency has it’s own self-perpetuating interest. Their job is to to identify and gather intelligence about threats, so threats will be identified, intelligence will be gathered.

Whether it’s the dirt unit within the office of a political power broker, the state’s official intelligence agency, a de facto political unit in a Police force, or private consulting firm; it exists and if you’re being effective, it’s trying to spy on you*.

These tools of power are not your friend, they are not a-political, and they are not legitimate. And we cannot simply hope to bring security agencies to heal by electing the right government, or appointing the right overseer.

Environmental groups involved in opposing coal seem gas, coal mining and coal power need to recognise they are opposing something fundamental our present political system. They are opposing the relentless pursuit of profit in favour of a sustainable future.

They have to expect that effective action will demand a state response, and as such, they can expect to be spied on, just as they can expect to be beaten, arrested and imprisoned.

The Green movement as a whole needs to come out against police violence, state surveillance and intimidation. Everyone from The Greens, the corporate NGOs, to the various community coalitions, would do well to adopt the default position of most far left groups in opposing the work of intelligence agencies and political Police.

1. Anyone exposed as an ASIO agent, police informer against activists, or ABCC informer in the workplace should be publicly identified and completely ostracised. By everyone, forever.

2. Work on construction or supply for security organisations should be subject to a permanent and unremitting black ban.

3. Any and all channels used by ASIO and friends to gather “intelligence” from the public should be jammed.

And we should issue a warning.

To anyone working or informing for ASIO, the ABCC, or a politically motivated Police investigation anywhere: when we finally gather on the streets and storm the headquarters of your organisations, we will identify you.

On that day, you will find no comfort anywhere, for as long as you live.

If that day seems distant, remember that as a file turns thirty, it’s contents become publicly available, and even though your name might be blacked out, we’ll sure as hell work out who you are and act accordingly.

We will not forget.

A Caution…

The revelation that elements of the state are spying on a movement, can see people respond with fear and secrecy. I think the following advice from Gene Sharpe’s From Dictatorship to Democracy is pertinent:

secrecy is not only rooted in fear but contributes to fear, which dampens the spirit of resistance and reduces the number of people who can participate in a given action. It also can contribute to suspicions and accusations, often unjustified, within the movement, concerning who is an informer or agent for the opponents. Secrecy may also affect the ability of a movement to remain nonviolent.

In contrast, openness regarding intentions and plans will not only have the opposite effects, but will contribute to an image that the resistance movement is in fact extremely powerful.

* Most people who think they have ASIO files don’t, because most people who think they have ASIO files are completely and totally ineffective. I include myself in that.

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The Indonesian state continues to murder on behalf of Australian companies.

The ABC reports that Arc Exploration had absolutely nothing to do with the shooting of eight protesters by Indonesian police in the Sumbawa town of Sape four days ago.

The ABC reports that Arc Exploration conducts “meetings with local people” and that “extensive consultation process with local community leaders and authorities” and that this “resulted in these parties confirming their support for [the company’s] activities”.

Hidup Biasa reports that after a five day occupation of the Port at Sape Indonesian Police opened fire on protesters killing eight and injuring hundreds.

The Port was occupied by villagers (and student supporters) opposing minging developments in Sumbawa, like this one near the town of Barawera.

Here is a photo of the proposed development. The development would involve digging out the green bit.

Two days after the Police killings, three hundred people gathered on the streets of Makassar to denounce the police brutality.

A police station, banks and advertising billboards were pelted with stones. Two people were arrested, two other arrests were foiled by the mass intervention of demonstrators. According to the awful google translation I am relying on:

Protesters claimed that what happened in Bima and elsewhere caused by the greed of capitalism to exploit the environment which then threaten people’s lives

Word.

A commenter on Indymedia notes that ANZ are a major investor in Arc Exploration, the same happy chaps who are major investors in Gunns and a key source of finance for the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill in Tasmania.

It’s all one struggle.

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Stephen Luntz in the December issue of Australiasian Science describes recent research by David Lindenmayer on the relationship between logging, fire and change in temperate forests. Unfortunately the Australiasian Science article is trapped behind a paywall, but Luntz summarizes on his blog, here.

Temperate forests can be divided into two sorts, there are those that are fire tolerant, and those that are not. – Stephen Luntz

Fire tolerant species have evolved to create a more fire prone environment. Fire destroys non fire tolerant trees, and the fire tolerant trees then colonize in the aftermath.

In contrast the non fire tolerant species have evolved to avoid the creation of fire prone situations, and large masses of these species can actually act as fire buffers.

This analysis of the relation between fire and fire tolerant species is hardly new. What is, is Lindenmayer analysis of the role of logging in the process of creating a “landscape trap”.

The interacting effects of wildfire, logging, and the combination of wildfire and logging (i.e., salvage logging) are creating a previously unrecognized landscape trap in which the disturbance dynamics of “trapped” mountain ash forest landscapes are markedly different from those before European settlement. The core process underlying this landscape trap is a positive feedback loop between fire frequency/severity and a reduction in forest age at the stand and landscape levels, leading to an increased risk for dense young regenerating stands repeatedly reburning before they reach a more mature state. The landscape trap will potentially create irreversible changes in disturbance dynamics, forest cover, landscape pattern, and vegetation structure, and thereby lead to a major regime shift or alternative state. – Lindenmayer et al, 2011.

Lindenmayer goes on to describe the development of a Landscape Trap in Victoria’s mountain ash forests. Mountain ash forests like those in the Alpine National Park, near where I live. Mountain ash forests that have been severely burnt twice in the past decade.

Lindenmayer makes a number of suggestions for avoiding an irreversible change in the landscape. Most importantly concern logging, but of particular interest to me (I’ll explain why in a second) is this:

Given the extent of recently burned forest in Victoria, a third important strategy to reduce the risks for development of a landscape trap is to try to limit the amount of future fire. Although mountain ash trees are dependent on fire to promote regeneration, fires have been extensive in the past 25–100 y; another fire in the coming 20 y within currently young regenerating stands is likely to lead to a major regime shift.mountain ash forests is a significant challenge.

Broad-area prescribed burning is not a viable management option because high levels of moisture in the vegetation and large quantities of biomass make planned fires extremely difficult to control. However, prescribed burning as part of a regime of fire can be an appropriate management option in drier forest types that are adjacent to mountain ash forests. Carefully applied strategic burning in such drier environments may help to reduce the extent of spatial contagion in wildfire that occurs in these areas and, in turn, reduce the risk for adjacent stands of mountain ash forest being burned. – Lindenmayer et al, 2011

I grew up on a small farmlet in North East Victoria. We raised some cattle and for a short while, attempted market gardening.

Managing the fire risk of the adjacent bush land was a prominent concern for us in the lead up to each summer. We did this with yearly back burning.

It is now pretty clear that this was a mistake.

Over ten years we saw the immediate landscape change, and eventually decided to abandon the practice.

In the aftermath of the 2009 bush fires, there was a massive public clamour in rural communities for the regular burning of practically everything. In the autumn and spring that followed I saw how on private land and along roadsides of the community I grew up in, every that would burn was burnt.

I fear that the net effect of these attitudes to fire prevention among land holders could be to trade the long term possibility of a less fire prone landscape for the short term security of dust and ash.

I recommend reading the rest of Luntz’s article here, and if you have the time, Lindenmayer’s article in PNAS here.

Bonus!

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The deal the Greens and the Labor party under Julia Gillard have struck to introduce a carbon tax is probably the best that could be expected from our liberal democracy at this time.

It is also grossly inadequate.

Australia’s contribution to reducing carbon emissions under this scheme, if emulated around the globe, puts the world on course to experience warming of four degrees or more.

The argument that Tim Jackson presented in Prosperity Without Growth is compelling.

It is not feasible to completely de-link economic growth and carbon emission . Achieving the reductions in carbon emissions required to limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees would require us to move away from a model of economic organisation predicated in continual growth.

But growth is fundamental to capitalism; capitalism cannot be restructured to operate as a steady state.

“Prosperity without growth” cannot simply be imposed upon capitalism with regulation or taxation.

The conclusion I draw from climate debate in Australia, from the actions of our government, and from the broad resistance to action from the business community, is that real action on climate change cannot be achieved within the current parameters of our liberal democracy.

The inadequacy and inherent unfairness of the carbon tax approach adopted by Julia Gillard, Labor and the Greens is more evidence that real action on climate change requires that we organise against capitalism.

I’ve wanted to write a LOT more on this topic, but the day to day struggle to survive keeps getting in the way.

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