Friday, October 2, 2009

biofuels and begging

Here is a letter I have just wrote to Bristol City Council opposing a proposed biofuel powerstation near the city. I thought I would share it.

I wish to object to W4B’s planning application to build a 50 MW biofuel power station at Avonmouth Docks, which would burn 90,000 tonnes of vegetable oil every year.

I have been working in Colombia since September 2008 and see daily the impact of monocrops, such as palm oil, have both on people and the environment. Just two days ago I had a really intense sad experience that, above all, is what is motivating me to write to object to this biofuel plant. Waiting at the traffic lights on route to an event about Climate Justice here in Bogota, the captial of Colombia, an old man approached my taxi. He was dressed as smartly as he could, dark suit, a tie and a felt hat, but he didn't look like your average suited man., his clothes while clean and tightly ironed were old and shabby. And his old, sunweathered face, that makes guessing ages very difficult, showed such a sadness. He held a carefully handwritten sign in his hand, "Please help my family, god bless you. We are displaced from the Magdalena Medio”.

The Magdalena Medio is a low lying tropical region through which the river Magdalena flows. The relationship between paramilitarism and african palm is clear. In the Magdalena Medio the african palm expanded after the paramilitary takeover of the region. The paramilitary takeover of the region, through violence and the threat of violence, caused massive displacement, the result of which is thousands of old men like this begging at traffic lights. The fear of violence meant that opposition to palm oil projects has been small, and those who have opposed it live at risk.

In April 2009 I attended the funeral of Edgar Martinez, a farmer on the banks of the river Magdalena and community leader, who was killed after leaving a meeting with the mayor San Pablo. He strongly spoke out about the impacts of palm oil plantations on his farming community and opposed new palm plantations. The murder of Edgar is not an isolated case, but a systematic repression of those who try to oppose monocrops becuase of the damage to the environment, their culture and their livelihoods.

Palm from the Magdalena Medio is exported to Europe and the USA for both use in cosmetics, food and biofuels. Since the beginning of September, the network I work with has been accompanying a village which was violently evicted by riot police at the orders of a palm oil company which sells to the Body shop.

If the use of palm oil grows in Britain, people will continue to be violently evicted from their homes and forced to urban areas to beg at traffic lights.

Bristol City Council must consider the impacts of planning decisions, not only in Bristol but globally and take a lead in acting responsibily to protect lives wherever they may be. If this biofuels plant is granted planning permission, it is very likely that it will contribute to yet more violent displacement for Colombian people. Thus I ask you to reject this development.

If you feel motivated to write a letter and right  now (as decision day is Tuesday) go to : biofuelswatch action page 

In recent months Biofuel power plant applications have been rejected in Newport, Weymouth and London. Could Bristol be a fourth?

1 comment:

busybee said...

Write to the Bristol papers includig the freebees.