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Friends of the Earth International: the systems of oppression that we all fight in our movements are deeply connected and reinforce each other

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“Life is short. The world lives forever. When you make a positive difference in the lives of others, you too will  live forever.” Steven Jay, Founder, Mobilized.news  

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We hope you will be inspired by their personal stories while empowered by their commitment to integrity, while they provide you with their personal wisdom, strength and intestinal fortitude that is found in each and every one of us at the time of our birth.The stories that make them tick, make others talk.By learning from the visions, strength and passionate pursuit of excellence,  we focus on the stories that showcase how we all can and do make a difference while doing the best to share humanity’s stories to build the connection between one another to create a more just, compassionate and sustainable world.

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We believe that by sharing stories of our shared humanity, we can build and strengthen the connections between one another while discovering a part of them in each and everyone of us.

Everyday, Mobilized focuses on the people, the places and the organizations that are making a difference in the world for all of us.  To have a better understanding of their work as well as their challenges,  we spoke with  Lucy Cadena,  a Climate Justice & Energy International Programme Coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, the worlds largest grassroots environmental network.

For years each of the major progressive movements (environment, peace, justice…) has agreed that a “movement of movement’s” is needed. Why do you think this has not yet happened? What could FOEI do to spark one?

As a grassroots environmental network, FoEI works on a number of interconnected struggles. Food sovereignty, gender justice, land rights, economic justice, climate justice, biodiversity, indigenous rights – these are just a few of the issues tackled by Friends of the Earth member groups across the world, alongside allies across movements. Increasingly, the links are being made between movements, although much work is still to be done. What is clear is that the systems of oppression that we all fight in our movements are deeply connected and reinforce each other – we see this for example in the patriarchal and militarised systems that oppress the rights of indigenous women protecting their forests and water, and in the power dynamics playing out in the halls of the UN during the climate talks.

We recognise that in order to re-set the balance, we need to build enormous power as movements. This however takes time – grassroots movements make decisions from the bottom-up and we need to ensure that no one is left behind. Movements are eco-systems, and mobilisation takes many forms – even if we do not see billions on the streets, that does not mean that change is not happening. The process is underway, and we are building power.

 In watching Greta Thunberg’s speech and panel discussions at COP 24, many of us were touched and moved by her words. But it takes more than words, it takes action. How do you feel people can realize that we’re all powerful, that the future is truly in our hands and not in the leadership that continues to push very bad ideas and policies, the same ones that got us into this mess?

It is very easy to feel powerless when our ability to make a change is often reduced to our power as consumers (‘stop buying this, buy that instead’). We see more and more companies green-washing their image and encouraging us to buy products that are less impactful on the environment. However, living ‘green’ is often exclusive and expensive. It places the burden of change on the individual, and shames those who do not have the resources to practice a green lifestyle. This ‘change your lightbulbs’ narrative has been pervasive in the last decades and has diminished our sense of power as political subjects. In the face of climate catastrophe and a biodiversity crisis, and while many people in the poorest and most vulnerable countries are losing their lives and their livelihoods to climate impacts, people are afraid.

There is a risk that this fear can be manipulated and co-opted by right-wing forces in an effort to push for greater security and militarisation, further isolationism and anti-migration policies. These actions will not solve the crisis, nor will they quell peoples’ fears. They do not offer hope. The inaction – and at times, obstruction – by our governments (particularly in rich countries of the Global North) appears completely out of touch with the reality we are in. The best antidote to fear is to collectively fight for a future based on hope, solidarity and reciprocity between peoples and nature. Communities on the frontlines of climate and harmful energy impacts have been leading this fight for decades, and are at the forefront of the movement for climate justice. As we have learned from many of the youth movements rising up across Europe, the US, Australia and a few other parts of the world in recent months – inspired by Greta Thunberg’s action – taking collective action gives us real hope, which spurs further action.

What is the most productive things that people can do with the local and Community level that lead up to the regional National and international levels making the policy changes needed for a sustainable planet?

Transformative action is likely to look very different depending on where in the world you live. Many people feel overwhelmed by the state of the crises we are facing. As mentioned before, we only have so much power as individuals, so we need to find our community, and work together with them. We are all members of a community – whether that’s our neighbourhood or apartment building residents, our church, our kids’ school, our workplace, our union, our university, our local Friends of the Earth group.

  • What are the political demands we can make as a community?
  • What changes can we make to our community to make it more sustainable, inclusive and just?
  • And then how can we use that as an example to push for municipal-level, or national level changes?

This may be about forming a solar cooperative and then campaigning for your municipality to go solar; scaling up the social and solidarity economy by starting or joining a cooperative; supporting local economies and fair trade, and demanding that your government amend their procurement policies to prioritise small-scale and women farmers. There are just some examples of how we are more powerful and can push more transformative change when we work together, rather than only implementing individual lifestyle changes.

What policies can people push towards the local level state legislatures? We see an abandonment of plastic straws and in some cases, plastic bags, but this is not enough? Does it make a difference? And what needs to happen in the local, regional, national level to truly make a difference?

We need nothing short of a complete system change in order to genuinely address the challenges we currently face. It no small feat that many governments are imposing bans on single-use plastics. Campaigns against plastics have been hugely successful in part because the impacts of plastics are very visible and ugly. Seeing our pristine wildernesses blighted by unsightly plastic waste, and endangered animals choked by straws, moves people to action. There are direct consequences and relatively simple solutions. Climate change and biodiversity loss have a myriad of impacts that are no less shocking, however, the solutions are more complex. No one ‘needs’ plastic bags, but everyone has the right to energy. This means that in order to tackle climate change, for example, we need to fundamentally re-structure our societies and economies, which poses a much bigger challenge to the corporates and elites in control. Our reliance on fossil fuels has to end, but to truly address the crisis, energy must no longer be bought and sold for profit, but must be recognised as a common good, in the hands of people and not corporations.

Further reading is found below, Courtesy of Friends of the Earth International

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Editorials

Screen addiction, there’s still hope

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Screen consumption by girls, boys and young people is rising in the scale of concern among mothers, fathers and education professionals about the risks that it entails in the mental health of this age group. Attention is the starting point and therefore there is still hope.

By Marco Trivelli, Seed Foundation, Santiago, Chile

The business objective of the applications is to generate addiction in such a way that people are interacting with the platforms for as long as possible. With more hours in front of the screen, the greater the audience to whom to expose to the publicity.

Like the gambling, tobacco, sugar, alcohol or trans fat industries, social networks have no incentive to limit consumption and face the dilemma of privileging the common good and protecting their consumers or being carried away by greed by appealing to the freedom to develop economic activities whose only limitation is not to transgress morals or good customs.

In an investigation of the prestigious Wall Street Journal newspaper carried out on the basis of studies carried out within Facebook, the largest and most powerful social network in the world, they found that there was a list of powerful characters to whom the rules of conduct were not applied and therefore the posts were not lowered or their accounts were suspended. Facebook thus avoided the bad publicity of censoring a powerful and generated traffic or views.

Famous is the case of soccer player Neymar who responded to an accusation of rape by publishing intimate images and texts on his WhatsApp without consent and which were later replicated on Facebook and Instagram. They had 56 million views before being downloaded from the web.

Internal Facebook documents also revealed the damage Instagram is doing to the mental health of millions of young people around the world. Instagram is toxic for one in three young people with an effect on eating disorders, anxiety, depression and suicides. Even when these results were generated by the company itself, Instagram defended itself by pointing out that the network did more good than bad.

The United States Congress has requested to know the internal studies carried out by Facebook as have academics and independent study centers, but the company has refused to do so, noting that the results are not conclusive. The answer turns out to be the same as other industries gave in the past.

Becoming aware that the risks of screen addiction in children and young people is decisive for their future is an excellent opportunity for the problem to be addressed in the political processes that we are experiencing in Chile. The screen requires regulation.

At Fundación Semilla we believe that self-regulation or regulation by the State is essential, but not enough. Formal and family education needs to be redesigned by offering constructive and entertaining alternatives. As a personal testimony, I can point out that the spring wind that blew on the national holiday weekend allowed us to fly a large kite together with my grandchildren. We all enjoyed ourselves and were away from the screen for an entire afternoon. Regulation and creativity gives us hope in the task of preventing screen addiction.

Marcelo Trivelli, Seed Foundation, Santiago, Chile

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The Foreign Policy We Need

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Foreign policy is an essential component of any national development strategy. If it changes, external political and trade relations will have to change. Thirty years of a neoliberal strategy have led to an unmediated trade opening to the world economy, while our diplomacy has enthusiastically approached developed countries, distancing itself from Latin America and the countries of the South. The presidential candidate of the left, Gabriel Boric, announces that this must change.

By

The free-market logic that reigns within our economy has been fully deployed in the field of foreign relations. A radical opening to the world has been imposed, without protection of the internal market and without regulations in favour of sectors of productive transformation. As a result, trade policy has exacerbated export extractivism, closing off opportunities for productive diversification. Policy has been subordinated to big capital, and not only within our country, but also in our relations with the outside world. The economic policy of “every man for himself”, which destroyed Chilean industry and closed the doors to small business entrepreneurs, was complemented by an indiscriminate opening up of foreign trade.

The incorporation of our country into the global economy has not helped development. Growth, which businessmen, politicians and establishment economists have deified, has generated precarious employment, extreme inequalities, environmental depredation and the depletion of our natural resources. Foreign policy has been functional to this perverse growth. And this kind of growth has held back development.

After a few brief years in the early 1990s, when Chile strengthened its economic and political ties with Latin America, the Concertación governments became dizzy with height. They opted to privilege relations with developed and Asia-Pacific countries. Not to discuss the substantive political issues on the international agenda, but to establish economic and commercial commitments in free trade agreements (FTAs). Foreign policy was subordinated to FTAs. Thus, thanks to FTAs, developed countries and transnational corporations have secured their interests through the indiscriminate liberalisation of goods and services, as well as the extended protection of their investments and intellectual property, in exchange for access for our exports to large markets. This logic was also imposed in our negotiations with middle-developed countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and became the undisputed common sense in international organisations.

It is true that it is in the interest of small countries to open up economically to the world. The narrow internal space makes it difficult for the economy to reproduce itself more broadly. But in the case of Chile, economic expansion through FTAs with developed countries has not turned out to be a good deal (I mean for the country, for the people of Chile). Of course, the primary responsibility does not lie in trade policy, but in economic policy. Indeed, our economic policy does not encourage productive transformation or help to diversify exports and, at the same time, the unregulated opening of trade through FTAs has favoured the attraction of foreign investment, but it has done so in the primary and service sectors. Thus, the FTAs have served to stimulate extractivism, multiplying exports, but not natural resource exports.

In short, our country has consolidated a productive matrix that exports natural resources, and this has been favoured by trade policy. Thus, foreign policy, especially since the 2000s, has supported rapprochement with developed countries, distancing us from our neighbours. This policy, together with the commitments contained in the FTAs, hinders any joint efforts with the countries of the South to act jointly with the world powers on key issues on the international agenda: uncontrolled financial flows, intellectual property, corporate-state disputes, the environment, among others.

Consequently, if the Boric government promotes a change in the productive structure of our economy, it will also have to modify foreign policy and, in particular, foreign trade policy. It will have to introduce substantive changes. Whether unilateral or negotiated (FTA), it will be necessary to regulate the movement of goods, services and capital, in favour of the productive and social priorities proposed by the new development strategy. This has been well highlighted by Petersen and Ahumada, in reply to Ignacio Walker, who staunchly defends the type of globalisation promoted by Chilean governments (see La Tercera of 2 September 2021).

If effective productive diversification is to take place, both unilateral foreign trade policies and trade agreements cannot be neutral in terms of tariffs, financial capital, foreign investment and intellectual property. Discrimination should be made in favour of industrial sectors or those productive processes that add value and knowledge to the new productive matrix. Gabriel Boric’s programme proposes a review of existing trade agreements to assess their relevance to productive diversification. This is not an easy task, but neither is it impossible. This will require renegotiations that will demand goodwill and mutual respect between our country and its counterparts. This was emphasised by the presidential candidate in his meeting with the ambassadors of the European Union (7 September).

On the other hand, faced with the reality of globalisation and the uncertainties that have arisen with the new protectionism, our country will have to recover multilateralism, which is the best defence of small countries against powerful countries. But this policy will be effective if we are able to act as a whole, united with the countries of Latin America and eventually with other regions of the South. In short, a new government of transformations has the difficult task of strengthening the negotiating strength of “developing countries” to support the international agenda on issues of concern to us: protection of ecosystems, feminism, demilitarisation, peace, solidarity with migratory processes, among others.

At the same time, multilateralism in the economic sphere should aim to promote a fairer international trade and financial system, including: the regulation and control of financial transactions and tax havens; flexible and less costly forms of access to cutting-edge technologies; the reduction of deadlines for the protection of intellectual and industrial property, among other issues.

Our project as a country, and the possibility of having a greater presence in the international context, is linked to Latin America and the developing world. Chile must have a foreign policy of rapprochement and economic and diplomatic cooperation with that part of the world with which it shares interests and problems, even in the midst of the difficulties presented by regional institutions. And it should do so independently of political changes in Latin American governments. It is true that the issue is complex. Relations with the countries of the region, and in particular with our neighbours, are not easy.

Determined efforts will have to be made to attend with special concern to political and economic relations with neighbouring countries. Chile’s security and stability, and consequently our own democracy, are linked to the need to eliminate all sources of tension with our neighbours. This is of prime importance. Diplomatic, political and economic conflicts with neighbouring countries exalt chauvinism and stimulate arguments in favour of armament in certain sectors of our society, with high financial costs. Renewed bilateral efforts are therefore needed to foster mutual trust and, above all, to move forward with simultaneous demilitarisation initiatives.

Chile’s border understandings with Argentina in the mid-1990s have recently been obscured by the dispute over the maritime shelf on the continental ice. At the same time, the disputes with Peru and Bolivia, resolved at the Hague Court, do not lessen the historical resentments of Bolivians and Peruvians and Chileans. This must be overcome. It is necessary to embark on a determined path to put an end to tensions in order to ensure diplomatic rapprochement and peace between our countries.

Finally, there is the complex issue of regional integration, where serious difficulties have arisen in recent years. This sets limits to the deepening of Chile’s relations with the countries of the region and at other times leads to uncomfortable disputes. Consequently, it might be necessary to prioritise sub-national integration initiatives, between Chile’s regions with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. This may be more effective and, in line with the decentralising interest, would allow for interesting citizen and territorial links between neighbouring countries. This, at the same time, would favour the development of mutual trust between our countries, based on regional governments and social organisations.

This does not mean renouncing plurinational integration schemes. Firstly, it is necessary to revalue ALADI, which has allowed tariff liberalisation between all the countries of the region, especially in the 1990s; but unfortunately, in recent years, it has had little political support. Second, Chile has the opportunity to play an interesting role in converging plurilateral integration initiatives between the Atlantic (Mercosur) and Pacific (the Andean Development Community and the Pacific Alliance) schemes. Finally, the new government should support CELAC as the political integration body for Latin American and Caribbean countries. And, as recently proposed by Mexican President López Obrador, CELAC should hopefully become a replacement project for the OAS.

Foreign policy and trade policy are indispensable instruments for promoting a new development project in our country. Both must intelligently accompany productive changes, as well as economic and social policies, in order to break with neoliberalism.

Source: Pressenza

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The Spy Who Phoned In

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Is the phone in your pocket spying on you? As cell phones have become ubiquitous, government intelligence agencies have poured vast resources into hacking them, remotely stripping people of their privacy in the name of national security. Now, a burgeoning industry has emerged, generating huge profits for shadowy corporations that specialize in developing ever-more innovative ways to secretly infect digital devices with spyware. Activists, journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents the world over have been surveilled and in a number of cases arrested, tortured or killed. This week, Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research organization based at the University of Toronto, revealed the existence of a “zero-click” exploit that exposed 1.65 billion Apple iPhone and other Apple devices to a complete and almost undetectable takeover by the spyware known as Pegasus, produced by NSO Group, a private company.

By Amy Goodman

Pegasus spyware grants unlimited access to all of an infected device’s content, from chat messages to emails to phone calls, allows control of the phone’s microphone and camera, and shares the phone’s location in real time.

“NSO Group is a mercenary surveillance company based in Israel,” Ronald Deibert, director of Citizen Lab, said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “NSO Group first came on our radar back in 2016, when we discovered it was being used by the United Arab Emirates to target a human rights defender named Ahmed Mansoor. Since then, we and others have documented extensive abuses of this company’s technology.”

If you believe NSO Group’s founders, the software is only legally deployed to catch criminals, terrorists, pedophiles and the like. Not convinced, Amnesty International and 155 other civil society organizations and technology experts issued a joint letter calling for an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology: “NSO Group’s spyware has been used to facilitate human rights violations around the world on a massive scale,” the letter states. “It has become clear that its technology facilitates systemic abuse…if the recent allegations about the use of Pegasus are even partly true, then that red line has been crossed again and again with total impunity.”

Among the cases cited by Amnesty is that of Cecilio Pineda Birto, a Mexican journalist shot dead on March 2nd, 2017. He had been receiving death threats, and just that morning announced a forthcoming report on corrupt local officials colluding with organized crime figures. In 2021, Pineda’s phone number appeared on a leaked list of about 50,000 cell phone numbers from all over the world, said to be targets of the Pegasus software. Scores of journalists from the Forbidden Stories collaboration and Citizen Lab reported on the leaked list, which included hundreds of journalists and activists as well as many world leaders.

“If you don’t do anything to stop the sale of this technology, it’s not just going to be 50,000 targets. It’s going to be 50 million targets,” NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden told the Guardian last month. “And it’s going to happen much more quickly than any of us expect. The way we do that is to halt the trade of this technology.”

Pegasus was used to target phones owned by family members of Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist, both before and after his brutal murder by a Saudi kill team inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd, 2018.

Another victim of the NSO Group’s spyware is Omar Radi, an independent journalist in Morocco who has long reported on corruption, land expropriation and human rights abuses by the Moroccan government. In 2020, Amnesty International issued a report with proof that Radi’s iPhone had been infected by Pegasus spyware.

“Pegasus is a silent program. You don’t feel it,” Omar Radi told us on Democracy Now! in July, 2020, just two weeks before he was arrested by Moroccan police. “It can use your microphone, it can use your keyboard, it can use your screen, and get any information that is stored in your phone. I don’t know the amount of information they’ve stolen from my phone.” Omar Radi was recently sentenced to six years in prison.

“NSO Group is merely one among many mercenary spyware companies that exist globally,” Citizen Lab’s Ron Deibert said. “Governments that have deep pockets can simply go and purchase this type of despotism as a service off the shelf. We’ve never seen anything like that historically, the privatization of this type of digital espionage.”

Apple issued a software update that supposedly fixed this problem. But hackers will certainly find more holes in these digital device operating systems. Without a ban on Pegasus and spyware like it, human rights defenders, journalists and others will continue to be targeted, spied on, beaten, arrested and killed.

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