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The tide is rising against deep sea mining

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/07/2022 - 6:55pm in

Pacific nations are leading the campaign to protect the seas

Originally published on Global Voices


The #BlueMarch in Lisbon was attended by environmentalists and activists opposed to deep sea mining. Twitter Photo from The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

Global leaders, scientists, environmental advocates, and civil society groups voiced their opposition to deep sea mining during the UN Ocean Conference held from June 27–July 1 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Deep sea mining is the practice of excavating the ocean floor to harvest rare minerals such as manganese, cobalt, copper, and nickel, which are often used for batteries, most notoriously those used in electric vehicles. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body, is currently drafting regulations that could be used by the mining industry in 2023. So far, the Pacific island nation of Nauru has expressed interest in allowing deep sea mining on its territory.

But Pacific communities are also among the most consistent in strongly opposing deep sea mining by citing the destructive colonial legacy of conducting nuclear tests in the region.

At the UN Ocean Conference, the leaders of Palau and Fiji led the launching of the Alliance of Countries Calling for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium. Palau President Surangel Whipps, Jr. said during the event:

We all have to make sacrifices and come together as nations to achieve the greater good for our planet and our people. We know that deep-sea mining compromises the integrity of our ocean habitat that supports marine biodiversity and contributes to mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama added:

If allowed to go ahead, mining will irreversibly destroy ancient deep sea habits and impact those who rely on the ocean for their livelihood.

The Fiji government warned that deep sea mining will “further jeopardize” the lives of people “who are already suffering from climate change-induced disasters.”

During a separate event at the conference, French President Emmanuel Macron also stated his opposition to mining the high seas, although France has exploration agreements with ISA. The United States climate envoy called for more studies about the impact of deep sea mining. In a letter submitted to the annual meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in early June, Chile called for a 15-year moratorium on adopting regulations that would allow deep sea mining.

Greenpeace oceans project lead Arlo Hemphill noted the growing opposition against deep sea mining:

The wall of silence is finally being shattered as countries begin to speak out against the destructive deep-sea mining industry, which would put the health of the ocean on which we all depend and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people living in coastal communities at risk.

Meanwhile, 146 parliamentarians signed the Global Parliamentary Declaration Calling for a Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining. The statement offers an alternative for states which wanted to pursue deep sea mining to extract minerals needed in the transition towards a so-called “green economy”:

Rather than launching a vast new extractive industry, States should be investing in new technologies and systems that reduce the demand for raw minerals through reuse, recycling and innovative design. The green transition must not come at the expense of biodiversity and our planet’s biggest natural carbon sink.

Aussie 14-year-old leads a trailblazing online news service

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 7:31pm in

The 6 News team aims high with informed, independent, impartial journalism

Originally published on Global Voices

Leo Puglisi interviews opposition leader Anthony Albanese during 2022 election campaign

Leo Puglisi interviews opposition leader Anthony Albanese during 2022 election campaign – Screenshot from 6 News YouTube video

Leonardo Puglisi is a force of nature. The 14-year-old leads a young team of reporters from around Australia and overseas for 6 News, an upstart news program. It presents itself as an online alternative to the mainstream media while offering similar services such as up-to-date news, long-form interviews, a flagship political program, SpinCheck, investigative reports, and fact-checking.

6 News started in 2019 as “HMV,” covering local news in the Melbourne district of Hawthorn on YouTube. It has since broadened its scope to focus on international and national news.

In addition to YouTube and its website, 6 News uses a number of platforms, including TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, to spread and promote its content.

Their Patreon account has 242 paying patrons, while their YouTube service has nearly one million views and 14 thousand subscribers so far. They recently posted a conversation with Prime Minister Anthony Norman Albanese, which has garnered over 20,000 views. His personal Twitter account has nearly 35,000 followers, and 6 News can boast 20,000.

Chief Reporter Connor Alforque’s video “Voluntary Assisted Dying: Is it ethical?” is typical of their special reports:

6 News features a collection of mainstream media television and radio interviews, plus news articles. For example, the Age newspaper reported a scoop two years ago:

A 12-year-old schoolboy has been dubbed possibly Melbourne’s youngest journalist after his “scoop” about the demolition of a 19th-century school bell tower. Year seven student Leonardo Puglisi was on the scene at 6pm on Wednesday to report the removal of the much-loved, 135-year-old school symbol at Hawthorn West Primary School, in the city's inner east.

As part of his January 2020 coverage of the Australian bushfires, Leo reported from the nation’s capital, Canberra. It includes another reporter, family member Sebastian.

An interview with a 16-year-old Trump supporter is another original and powerful video.

Leo and 6 News obviously have many admirers, including professional adult journalists:

However, he attracts more than his fair share of online criticism. Some are clearly misinformed, with some detractors not realizing he is well below voting age. His age is a continuing meme on social media:

Some critics seem plain nasty. The Katherine Deves Fan Club has taken aim several times:

This Twitter account is named after an unsuccessful Liberal Party candidate in the May 2022 Australian election, Katherine Deves. She was strongly supported by the then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison and was highly controversial for comments she made which many described as transphobic. She has since left Twitter after posting a post-election tweet about transgender people.

As this encounter shows, Leo is not afraid to join the fray on social media. This exchange with a Victorian State parliamentarian is a typical example:

Leo has interviewed many of the big names in Australian politics, including then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader and now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Ukraine’s President Volodimir Zelensky is currently at the top of his wishlist. With Leo’s energetic approach, it should not be too long before we see them in conversation.

Global Voices spoke to Leo about his experiences so far and hopes for the future on June 23, 2022:

Leo and his team join the ranks of other young Australian trailblazers such as Abbie at Her Magazine and Jack, Darcy, and Wesley at COVIDBaseAu.

Pacific groups celebrate Ocean Week by opposing deep sea mining

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/06/2022 - 4:35pm in

Ocean protectors urged ‘Stop Ocean Crime, Ban Deep Sea Mining’

Originally published on Global Voices


‘Ban Deep Sea Mining”. Photo from the Facebook page of Oxfam in the Pacific. Used with permission.

Various Pacific groups celebrated Ocean Week and Ocean Day on June 8 by calling on officials to reject deep-sea mining (DSM) in the region.

Deep-sea mining is the practice of extracting minerals from the ocean floor, which threatens marine life and ecosystems. Because of its potentially massive impact, the International Seabed Authority of the United Nations is drafting regulations against deep-sea mining that could take effect in July 2023. So far, the island nations of Nauru and Tonga have expressed interest in pursuing measures to ban or limit DSM.

The regional network Pacific Blue Line is actively opposing DSM and warns how this extractive practice would exacerbate the harsh impact of climate change that is already ravaging island communities in the Oceania region.

Pacific governments keen to pursue DSM have to ask themselves, to what extent are they willing to destroy the ocean’s life support system during a time of climate, and planetary emergency and in what is commonly known as the age of extinction. Our governments must ask themselves who stands to gain the most from the destruction of our ocean.

It would be beyond ironic if leaders of Pacific Island countries, which are already at the forefront of the impacts of climate change and facing existential threats to territorial integrity, allow themselves to be persuaded to mine the ocean floor, thereby pushing the world into the doomsday scenario.

A petition was launched to mobilize public opposition against DSM. This initiative is supported by the Pacific Parliamentarians’ Alliance on Deep Sea Mining which released a statement highlighting the destructive colonial legacy in the Pacific and how DSM would exacerbate the exploitation of the region under the guise of pursuing development.

Recent Pacific history is replete with experiences of exploitation under the guise of social and economic development pathways that, in reality, involved frontier industries that were inherently experimental. Decades of atmospheric and underground or submarine nuclear testing, terrestrial mining and other land-based extractive industries are pertinent examples. Such historical exploitation holds much responsibility for the realities of many Pacific Islands societies today; realities that serve to shrink our options and entice our countries to repeat unsustainable patterns of economic development.

During the Ocean Week in early June, Pacific Blue organized lectures and webinars to explain how DSM would destroy not just the environment but also the way of life in island communities.

Instead of DSM, Pacific groups have unveiled an alternative agenda promoting a “blue economy” that focuses on ocean protection and grassroots development.

In celebration of Ocean Day, grassroots organizations around the pacific organized protests and events to reflect the growing opposition to DSM. In West Papua, Indonesia, young volunteers organized a coastal clean-up while promoting a petition against DSM.


Young Papuans taking a pledge against deep sea mining. Photo from the Facebook page of Youngsolwara

In Fiji, the Pacific Conference of Churches gathered several individuals and groups together as part of the campaign against DSM:


A group activity celebrating Ocean Week. Photo from the Facebook page of the Pacific Conference of Churches.


“Stop Ocean Crime”. Photo from the Facebook page of the Pacific Conference of Churches.


Coastal clean up near the University of South Pacific. Photo from the Facebook page of the Pacific Conference of Churches

Podcast: Australia's election result, and a Mexican state looks for a way to deal with drought

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 10:56pm in

Editor and contributors tell us stories from their regions

Originally published on Global Voices


Image Courtesy Ameya Nagarajan

This week, our Latin America Editor Melissa Vida explains the debate over water distribution in the drought-hit state of Querétero in Mexico, after which GV contributor Kevin Rennie comes on to break down the results of the Australian elections and explain what Labour's win and those of several independent candidates could mean going forward.

The Global Voices Podcast brings you local news from all over the world. Each week, insiders from our community share what news matters more in their communities and how they build their stories out of the local context. Listen now for your weekly dose of global news in local voices.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and tell your friends about us! You can follow us on Twitter. The music in this podcast is from the track “Voyage” by NikMartken, from our extended Global Voices community.

Sorcery accusation-related violence continues to plague Papua New Guinea

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/04/2022 - 7:18am in

The majority of victims are elderly women in the highland provinces

Originally published on Global Voices


UN Women Papua New Guinea Country Office staff commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November 2015. Photo and caption from the Flickr page of UN Women. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), some already disenfranchised women have to face an added burden of sorcery accusation-related violence (SARV). However, a global initiative by the United Nations with support from the European Union has recently conducted a consultation on a proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection bill aimed at supporting groups and community leaders in ending this violence.

SARV cases remain high in the highland provinces of PNG despite a national action plan intended to eradicate the crime. Most victims of SARV are women elders in poor communities who are blamed for practicing sorcery as the cause of the mysterious illness or death of a family member. SARV cases rose during the pandemic, which reflects the lack of information about the coronavirus.

SARV was tackled by PNG legislators during a Special Parliamentary Committee in August 2021. The committee report was explicit in condemning SARV:

This type of violence is absolutely unacceptable: it is not excusable as part of PNG’s culture but rather, arises from the misunderstanding (and sometimes the deliberate manipulation) of traditions and religion to harm innocent people, in particular women and children.

SARV against women is often particularly brutal and sexualised, with the violent acts specifically targeting the victim’s womanhood.

The committee also tried to ascertain the number of SARV cases while noting that the incidents could be higher since many victims are reluctant to file a legal action against family members:

An average of 388 people are accused of sorcery each year in the 4 provinces combined. A third of these led to physical violence or property damage. Amongst those accused, 65 were killed, 86 suffered permanent injury and 141 survived other serious assault and harm, such as burning, cutting, tying or being forced into water. Overall, 93 cases involved torture: 20 lasted several days and 10 lasted a week or even longer. The submission used that data to estimate the number of violent SARV incidents between the year 2000 and June 2020 to be over 6,000, resulting in an estimated 3,000 deaths nationally.

Writing for the DevPolicy blog, Anton Lutz and Miranda Forsyth highlighted the long-term impact of SARV on survivors, especially women and children:

In our 4-year study, we found that only 15% of victims die, leaving more than enough scarred, traumatised, unsupported, fearful people to seek redress in court. But they don’t. They move away. They go into hiding. They bounce around from safe house to safe house. They wait. They hope they don’t get attacked again.

SARV cases were still being recorded even after a nationwide campaign was launched against the crime. In an editorial published in January, Post-Courier pressed for urgent action:

Is murder and terrorism crippling society that we blame sorcery as the easy way out and ignore it?

This matter has been raised before.

But no one is changing because lives are being lost or ruined and no one seems to care.

Women especially are being targeted so there must be people who have deep hatred for women.

They could be sick in the head.

It would also appear that tribal enmity is creeping into the so-called sorcery killings and it is a payback in disguise.

Payback killings are well known in PNG so why are we naive about it?

Fr Giorgio Licini of the Catholic Bishops Conference echoed the call for better government response to this complex social problem: “The traditional reaction to sorcery in old Europe and current PNG appears to be largely irrational, based on suspicion and fear, retaliation and pay-back, opportunism, lies and business. The legislation is poor, insufficient, practically inexistent for an issue that is complex. It involves murder but is more than common criminal behaviour.”

Dominic Kanea, a SARV survivor, asked for tougher penalties against those who commit SARV:

We need the MPs from the upper Highlands region to work in unity to fight against sorcery accusation-related violence.

Introduce tougher penalties for the cowards who prey on innocent people and go on the spree of destroying properties worth millions of kina [PNG currency] and killing of innocent people.

Women’s rights advocate Dame Carol Kidu insists that SARV is a recent phenomenon and cautions against associating it with any PNG traditions or history:

In no anthropological writings have I seen reference to anything barbaric as this. This is not part of the ancestry of PNG as we are far more a caring society. I do not know why it has emerged like this, because we know that sorcery is part of PNG's society, but SARV is not part of the society. SARV killings are premeditated murder and encouraged by friends and relatives.

Fiona Hukula of the PNG National Research Institute warns about how the ongoing pandemic is fueling fear and even increasing instances of SARV:

…there is a risk that the health crisis posed by COVID-19 has the potential to precipitate economic and social crisis. This in turn may well involve violence, as people look to allocate blame and find protection in uncertain times by scapegoating others.

The government and society at large needs to act fast to prevent the spread of fear that is a catalyst for violence and social unrest.

Watch this video on how the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection bill can boost the work of women community leaders in fighting SARV in PNG:

Citizens push back on Palau’s plan to open marine sanctuary to commercial fishing and exploration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/04/2022 - 7:38pm in

The move is meant to aid pandemic-related economic loss

Originally published on Global Voices


The “Milky Way” cove in Palau seen from the air. Photo from Flickr page of LuxTonnerre, (CC BY 2.0)

Palau's Olbiil Era Kelulau (Congress) is considering a bill that will open their expansive marine sanctuary, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS), to commercial fishing and oil exploration. In response, citizens are circulating an online petition opposing the proposal.

Palau is a small archipelago of more than 500 islands located on the western side of the Pacific. In 2015, the Palau government established the PNMS which designated 80 percent of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a conservation area with no international or domestic fishing, while 20 percent was set aside as a domestic fishing zone. This marine protected area became one of the largest in the world and was hailed as a model for countries that want to conserve their marine resources. After five years of planning, the PNMS became fully operational in 2020.

But two years later, the government is already considering reopening 50 percent of Palau’s EEZ to foreign fishing fleets in order to generate revenue and stimulate the economy. House Bill No. 11-30-2S proposes temporarily reopening the PNMS and allowing commercial fishing and even oil exploration as the nation grapples with dwindling resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Palau’s tourism sector, which employs 20 percent of the population, was severely affected by the pandemic.

As of 2021, Palau's GDP had contracted 17. percent due to pandemic-related losses, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The bill says that “foreign fishing agreements brought significant revenue to the Republic,” adding:

By temporarily permitting fishing pursuant to foreign fishing agreements within EEZ, the Republic will bring much-needed revenue for the national and state governments, as well as local vendors and will have a significant positive impact on the economy.

Before the closure, the government received around USD 700,000 per year from fishing licenses through its vessel day scheme (VSD), equaling about USD 40,000 per state. The VSD is an agreement between some Pacific island nations that sets limits on the number of days a fishing vessel can fish in each nation's economic zones and is considered one of the most complex, yet successful, fishing regulations in the world.

Palau receives an average of USD 8 million per year from the VSD.

However, other estimates show that between international conservation and development grants — both money and supplies — Palau has received over USD 70 million so far as a result of the PNMS. This year alone, Palau received USD 1.8 million from the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) to help implement the PNMS over a four-year period, according to reporting from the Mariana Variety, Micronesia's leading news outlet.

Environmental cost

The bill was criticized by Palau environmentalists, community elders, and concerned citizens alike. Environment group Ebiil Society initiated an online petition against the bill. The petitioners have a reminder for Palau authorities:

…While it is understood that there is a need to seek ways to bolster our revenue earning capacity, short-term solutions should not jeopardize well thought out long-term policy objectives established for our Republic by the Palauan people.

…We believe there is a multitude of unexplored alternatives resulting in sustainable revenues that return social and environmental gains, that reflects our deep wisdom and connection to the ocean, which has cradled our lives and sustained our culture for many generations.

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. acknowledged the petition and responded that the government is offering a solution. He said this to the media:

We want to come up with a solution. So I don’t know if they’re opposing the solution or they’re opposing something else. What we’re doing is providing a solution. So I hope we can all work together to solution that benefits everyone. That’s really the goal. So I think a lot of times we do petitions or we run around doing things being misinformed.

During a public hearing for the bill, House Speaker Sabino Anastacio pointed out that the funds that Palau is entitled to receive from international environment donors are not being used to finance the country’s needs. He added that the state is not aware about how some of the grants given to Palau are being spent by non-profit organizations.

When the money comes, these are non-profit so we don’t see the paperwork. We don’t know how much goes to the [salaries] and where the rest of the money goes.

During the same hearing, some stakeholders asserted that Palau stands to benefit more if the PNMS is maintained.

The hashtag #SaveMySanctuary is used to mobilize online support against the bill.

The Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook page has uploaded several videos featuring Palau residents who want to preserve the PNMS.

Ngatpang Chief and Chairman of Belau Offshore Fisheries, Inc. Rideb Okada Techitong explained how the PNMS was conceived as an application of the indigenous Palau practice of “bul” which prescribes a moratorium on the use of resources to prevent the destruction of a habitat or species.


A screenshot from the Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook video

Dora Benhart, Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement Outreach Officer, warned about how reopening the PNMS will negatively affect the Palau way of life.


A screenshot from the Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook video

Fisherman and Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary board member Adolph Demei recalled how overfishing has caused a decline in Palau’s fisheries which prompted elders to declare a “bul” and led to the establishment of the PNMS.


A screenshot from the Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook video

Ironically, Palau will host the 7th annual “Our Ocean Conference” on April 13–14 as representatives of governments and civil society organizations from around the world will meet and discuss new and significant measures to protect the ocean.

Mass coral bleaching of Australia's Great Barrier Reef goes under the media radar

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 1:56am in

The devastating event threatens reef's long term survival

Originally published on Global Voices

Great Barrier Reef faces another severe bleaching event

A screenshot from an ABC News video “Great Barrier Reef faces another severe bleaching event”

The busy news cycle seems to have crowded out coverage of the fourth mass coral bleaching in six years at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed this in its Reef Health report on March 25, 2022:

It did not receive the attention such an event usually generates in mainstream or social media, either locally or internationally. The war in Ukraine, floods in eastern Australia, debates about Australia's Federal budget before a national election in May, the unexpected death of much-admired cricketer Shane Warne and other celebrity news took centre stage down under.

Coral reef scientist Professor Terry Hughes lamented:

NPR’s radio program “All things Considered” featured a brief report:

It included this comment from Emily Darling of the Wildlife Conservation Society:

What jumps out at me is the frequency of these events. There's just been no recovery window for the corals.

Not everyone on social media is convinced:

On the other side of the continent, Federal parliamentarian Josh Wilson is concerned that similar damage to the Ningaloo Reef in his State of Western Australia needs more publicity:

The Australian federal budget was brought down a week after the bleaching announcement. The speech by Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, mentioned climate change just once. Many condemned the lack of extra funding to combat climate change. The Climate Council lamented this failure of funding:

THE 2022 Federal Budget has failed to deliver any meaningful commitments to address escalating climate change in Australia.

Nicki Hutley, Climate Councillor, leading economist and former Partner at Deloitte Access Economics, who was in today’s Budget lockup, has calculated that just 0.3% of total expenditure for 2021-2024 has been committed to climate change initiatives, falling even lower, to just 0.2% in 2024-2026.

The pro-renewables Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) had a bleak take on the numbers:

They argued that: “Despite the Federal Government saying it’s committing funding to energy and emissions reduction measures in the 2022-23 Budget, the spending on climate is reducing over the next four years, and spending on LNG, gas, carbon capture and storage, and ‘clean’ but not necessarily ‘green’ hydrogen has increased.”

At “The Conversation”, scientists from north Queensland's James Cook University highlighted another unusual aspect of the bleaching:

This is the first time the reef has bleached under the cooling conditions of the natural La Niña weather pattern, which shows just how strong the long-term warming trend of climate change is.

Coincidentally, the United Nations World Heritage Centre's monitoring mission was visiting Australia to decide whether the reef should be listed as a World Heritage site in danger:

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) will undertake a mission to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef from 21 to 30 March 2022 to assess its state of conservation and a long-term sustainability plan for its protection.

In July 2021, Environment Minister Sussan Ley managed to avert this potentially embarrassing outcome.

In a different part of eastern Australia, Sydney’s world-renowned Bondi beach was experiencing another climate-related event:

Meanwhile, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has warned that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach”.

Retired soccer star and human rights activist, Craig Foster, was just one of many to underline the urgency:

Meet ‘Lock the Gate’ Alliance: Australia's grassroots environmental campaigners

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/02/2022 - 4:43pm in

No campaign is too small or adversary too powerful

Originally published on Global Voices

Lock the Gate - New South Wales 2020

New South Wales 2020 – Photo courtesy Lock the Gate Flickr account (CC BY 2.0)

It is rare to encounter a nationwide environmental group as active and successful as Australia’s Lock the Gate Alliance (LTG).  The grassroots organisation brings together “farmers, traditional custodians, conservationists and urban residents”, working to defend the environment.

The movement campaigns against “risky coal mining and coal seam gas and fracking” and has taken on some of Australia's biggest polluters and environmental aggressors.

The name, “Lock the Gate”, comes from its launch in 2010:

…when farmers from south-east Queensland gathered in Brisbane around a farm gate, vowing to take a stand to protect their farms and communities from inappropriate mining.

LTG is one of the largest grassroots groups in Australia, with over 120,000 supporters and 450 local branches. Its annual budget is AUD 2 million (USD 1.4 million) and it has approximately 20 staff and contractors.

No campaign seems too small, or adversary too large and powerful. The group has tackled issues of global significance such as a campaign to stop Adani’s huge coal mine in central Queensland and one to prevent fracking in Australia's Northern Territories.

At the same time LTG energetically supports local efforts to stop mining such as the Baralaba South coal project:

Their allies include the Knitting Nannas Against Gas who use their own unique tactics:

we get together at politicians’ offices, work sites, rallys and anywhere else we please to show a mild mannered yet stubborn front, where we get out our camp chairs, table (with lace tablecloth if possible), our knitting (of course!) and have a little tea party.

This was a recent example:

Global Voices interviewed LTG spokesperson Georgina Woods about their work and learned about one of Australia's most successful local environmental efforts.

Global Voices: Lock the Gate has been campaigning since 2010. What was the initial catalyst for its formation?

Georgina Woods: Lock the Gate was formed in two places at once, southern Queensland to tackle coal seam gas, and the Hunter Valley to tackle coal mining. In both places, these resources industries were undergoing significant expansion and putting agricultural livelihoods and communities at risk. Farmers, landholders, and environmentalists teamed up to make common cause to protect land and water from degradation by those industries.

GV: What factors have contributed to the spread of the organisation?

GW: Lock the Gate is unique because it draws people together from very different walks of life, united by their common love of the land and the bush, their reliance on water and their commitment to community. As a grassroots network, Lock the Gate remains committed to supporting local communities and undertakes its work with creativity and heart.

GV: What are the main priorities for action? 

GW: The gas industry is looming as a huge threat over three large, beautiful and remote parts of the country — the Channel Country in Queensland's Lake Eyre Basin, the Beetaloo Basin and Roper Gulf in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley in the far north of Western Australia. Opening these basins to sprawling industrial gasfields would severely deplete and compromise water resources, harm local communities and unleash huge volumes of greenhouse gas emissions. In New South Wales, the north west of the state still faces the threat of coal seam gas and large and expanding coal mining, as does central and southern Queensland.

GV: What are some of your proudest moments and successful campaigns, and your most frustrating setbacks?

GW: Lock the Gate's successes really belong to the local communities that we support. Rural communities across large swathes of New South Wales saw off the threat of unconventional gas from the Northern Rivers, Illawarra, Hunter Valley and Gloucester and the area available for coal seam gas in the north west of the state has been severely restricted. Together we have stopped several damaging coal mining developments from going ahead in Queensland and New South Wales and achieved significant new laws dealing with the social impacts of mining and mine rehabilitation.

Our most frustrating setbacks follow a pattern around the country: politicians prioritising the interests of big mining companies over the needs and desires of local communities. This has led to terrible harm being done to local communities, bushland and waterways in places like Maules Creek, Wollar and Bulga.

GV: What criteria do you use in deciding if LTG will support a particular issue or campaign?

GW: Lock the Gate works with local communities, fighting for the things that matter to them, so our work is always guided by the people that have the most to lose from mining developments.

GV: What tactics do you employ given your peaceful principles?

GW: We support local and regional communities to form groups and alliances to front up to the power and vested interests of the mining industry. We also use research, regulatory processes, films and photography, music and other creative avenues to amplify these local campaigns. We support local groups to survey their own community, road by road and block by block, to give the community a direct voice, to record every view and then to make a formal declaration about their stance on projects threatening their region.

GV: A final message of your readers?

GW: It's always worth fighting for what you love.

A couple of current campaigns highlight LTG’s approach. As mentioned in the interview, they are involved nationally in the fight to protect the Channel Country, Northern Territory and the Kimberley from gas development.

At a more local level, they are supporting the Hunter Jobs Alliance, which is bringing environmentalists and unions together to advocate for a positive future for the country's largest thermal coal-producing region.

The Hunter Valley of New South Wales is one of Australia’s major coal exporting regions, employing 14,000 people. It is the centre of intense political debate about the future of the industry.

No doubt Lock the Gate will continue to be at the centre of such debates.

Tongans share stories of how they survived the volcano eruption and tsunami

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/01/2022 - 6:59pm in

It was world's strongest volcanic explosion in over 30 years

Originally published on Global Voices


An area of Tonga that shows the heavy ash fall from the recent volcanic eruption within the Tongan Islands. Source: Wikipedia. Photo by NZ Defence Force, (CC BY 4.0)

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai underwater volcano erupted on January 15 spewing ash into the atmosphere and surrounding regions, and triggering multiple tsunamis that devastated several islands in the South Pacific nation of Tonga.

Scientists estimate that it was the strongest volcanic eruption on the planet in the past 30 years. The Hunga explosion was also the loudest noise on Earth in the past century. Tsunamis related to the eruption were recorded as far as Japan, the United States, and Peru.

According to the Tonga government, ashfall and a tsunami from the volcanic eruption affected an estimated 84 percent of the population. It took several days for power and internet connection to be restored on the main island.

First-hand accounts of the eruption

Matangi Tonga Online, a news website, reported that communication lines continued to be unreliable almost a week after the eruption:

This is a traumatic time for everyone in Tonga and also for our families overseas who are anxious for news. We are disrupted from our normal activities.

Our communications were knocked out along with our main power.

We've received many incoming emails yesterday, Friday Jan. 21, but our email responses are not going out. We are receiving text messages but our text messages are not going out.

Slowly, bit by bit services are being restored. We do not have full internet in our office. We are able to upload today thanks to a service provider, sharing a limited satellite link.

When internet was partially restored in some areas, Tongans were able to post photos of the destructive impact of the eruption:

Some Facebook users, such as Tevita Tai Fukofuka, also shared their experiences during the eruption:

…it felt like the heavens cracked open and the world exploded inside my ear. It left my ears ringing as if I’m in a descending plane and I’m half deaf for a couple of seconds. I’ve never heard a louder noise in all my life. Everything shook. The car, house, earth. I look up the sky and see a dozen flocks of birds heading in all directions

… Down came the sulphur ash rain in the form of pebbles, ash and dust. We can hear it on the our roof and the houses along the road. The sky darkened full of ash clouds forcing night on us.

The owner of Ha'atafu Beach Resort recalled how their family and guests were able to survive the first tsunami wave:

According to Moana [the resort manager], the first tsunami wave actually hit before the major eruption happened. So they actually didn’t even have time to do anything as the waves continued to sweep through the land. Once the guests had escaped, Moana, Hola and the kids actually had to climb up a mango tree to escape the waves before fleeing into our family friends car and eventually rushing off in land in the nick of time.

A survivor remembered the tsunami reaching as high as a coconut tree:

Hon. Frederica Tuita saw the roads covered with three inches of ash. She was separated from her children and was relieved to see her family again:

As we drove on the road, no other vehicle was moving, everyone had been told to find shelter, anyone found driving around by police were instructed to park there. Everything was covered in at least 3 inches of ash. The road was dark and the island was completely still with uncertainty lingering in the air. We turned into my home and relief washed over me as I saw candle light shining out from inside. As I walked up I greeted my sister and her husband who had sought safety there and walked inside to all 3 of my children running towards me. I knelt down and embraced them all at once, this was all the sustenance I needed.

She also posted a video showing the extent of the ash fall in her community:

Lisala Folau remembered not responding to his son while he was washed away by the tsunami so that his son will not follow after him:

This was 7pm.
We floated at sea, just calling out to each other. It was dark and we could not see each other. Very soon I could not her my niece calling any more but I could hear my son calling. The truth is no son can abandon his father. But for me, as a father I kept my silence for if I answered him he would jumped in and try to rescue me. But I understand the tough situation and I thought if the worst comes and it is only me.

My thinking was if I answered him he would come and we would both suffer so I just floated, bashed around by the big waves that kept coming.

He floated in the waters for 27 hours before he was rescued. His story was covered in the news:

The Facebook page Ordinary Tongan Lives shared photos and interviews with some survivors. One survivor lamented that they could no longer go back to their island:

There’s a yearning to be back home. But there’s only very few houses, a church, and a school building standing there. Everything else is gone. The middle of the island has long ditches running across from the waves. It’s only been a week but the memory of it all will take a while to go away. Last night, my daughter called at 2:30am asking me what noise she’s hearing. Imediately, I panicked. Every noise, even a roaring vehicle can strike fear. That’s a reality we have to live with now.

Relief and recovery efforts are ongoing in Tonga. Since the devastation, residents have organized clearing campaigns to clear the airport runways so that aid from other countries can be delivered.

Tongans have started rebuilding their lives and communities but many are worried about the future since the island nation is also at risk from the harsh impact of climate change.

Police violently break up Afghan refugee protest in Indonesia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/01/2022 - 7:45pm in

The refugees would like either citizenship or resettlement

Originally published on Global Voices


Afgan refugees in Indoneisa have been meeting to protest perceived inaction from the UNHCR. Refugees are calling for either Indonesian citizenship, or resettlement elsewhere. Image via YouTube.

Content notice: This article contains mention of depression, suicide, and police violence.

A peaceful protest of Afghan refugees was violently broken up by police on January 17 in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, a city on the island of Sumatra. The refugees were attempting to draw international attention to their years of displacement, mistreatment, and neglect by the Indonesian government and the international community. Police dispersed the protest by beating attendees and striking them with batons. Several attendees were reportedly injured. 

The protest emerged outside of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office because an Afghan refugee community member committed suicide on January 16. They were the 15th person to die from suicide in the community. Veronica Koman, an Amnesty International representative tweeted a video of the clash [content notice: some viewers may find the following video disturbing]: 

Some Afghan refugees have been living in limbo in Indonesia for over a decade, waiting to either receive citizenship from the Indonesian government or get approval and documents to move to another country. 

Mohammad Juma Mohseni was forced to leave Afghanistan in 2011 and has been living in Indonesia for nearly a decade. He told Gandhara news, a branch of Radio Free Europe, “[Fifteen] people have committed suicide and 10 have been prevented from committing suicide.” He added, “neither Indonesia nor the UNHCR has had a positive message for us.”

The Indonesian government is not party to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 protocol intended to eliminate restrictions on who can be considered a refugee. It does not have any official asylum laws and delegates all oversight to the UNHCR office and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). There are over 13,700 Afghani refugees in Indonesia who have been there for over 10 years. 

According to the SUAKA, an Indonesian civil society organization for refugee rights, asylum seekers in Indonesia are not permitted to work, receive social benefits from the Government of Indonesia, ​​own a car or motorbike, travel outside city limits, or go to university.

The IOM covers basic living costs while they await repatriation or resettlement. 

International inattention and tragedy


Some Afghan refugees in Indonesia have been camping outside of the UNHCR building for months. Screenshot courtesy of YouTube.

Monday’s incident is the latest in a number of heartbreaking incidents in recent months as Afghan refugees desperately try to call attention to their plight in Indonesia. Some refugees have been continuously camping out outside UNHCR offices waiting for news about their resettlement and attempting to raise awareness about their situations.

A group of Afghan refugees staged a 24-hour protest outside the IOM office in Medanon on November 30, 2021. One attendee, Ahmad Shah, 22, set himself on fire in front of the building. He had been in Indonesia awaiting permanent resettlement, separated from his family and loved ones, and unable to leave the country since 2016. 

He suffered third-degree burns and was reportedly taken to a nearby private hospital until he was moved to a public one on the same day. 

UNHCR Indonesia spokesperson Dwi Prafitria Juma told The Jakarta Post the agency was “deeply concerned about” and investigating the incident.

At least two dozen Afghan refugees had previously set themselves on fire. Six survived. 

“This is the seventh person we saved who was experiencing undue stress and fighting depression from living in limbo for around seven years,” said Juma in a press conference in front of the UNHCR office.

In recent months numerous refugees in Indonesia have sewn their mouths shut as a form of civil disobedience and protest.

In an interview with the Voice of America news agency the founder of Solidarity Indoenisa for Refugees (SIR), Ali Yusef, explained that Indonesia's refugees feel forced to take such extreme measures because they feel silenced and unheard. He worries for their mental health and urged UNHCR representatives to take immediate action.

The facts on the ground are that the UNHCR is less responsive to the fate of refugees in Indonesia. The proof is that they are not able to communicate with UNHCR when they want. … Don't let their delay mean the refugees who are sewing their mouths can injure themselves or even take their own lives. In the name of humanity UNHCR, please meet them. Explain that UNHCR is looking for a solution for them.

He added, “The world will judge Indonesia to be indifferent to international citizens.”

Both the UNHCR and IOM are responsible for managing refugees in Indonesia until they can be moved to another more permanent location. Both have been accused of neglecting and mishandling refugee affairs in the past. 

Before the Taliban came to power in August 2021, Indonesia housed the fourth-largest number of Afghan refugees in the world — behind Iran, Pakistan, and India. Most of these refugees intended to stop in Indonesia only temporarily until they could reach Australia. However, in 2013, Australia closed its borders to refugees and asylum seekers. Many were left stateless and stranded in Indonesia without recourse.

The situation has worsened since Kabul fell in August 2021. Experts say the situation in Afghanistan is likely exasperating feelings of helplessness that many Afghan refugees already deal with. It has also crushed their slim hopes of potentially returning to their home country and made it even more unlikely they will get rehoused, due to added influx of new refugees who have fled the Taliban.

Additionally, many countries have lowered the number of refugees they accept in recent years, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of resettled refugees has reached a 20-year low, according to the UNHCR. The organization found that 160 countries had closed their borders at some point during the pandemic in 2020, with 99 states making no exceptions for people seeking protection.

As a result, many refugees are finding it impossible to relocate to a third country or attain stability.

For years, refugee advocacy organizations have been calling for improved conditions in Indonesia, though those calls have not received much traction. In the meantime, citizens are doing what they can and using the hashtag #HelpRefugees_Indonesia on Twitter and social media, as a rallying call to support refugees. 

In a change.org petition, discussing the situation Afghan refugees face in Indonesia, Musa Zafar wrote:

Their most basic fundamental rights, which are emphasized in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are systematically infringed on a daily basis. Their freedom of movement, education, employment, and political and social rights have been ignored. These people have been forgotten and the world has turned a blind eye to their crisis.

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