Puyuhuapi 006

Dam Project Threat Still Looms Large in Chilean Patagonia

Puyuhuapi 006

I reached the northern terminus of southern Chile’s Carretera Austral last week, just after Tuesday slid into Wednesday. All things considered, it is one of the most profoundly beautiful stretches of road I’ve ever experienced. Pristine glacier-fed lakes and jagged Andean peaks line both sides of the largely unpaved and sometimes rough road. It passes through national parks, traverses powerful rivers and cuts through temperate rain forests, all marking the Carretera, truly a road less traveled, as one of the world’s finest classic-style road trips.

I’m also glad I came when I did because parts of the area are under serious threat by a proposed dam project.

HidroAysén, a transnational power company, has plans on the table to construct a $3.2 billion system of five dams on two rivers that would flood upwards of 15,000 acres of rare forest ecosystems, changing forever the face and function of one of the world’s last unspoiled and pristine regions. The region’s livestock, fishing and fledgling tourism industries, on which local communities depend, would be seriously impacted.

To continue on its current track of unprecedented economic growth, Chile wants to reduce its dependence on imported oil which stands at a whopping 96 percent. But critics maintain that the project is simply a means to provide cheap electricity to mining companies in the country’s far north. More importantly, realistic alternatives, such as harvesting the wind or sun, both of which are abundant in Chile, haven’t even been considered.

Despite fierce public opposition –about 70 percent of Chileans don’t support the project– HidroAysén was granted the land and water rights back in 2011. But opponents of the project, headed by Patagonia Sin Represas, or Patagonia Without Dams, have managed to stall the final go-ahead. It’s now four years behind schedule and the pressure appears to be working. The delays are forcing major partners Colbun, who controls a 49 percent stake in the project, and majority partner Enel-Endesa to reconsider their involvement. The fight is far from over  — one Chinese company is considering to step in should one of the major investors pull out — but it’s beginning to look like this is one environmental battle that just may have a happy ending.

At the moment, the project is awaiting government approval to build nearly 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) of high voltage transmission lines that would relay the power from the south to the nation’s central grid in the north. Some of the proposed route traverses a seismically active region dotted with volcanoes. The most recent major eruption was in Chaiten in 2008.

For some additional background, check out this very good well-researched and documented piece in Upside Down World. International Rivers also has additional info and The Natural Resources Defense Council has a letter-writing campaign as well to keep up the pressure on Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.

And finally, check out the trailer below for the 2011 documentary, Patagonia Rising.

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Slovenia Comes of Age – Government Sites Targeted by Anonymous

When Slovenia signed on to Acta last week, did they actually think nobody would notice? Or maybe just hoping that most of Anonymous’s hackers simply wouldn’t know where (or what) Slovenia was?

From the video:

We encourage anyone out there, for the freedom of yourself or for the freedom of your brothers and sisters in Slovenia to join our operation. We encourage you to spread the word of ANTI-ACTA far and wide. The top priority is to steal and leak any classified government informations, including e-mails and documentations. If the decision of Slovenian Parliament and the representatives in European Parliament will not be a clear NO, we will disrupt and attack Slovenian government websites, leaking documentations and e-mails. We will show the government of Slovenia that they can not censor the people. To Slovenian government, this is your last chance… reject ACTA or face consequences from the people. OPERATION ANTI-ACTA has begun!

Last week Kader Arif, the EU rapporteur, or investigator, for ACTA resigned from his job in disgust after submitting his report. From his resignation:

I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.

As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens’ legitimate demands.”

Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.

This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.

The ACTA still has to be ratified by the European Parliament this summer before taking effect, so time remains for this to actually be discussed openly and honestly.

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Ljubljana’s ‘Boj Za’ Camp, Day 7 (LJ Pics of the Day)

Here are a few shots taken about an hour ago of the gradually growing camp of demonstrators in the plaza in front of Ljubljana’s Stock Exchange. The three large army tents firmly in place likens the area to a small, but growing refugee camp.

General assemblies continue daily at 6 pm along with a full slate of workshops. A few more details and contact info here.

Ljubljana’s ‘Boj Za’ Camp, Day 5 + Occupy Tibdits

Quick update on the Boj Za occupation of the plaza in front of Ljubljana’s Stock Exchange:

Demonstrators spent a fourth straight night camped out on Tuesday. Despite the onset of crappy weather –rain today, and snow on the way–  the numbers attending the daily workshops and those spending the night are actually steadily growing. PopTV reports that Prime Minister Borut Pahor visited the protesters on Monday night. Kids from a nearby elementary school stopped by this morning. I don’t ever recall field trips of those kinds.

Some links, most in Slovene: website, schedule/workshops/activities, and a webstream. Twitter feed is here. And here’s a brief video I shot on Sunday.

Background on the name: Borza is Slovenian for bourse, or stock exchange. At Saturday’s demonstration, the R was knocked off the archway and on Sunday replaced with a J. Boj za translates to, “Fight For”.

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Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi had a great time discussing why talk radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh is freaking out about OWS after accusing journalists of leading and advising the movement:

Dylan Ratigan didn’t invent four million people in foreclosure, he didn’t invent ten trillion dollars in bailouts, and he didn’t invent Wall Street’s $160 billion bonus pool the year after the crash of its own creation.

People out there do not need media figures to tell them how fucked things are, or how pissed they should be that the same bankers who caused the crash are now enjoying state-supported bonuses in the billions, while everyone else gets squeezed.  As someone who has been covering this stuff for three years, I can say with confidence that people across the country don’t need a push to be angry. They’re already there, and have been there for years. Rush should go hang out outside a foreclosure court in his home state of Florida for a few hours, if he wants to see where the rising heat under these protests is coming from.

Anyway, the hysterical responses from the Rushes of the world are just more signs that these protests are working. I never thought I’d see it, but some of the dukes and earls high up in America’s Great Tower of Bullshit are starting to blink a little bit. They seem genuinely freaked out that OWS doesn’t have leaders or a single set of demands, which in addition to being very encouraging is quite funny.

And finally, the first (that I’m aware off) OWS marriage proposal via human microphone: “Will you occupy my life?”

OccupyLjubljana vidblog

Here’s a quick (semi) rough cut of yesterday’s 15 October demonstrations here in Ljubljana, complete with a kick-back-and-relax-perfect-for-a-Sunday-Afternoon/evening soundtrack. Please, do share.

If you can’t download from vimeo I also uploaded it to YouTube here.

Some pics and a late night notebook were posted here last night.

Meanwhile, the focus has shifted to the Ljubljana Stock Exchange (Borza) where several demonstrators will camp out for the second night. I was there briefly earlier this evening – about 20 tents were set up, about 60 people were planning spend the night, and the evening chill was descending. I’ll post some pics later tonight.

#OccupyLjubljana Notebook.

Here’s a few dozen images from today’s #OccupyLjubljana demonstrations in the Slovenian capital, and a few scattered notes:

The crowd of some 3000 to 4000, which filled much of Kongresni Trg, or Congress Square, under the sunny mid-afternoon skies, certainly exceeded most people’s expectations. So to did the 50 or so demonstrators who decided to spend the night in tents in front of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange.

In front of Ljubljana's newest Apple store

The bulk of the crowd was made up of students and younger faces, but there were lots of young families and retirees as well making up a significant minority. There was a mildly festive feel to the gathering, but there was an underlying sense of urgency. An urgency strong enough for police to cordon off – ahead of time – the street leading to Parliament. Security was also added to the area near the U.S. Embassy.

There was plenty of creativity in the signs, most variations on the theme, ‘We won’t pay for your crises’. ‘No Jobs, No Apples’ was one of my favorites. Oh, and quite of bit of good music as well.

Translation: 'I'll trade two Barbie Dolls for one child's smile'

When the open mic session – amplification was allowed – ended just before 5 pm, much of the crowd answered the call by one of the (non) organizing groups to march towards the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, or Borza. The kilometer-long walk, with a police escort, spilled out onto one lane of Slovenska Cesta. Quite a few people voiced their support through open apartment windows and passing cars.

Once at the bourse, the crowd remained fairly energetic but peaceful. There was one minor incident: using a pole holding one end of a banner, one demonstrator gave the letter ‘R’ from BORZA several nudges until it dropped from the archway on which it was mounted in front of the building. The removal was symbolic, leaving two words in its place. Bo za roughly translates to ‘to be for’. Speakers worked that into their speeches.

That, along with a smoke bomb that sent a few small puffs of red into the air, prompted a few police officers, on the flanks, to move a little closer to the front of the building. But the situation remained calm.

The crowd began to thin just before 7. Back at Kongresni Trg, several groups of people were still hanging out, perhaps a hundred or so, a little before 8.

Like much of what transpires in this tiny alpine nation, today’s start – and it is just a start, according to organizers – won’t create too many media ripples in the world at large. But the local coverage was significant, and for the most part supportive – supportive in the sense that the demonstrators and their frustrations with the current financial order weren’t marginalized. Both Slovenia 1 and Pop TV, the two largest networks, opened their 7 pm news broadcasts with fairly extensive coverage of the events.

A few more pics below and 21 in all on my flickr stream here. Tomorrow’s a busy day, but I’ll try to check in on the campers at the Stock Exchange at some point. And hopefully put together some video as well.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery

Translation: Tito's Communist dictatorship was nothing (compared to this)

‘Are we all in the same boat?’ – #occupyLjubljana update

That was the title of a talk given last night by Slovenian philosopher and sociologist Igor Pribac, who clearly believes that we’re not.

Speaking before a group of some 80 people at the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Philosophy ahead of Saturday’s #OccupyLjubljana gathering in the Slovenian capital’s Kongresni Trg, Pribac noted how the metaphor, once widely used by ‘everyday people‘ and politicians alike, simply isn’t uttered nearly as much as it used to be. The feeling of being in the “same community of destiny”, he argued, is falling apart with alarming consequences. Pushing the metaphor further, Pribac maintains that people feel that they’re not even being given elbow room in that metaphorical boat.

That was Pribac’s working thesis to show his support for Saturday’s global actions, set for upwards of 1500 cities, and counting. And Slovenian media (read, mainstream media), at least going by a quick cursory survey this morning, are giving the Ljubljana gathering –along with those planned in the northeastern city of Maribor, the port city Koper, and Nova Gorica in the west– some decent pre-demo promotion.

Today’s edition of the daily Delo features a front page pic of #OccupyWallStreet protesters in New York City, with a local story on page 3, entitled, 15 October – day for ‘world revolution‘. There’s a nice graphic showing the spots around the world where demonstrations are being organized. And 24ur.com, the country’s most visited news portal, includes a story with a strong local angle, and a few video news spots. All links in Slovene.

Zizek at #OccupyWallStreet open forum + a Foxnews.com poll

Here are a couple of videos of Slovenian philosopher and critic Slavoj Žižek‘s talk at the #OccupyWallstreet open forum yesterday. Besides Donald Trump’s wife and perhaps a few skiers, he’s probably the best-known Slovene, and is always a joy to listen to and watch.

Well worth watching when you’ve got 17min to spare. Among the highlights:

We are not communists, if communism means the system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today that communists are the most efficient, ruthless capitalists. In China today, we have capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American capitalism, but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize capitalism, don’t allow yourself to be black mailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and capitalism is over.

And from the ‘For What It’s Worth (Probably Not Much) Department‘: Here’s a screencap taken this morning of a poll on foxnews.com. Even over there a majority seem to be behind the occupying forces.