Archive for the 'land grabs' Category

The Price of Thirst: How Millionaires Buy Up Farmland And Hoard All Our Water

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“Where I grew up, the city of Los Angeles diverted water away from Owens Lake, slowly draining it starting in 1913. It took more than ten years for the lake to dry up and turn into a toxic dust bowl, when naturally occurring heavy metals like aluminum and cadmium that had concentrated in the salt lake over centuries became airborne. This dust has been shown to cause cancer and respiratory failure, among other ailments. I grew up experiencing water inequity in my own body.

So when I saw Sean Hannity on Fox News broadcasting from another California valley allegedly drained of its water, I must admit I became curious. In September 2009, Hannity broadcast from Huron, California, in a weeklong special titled “The Valley Hope Forgot.” He was broadcasting from the poorest congressional district in the nation, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. According to the 2009 U.S. Census, 39 percent of Huron’s close to eight thousand residents live below the poverty line. It is a migrant labor town, a cotton-picker town, and is 98.6 percent Latino/a. Huron has no medical services, no high school, and no voting booth during elections, because most of the residents are undocumented. Some 80 percent of Huron residents have not finished high school, and children who are born there have more birth defects than children anywhere else in the country—most likely due to pesticide exposure.

One resident of Huron said she shut the windows when the wind blew. “What good is the wind?” she asked. “It’s all poison.” The water quality is no better, ranking 490 out of 502 cities in California, with fecal coliform bacteria, E. coli, and nitrates found in dangerous levels. The water system is built and run by Tri-City Engineering and owned by a former manager of Bechtel.

I could certainly see why Hannity would call it “The Valley Hope Forgot.” Ironically, these were not the problems that Hannity had come to discuss. According to Fox News, Huron had only one problem: “environmental extremists” had turned off the water to save a “two-inch fish” in the Bay Area. According to Hannity, both the winter-run Chinook salmon and the delta smelt had been listed as endangered species in 1994, an event that wreaked havoc on local farms. It had been determined that water pumped for farming in the San Joaquin Valley was destroying the fishes’ habitat up north. In an area known simply as “the Delta,” an ecologically unique inland estuary exists between San Francisco and Sacramento. Through this Delta, much of the state’s water supply passes, as do its endangered fish species. It turned out they were all competing for water.”

Read more: AlterNet

 

Water supply key to outcome of conflicts in Iraq and Syria

Photo retrieved from: www.grist.org

“Rivers, canals, dams, sewage, and desalination plants are now all military targets in the semi-arid region that regularly experiences extreme water shortages, says Michael Stephen, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute think tank in Qatar, speaking from Baghdad.

“Control of water supplies gives strategic control over both cities and countryside. We are seeing a battle for control of water. Water is now the major strategic objective of all groups in Iraq. It’s life or death. If you control water in Iraq, you have a grip on Baghdad, and you can cause major problems. Water is essential in this conflict,” he said.

ISIS Islamic rebels now control most of the key upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates, the two great rivers that flow from Turkey in the north to the Gulf in the south and on which all Iraq and much of Syria depends for food, water, and industry.

“Rebel forces are targeting water installations to cut off supplies to the largely Shia south of Iraq,” says Matthew Machowski, a Middle East security researcher at the U.K. houses of parliament and Queen Mary University of London.

In April, ISIS fighters in Fallujah captured the smaller Nuaimiyah Dam on the Euphrates and deliberately diverted its water to “drown” government forces in the surrounding area. Millions of people in the cities of Karbala, Najaf, Babylon, and Nasiriyah had their water cut off but the town of Abu Ghraib was catastrophically flooded along with farms and villages over 200 square miles. According to the U.N., around 12,000 families lost their homes.

Earlier this year, Kurdish forces reportedly diverted water supplies from the Mosul Dam. Equally, Turkey has been accused of reducing flows to the giant Lake Assad, Syria’s largest body of fresh water, to cut off supplies to Aleppo, and ISIS forces have reportedly targeted water supplies in the refugee camps set up for internally displaced people.”

Read more: Grist

 

 

Omo River, Lake Turkana at Risk from Dams and Plantations

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Dams and irrigated plantations being built in Ethiopia will bring major changes to the flow of the Lower Omo River, which in turn will harm ecosystem functions and local livelihoods all the way to the river’s terminus at Lake Turkana in Kenya. More dams are planned for the basin that would compound the damages.

Here we outline some of the basic changes that can be expected as a result of these developments, and include resources on where to get more information.

Fast Facts

  • The Gibe III reservoir is expected to start filling at the beginning of the next Kiremt rainy season (approximately May 2014); filling the reservoir will take up to three years. During this time, the river’s yearly flow will drop as much as 70%.
  • The Gibe III will provide stable flows year-round that will enable the growth of large commercial agricultural plantations in the Lower Omo. The Kuraz sugar plantation and additional areas identified for cultivation could eventually take almost half of the Omo River inflow to Lake Turkana.
  • These projects will cause a decrease in river flow and the size, length, and number of floods, which will be disastrous for downstream users. This is the first year in which runoff from the Kiremt season, which is vital for flood-recession agriculture, restoration of grazing areas, and fisheries production, will be almost completely blocked.”

Read more: International Rivers


 

You’re invited to Jenna Cavelle’s lecture “Environmental (In)Justice in Native America: The Case of the Owens Valley Paiute” Thursday, Nov 21st at UC Berkeley!

Environmental (In)Justice in Native America: The Case of the Owens Valley Paiute

Over the past 150-years the expropriation of land and water from aboriginal communities in the Owens Valley have had devastating impacts for both people and the environment. Impacts include but are not limited to; loss of land and water rights, increased air pollution, habitat destruction and water scarcity.  These effects have in turn led to erasure of cultural landscapes and caused enduring historical trauma. While non-Indian communities in the region have experienced similar Environmental Justice (EJ) issues, disproportionate exposures for the native community are due in large part to their exclusion from larger EJ discussions and narratives. This lecture will show how community-based projects can promote an EJ framework within tribes through inclusion, indigenous activism and participant media.

The lecture is from 12:30pm – 2pm at GPB 100 on UC Berkeley campus (across from Pat Brown’s). The lecture will begin with the 30-minute conclusion of the documentary film Mulholland’s Dream followed by a 50-minute talk with 10-minutes of Q&A. Following the lecture is the opening reception of Jenna Cavelle’s exhibition at the Bancroft Library titled Water & Culture: Recovering Owens Valley Paiute History. The reception will last from 2-4pm with Cavelle making remarks at 3pm.  For more information contact: jennacavelle@peakwater.org

Cavelle is a published environmental journalist and researcher with a degree in Conservation and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley and is an entering MFA Candidate in Film at the University of Southern California (Spring 2014). Using a Political Ecology approach, her research examines human-environment interactions throughout the Citarum River Basin in West Java, Indonesia. Here, she explores the ecological, cultural, political, and economic factors that underlie water scarcity, degradation, and conflict with an emphasis on how local systems intersect with global forces to produce changes in access among differing groups.

Currently, Cavelle works with members of the Paiute Indian community of Owens Valley, California on a project that combines education, outreach, and technology to restore cultural memory associated with their ancient irrigation systems. These waterworks are currently in danger of being lost in the Owens Valley landscape through weathering and neglect. In addition, knowledge of the waterworks is also fading from American memory through the loss of culturally transmitted traditional knowledge. Through community engagement, her project works with tribal members to document Paiute irrigation networks and their role in shaping Paiute culture using museum exhibits, cartography and documentary film. While this project has real bearing on tribal customs and interests, it also informs larger local and regional communities.

THIS SATURDAY, Nov 2nd: “Water and the California Dream” by David Carle

Film History as Urban Mystery: The Case of Chinatown

Film History as Urban Mystery: The Case of Chinatown, By John Walton

Introduction

Historians and students of film are familiar with movies based upon historical events and particularly with cinematic representations of those events, which are said to distort, reinterpret, or otherwise alter history in popular memory. Seldom, however, do we find instances of the effect of film and popular culture on history. The reason, perhaps, is that the latter side of this dialectic is rare or inconsequential in the unfolding course of history. This chapter will argue, on the contrary, that sometimes life imitates art, that renditions of the past in popular culture can have a forceful impact on the making of history. This proposition is examined in the context of Los Angeles’s historical, and often controversial, efforts to acquire water for development the political movement to restrain the city’s appropriation of natural resources mounted by citizens of the Owens Valley in the 1920s, the selective reinterpretation of these events in Roman Polanski’s classic filmChinatown (1974), and the influence of the film on the subsequent and ongoing controversy over water rights and land development in the region since the mid-1970s.

These events began when the City of Los Angeles reached out 230 miles to the northeast along California’s eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain chain and appropriated water from the Owens Valley in an aqueduct constructed from 1905 to 1913. Subsequently, drought and growing groundwater exploitation by the city in the 1920s resulted in the valley’s steady desiccation.

Urged on by growing desperation and traditions of popular action, the valley rose in revolt in 1924, protesting politically and, when that failed, bombing the aqueduct. Although the community struggle of the 1920s ended in defeat, it left a growing residue of memory in accounts of the David-and-Goliath struggle produced in fiction, local history, and early films. Many of these distorted the facts of the conflict by attributing a conspiratorial design to the city’s original effort to build the aqueduct and heroic motives to local resistance. In California parlance, these events came to be known histrionically as “the rape of the Owens Valley.”Chinatown built on this myth and it too altered the facts of the case. The site of the conflict was moved 200 miles closer to the city, the events were advanced by thirty years to the depression-era LA of Raymond Chandler and the story was reconstructed as a murder mystery revolving around conspiratorial land speculation.

Meanwhile, the original controversy had evolved into a complicated legal struggle involving new environmental legislation, a strategic lawsuit mounted by Owens Valley officials, and a revitalized popular movement. By contrast to failed attempts in the 1920s, the local cause was now publicized widely, state political actors drawn into the process, and state courts persuaded that rural communities were entitled to some defense of their resources. In this new struggle of the 1980s and early 1990s, public opinion assumed that Chinatown represented the true history of the conflict—much to the advantage of a burgeoning environmental movement.[1]

In some respects, popular culture became political history and collective action proceeded from a new set of assumptions. Contemporary history unfolded with redressing results, some of which could be traced to the influence of film and popular culture.

READ MORE: ARID Journal

 

Honduras: Where the blood flows and the rivers are dammed

Photo retrieved from: www.aljazeera.com

“Indigenous communities have been objecting to the illegal sale of their territory to transnational companies who seek to extract profits by harnessing and privatising communally-owned water.  Yet in September 2010, the Honduran National Congress awarded 41 hydroelectric dam concessions, during a time when the government of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s legitimacy was still questioned by the majority of Latin American governments.

A month later, a coalition of indigenous groups, including members of the Tulupanes, Pech, Miskito, Maya-Chortis, Lenca and Garifuna peoples, convened a meeting to organise in resistance to the illegal concessions, many of which were granted on indigenous territory without proper consultation and consent of the groups.

These omissions violate International Labor Organization Convention 169, which requires that “Consultation with indigenous peoples should be undertaken through appropriate procedures, in good faith, and through the representative institutions of these peoples” and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous groups have also noted that various international mechanisms designed to address climate change have contributed to the exploitation and degradation of the land for which they have served as rightful and responsible stewards for generations. These include the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and the Program of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD). The rights of indigenous communities to prior informed consultation and consent are being bulldozed, just like their ancestral land.

The Agua Zarca Dam project in Garcia’s community is one of the disputed concessions, part of four interconnected dams along the Gualcarque River. The project is coordinated by a partnership between the Honduran company Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA), which owns the concession, and the Sinohydro Corporation of China, which seeks to develop the hydro-electric power. The web of investor friendly legislation and support from the Lobo administration empowers the companies to violate human rights with impunity.  According to Berta Caceres, General Coordinator of the indigenous coalition COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations) that seeks to defend indigenous territories, the companies are supported and protected by the Honduran security forces.”

Read more: Aljazeera

 

Films Focusing on Local Water

“Two water-wise documentaries by two different filmmakers are in the works in the Owens Valley.
Jenna Cavelle’s short documentary, “Paya – The Untold Story of the L.A.-Owens Valley Water War,” has met itsKickstarter funding goal and filming is under way with a projected August or early September completion date.
A new project headed up by the Owens Valley Committee and Bristlecone Media, with Cavelle serving as a coproducer,“Slake: Water and Power in the Eastern Sierra,” is in the fundraising stage.
Cavelle said “Paya,” which  is about two years in the making, aims to tell the story of Owens Valley Paiutes and theirrelationship and use of water before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began exporting water in the early1900s.
“The year 2013 marks both the centennial anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and America’s longest-lived waterwar,” Cavelle says on her Kickstarter.com page. “From critically-acclaimed films like ‘Chinatown’ to best-sellingbooks like ‘Cadillac Desert,’ for the past 100 years, the ‘LA-Owens Valley Water War’ narrative has centered around theviewpoint that L.A. went out and ‘stole’ Owens Valley’s water. But there is a greater story, an untold story that is rich inhistory and human achievement, a story that is as much a part of American memory as the creation of our great cities.
“This film documents the history of Paiute Native Americans who constructed and managed 60 miles of intricate irrigationsystems in Owens Valley for millennia long before L.A. secured its largest source of water through modern engineering acentury ago.”
Cavelle said she has been working closely with Harry Williams of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and other members of the NativeAmerican community to tell the story that she says has been overlooked since the LADWP began purchasing land in theEastern Sierra.
“We’ve been in production since March and we have several hundred hours of footage, and we’re still filming,” Cavellesaid.
When completed, the film will be a short, 20-minute documentary that will be eligible for submission in the short filmfestival circuit.
With so much information, and such a story to tell, Cavelle said she can easily create a full-length documentary about theOwens Valley Paiutes and their history and relationship with water, but her immediate goal is to create the short,accessible documentary and get the information out to the public.
“I just like the format of short documentary films – you can tell the story without making it too much and losing theaudience,” Cavelle said. “Some people from Hollywood have approached me about a full-length documentary film” but anyserious conversations about pursuing that will be held after “Paya” is complete.
Cavelle said the film will be distributed to a number of individuals who invested in the project, raising the $40,000necessary to complete the film. She is also hoping to hold a local premier and have screenings at various venues in InyoCounty. Ultimately, the film will be shown at the Bishop Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center on West Line Street along withan exhibit she is creating to accompany the documentary.
“This film was born out of a community service project that included (museum exhibits), mapping the Owens ValleyPaiute’s irrigation systems and literacy programs around water,” Cavelle said, adding that she is also working on amuseum exhibit for the Bancroft Library in Berkeley.
Through her project, Cavelle said she has developed a relationship with the OVC, which approached her earlier this year tosee if she would be willing to work on its documentary, “Slake.”
Cavelle said that initially, she refused because she was “so entrenched in ‘Paya,’” that she didn’t think she would have thetime or energy to begin work on yet another project.
But as “Slake” began to take shape, Cavelle said that she saw a need, namely in fundraising efforts, that she could fillthrough her media and social networking contacts.
Thus Cavelle joined the project as a coproducer, and began a campaign to help the OVC generate money and interest to getthe project off the ground.
Cavelle said she has helped raise between $4,000 and $5,000 for the ‘Slake’ project.
According to the OVC, the ‘Slake’ film series aims to document ongoing environmental struggles in the Eastern Sierra dueto continued water extraction by the LADWP.
“This project is timely as the 100-year anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is being celebrated,” Cavelle said in a pressrelease. “Once complete, ‘Slake’ will be available freely on the web and to media outlets. In addition it will be screened togroups in Los Angeles, Owens Valley and greater California.”
The OVC has initiated an online fundraising campaign and is seeking tax-deductible donations to fund ‘Slake.’ To viewthe film project trailer and to donate to the campaign residents can visit www.indigogo.com/projects/slake-water-power-in-the-eastern-sierra.
OVC President Alan Bacock said that the group is hoping to raise about $30,000 for the film series, which will beginwhere Cavelle’s leaves off. “We will be looking at the original inhabitants of the Owens Valley and what happened withthat when the occupation of LADWP began,” Bacock said. “If the two films were tied together, (‘Paya’) would be like aprequel, and we’re moving more into the modern era.”
To date, the OVC has raised about $10,000, one-third of the amount it needs.
“We cannot make this important educational project happen without public support. Concerned citizens must join in oureffort. ‘Slake’ has the power to hold DWP accountable,” said Nina Weisman, communications director of OVC.
The documentary will be filmed by Bristlecone Media. Jonah Matthewson of Bristlecone Media said the project is still inthe fundraising stages, but, when complete, will include a number of different short films covering a variety of topics.”
“The story is part of Southern California’s origin myth, Los Angeles’ Original Sin: the Department of Water and Powertook water from the Owens Valley to fuel the city’s growth, dooming not only the desert landscape but its own,” the OVCsays on its website. “That story’s usually told in the past tense, but it still unfolds today, a century later. And a forthcomingvideo series from the OVC and Bristlecone Media intends to bring us all up to speed.”

1863 Indian Massacre Site Uncovered in California

Photo retrieved from: www.newser.com

“Archaeologists say they’ve stumbled upon a grim page in American history: the site of the 1863 Owens Lake massacre. The Los Angeles Times provides a history lesson: The Paiute Indians occupied land some 200 miles north of LA that proved desirable to an influx of ranchers in the mid 1800s. The Owens Valley Indian War broke out in 1861, but a seminal moment occurred on March 19, 1863: Settlers and soldiers battled with the Paiutes, who tried to flee their attackers by swimming into the lake, but were thwarted by a strong wind; nearly three dozen of them drowned or were shot. The tale of that day remains, but the exact location was lost.

That’s in part because officials diverted the Owens River in 1913 in order to feed LA’s water needs, reports Grist; by the middle of the next decade, Owens Lake was no more. But heavy winds and rains in 2009 may have helped return bullets, buttons, and Native American artifacts to the surface; Los Angeles Department of Water and Power archaeologists found them during a survey last year. But the discovery is spurring a small controversy: The dry lake bed fuels toxic dust storms, and DWP has been charged with mitigating that with shallow flooding—at what is now thought to be the massacre site.”

Read more: Newser

 

Paiute Indians Help Map the History of the L.A. Aqueduct

Photo retrieved from: www.thecaliforniareport.org

“Working on a documentary project in the Owens Valley on land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) can be a little dicey. A truck zooms by as UC Berkeley scholar Jenna Cavelle and Paiute elder Harry Williams begin one of their mapping expeditions.

“Is this DWP land?” Cavelle asks Williams. “’Cause they’re right there, looking at us.”

DWP is aware of the project, but the two haven’t asked permission to make trips onto department property. Still, Cavelle feels generally secure when she’s with Williams because of a sanctuary agreement between DWP and the natives that allows them to come onto the land.

“This is our homeland. Kick me off, you’re gonna have to drag me,” Williams remarks.

The water wars that drained the Owens Valley 100 years ago to feed the Los Angeles aqueduct are today the stuff of literary and cinematic legend. But the Paiute story has been left out of the tellings. Before the arrival of white settlers, this tribe had a sophisticated water system of their own. This year marks the centennial anniversary of the aqueduct’s construction, and Cavelle and Williams are working to uncover this lost part of California’s water history.”

Read more: The California Report