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Environmental Defender Murdered in Mexico Days Before Vote on Pipeline Project
An indigenous environmental activist was killed in Morelos, Mexico Wednesday, three days before a referendum on the construction of a gas pipeline and two thermoelectric plants that he had organized to oppose, the Associated Press reported.
Samir Flores Soberanes had challenged the words of government representatives at a forum about the so-called Morelos Comprehensive Project a day before his murder, The Peoples in Defense of Land and Water Front (FPDTA), the group Soberanes organized with, said in a statement.
"This is a political crime for the human rights defence that Samir and the FPDTA carried out against the [project] and for people's autonomy and self-determination," the group said in a statement reported by The Guardian.
The Morelos state government, however, challenged whether Soberanes' murder was politically motivated. State prosecutor Uriel Carmona said that the murder was not related to the upcoming referendum and that investigators were considering the involvement of organized crime.
Soberanes and the FPDTA opposed the energy project, which would have run a pipeline through Soberanes' home village of Amilcingo, because of concerns about how it would impact the health, safety and water of the largely indigenous communities in the surrounding area, the Associated Press reported.
Newly elected Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador called the murder "vile" and "cowardly," but said the vote would take place when planned.
"I'm very sorry about the murder," López Obrador said, as the Associated Press reported. "The consultation we have to continue because it is a process that was already agreed to."
The FPDTA said Soberanes had been murdered Wednesday morning around 5 a.m. after two vehicles parked outside his home. The people inside the vehicles called to him to come out and then shot him when he emerged.
Soberanes was an indigenous Náhuatl, a community radio producer and a human rights activist, The Guardian reported.
The project he opposed was first proposed in 2011, but had been recently taken up by López Obrador as a means of reducing electricity prices. The new president has also called for referendums on major projects like a new Mexico City airport and a train in southern Mexico. The airport project was defeated and the train, between Cancun and Tulum, was approved, The Associated Press reported.
The FPDTA wrote a letter to López Obrador warning him that the referendum would lead to violence in their community.
López Obrador promised to address the frequent murders of human rights and environmental activists in Mexico. However, he also made remarks about civil society Tuesday that concerned some activists, calling it "conservative" for opposing his projects and planning to militarize the police.
"All those who oppose the [project] … we are for López Obrador radical ultra-conservatives," FPDTA told The Guardian.
- UK Jails First Environmental Activists in 86 Years Over Fracking ... ›
- Latest land defender murder cements Mexico's deadly reputation ... ›
- Mexico: Indigenous environmental rights defender killed: Julián ... ›
- Murder of Mexican Environmental Activist Isidro Baldenegro ... ›
- 207 Killed in 2017, The Deadliest Year for Land Defenders ›
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.