Two Arrested at Genetically Engineered Tree Conference
As the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference kicked off early Monday, two Asheville, NC, residents were arrested after disrupting a major presentation, Engineering Trees for the Biorefinery, by Belgian tree engineer, Wout Boerjan.
The protestors said that if legalized, genetically engineered (GE) trees would lead to the destruction of native forests and biodiversity in the U.S. South, and be economically devastating to rural communities.
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The talk was disrupted for 20 minutes.
"We took dignified action today to directly confront the growing corporate control over our seeds, forests and communities," said farmer and professor Steve Norris. "We are sending a crystal clear message to the GE tree industry and its investors: expect resistance."
The bi-annual Tree Biotechnology conference, convened by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, is the premier industry and research conference on GE trees. This year's conference, being held May 26 through June 1, is at the Asheville Marriott Renaissance Hotel.
Anti-GE tree demonstrators from across the region have converged on Asheville for a week of action to protest the conference proceedings. They are calling attention to South Carolina-based ArborGen's pending request with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell millions of GE eucalyptus trees across the U.S. South.
"We know that GE trees are a disaster for forests and biodiversity," said Laura Sorensen, one of the demonstrators arrested on Monday. "With predictions of worsening extreme weather in our region, the last thing we need are highly flammable and invasive plantations of water-hungry eucalyptus trees. As a grandmother, I see no future in this for my grandchildren," she added.
Last month, the USDA public comment period for ArborGen's GE eucalyptus was flooded with 37,580 comments opposing its legalization, with only four comments in favor—a difference of almost 99.99 percent to .01 percent.
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By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
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Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.
She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.
"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.
She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.
This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.
"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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