Thursday, September 27, 2012

Joining Hands to Heal La Oroya

Dear members of PEC and friends,

An important part of the recent “Together for Justice 2012 International Gathering” in Chicago focused on trade and extractives, both of which significantly affect both environmental and social justice arenas. The Presbyterian Hunger Program (which is our home base with Environmental Ministries) has been a strategic partner in working with many countries for in fair trade and seeking justice in the area of extractives. One particularly significant relationship is with the Joining Hands ministry in Peru. Peru was represented at the conference by mission co-worker, Jed Koball.
Jed Koball, mission co-worker in Peru (also left, Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission) at the Joining Hands Conference
I share the following information from the Presbyterian News Service:
For more than 10 years, U.S. Presbyterians have been involved with partners in La Oroya to raise awareness in Peru and the United States about air, water and soil pollution created by mining practices of U.S. companies in La Oroya.

In July 2000 … a development organization in La Oroya ― joined the Joining Hands Network (Red Uniendo Manos Peru) in Peru, a network of Peruvian churches and non-profit organizations who came together with Presbyterians in the United States to look at root causes of poverty in Peru.

.…Findings, first released in December 2005, put La Oroya on the map as one of the 10 most contaminated cities in the world, with contamination extending into the food-producing valley of Huancayo, 50 miles away.

Working with organizations in Peru and the United States…, U.S. Presbyterians continued to press the issue. Peru’s National Mining Association called upon Renco [the parent organization] to stop asking for extensions and implement the agreed-upon improvements in its La Oroya operations. Peru’s Congress stopped granting extensions and told the company to comply. 

In October 2010 the company chose to stop operations and declare bankruptcy. Now Renco is suing the government of Peru for $800 million in the UNCITRAL, a U.N.-related entity that hears cases under free-trade agreements.

“This means that in addition to enduring years of contamination, Peruvians will see their country spend its limited resources on legal fees instead of needed infrastructure, education and health facilities,” says Ruth Farrell, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Current PC(USA) mission co-worker Jed Koball, who has worked with the Joining Hands Network in Peru since 2009, says the case “illustrates how so many causes of poverty are interlinked. In La Oroya, the issue was first protection of public health. Then the ongoing contamination became a human rights issue. Now, it is a trade issue.”

U.S. Presbyterians continue their relationships with people in La Oroya through visits… More than 300 Presbyterians have visited La Oroya and put in hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours researching, getting the word out and connecting with other groups in the U.S. who can help.

The PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness, along with others, continues to arrange visits for Presbyterians and Peruvian partners with Congress and the State Department…

In 2009, I visited Peru, including La Oroya, during a PC(USA) study tour and saw first hand the social and environmental impact of the toxins related to this extractive industry. As one enters the mountain area coming into the area, one notes that they are white with sulfur …and there is a sudden depletion of vegetation for miles. The river coming from the smelting plant is a very angry brown color…

Diane Waddell at La Oroya in 2009 with PC(USA) study trip 
The whole area of extractives is one for us to consider prayerfully. We must look at not only looking at the effect of the toxic waste, but also at the fact that we purchase goods made from these metals in the first place.

Please keep the Joining Hands Program, including Jed Koball, the people of Peru and all associated with working toward a resolution of this concern in your thoughts and prayers…and work toward action and advocacy as you are led.

Caring for Earth together, 
Diane Waddell
Presbyterians for Earth Care

For the full article, please click on the following:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Land Grab: A Growing Concern

Fellow Caretakers of Earth,

"Together for Justice 2012 International Gathering", sponsored by the Presbyterian Hunger Program was an event worth a lot of attention.  Sue Smith (PEC Treasurer) and I attended this event in August (as she noted in the previous e-blast). 

One presentation which I feel deserves a lot of attention is related to current problems in both social and land justice. The program was presented by the director of the Oakland Institute, "an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social economic and environmental issues of our time". In their website, they state, "We have a reputation for meticulous research and analysis . Our work is referenced by policymakers, academics, and the media.  Many of our campaigns have resulted in international policy changes."

I was amazed by the program shared by Anuradha Mittal, founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute.  She is an internationally renowned expert on trade, development, human rights and agricultural issues.  Under her amazing leadership, the Institute has unveiled land investment deals in Africa and other areas which reveal an extremely disturbing pattern of what is termed "land grabs".  In these exploits, large corporations and other institutions greedily take over fertile land in which people are living productively.  The company states that they will be growing agricultural products which will benefit the local economy.  In actuality,  in small print, they add a caveat in which they can use the land and its produce to the company's own benefit, with essentially complete disregard for the land and the people.
Anuradha Mittal at the "Together for Justice International Gathering" August 12-14, 2012

I was equally, if not more, aghast to find out that my neighbor state, Iowa, was also implicated, specifically Iowa State University regarding a potential land-grab in Tanzania.  The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted to dismiss Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement's "conflict of interest complaint against Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter, but his disclosure, recusal, and amended financial form were extracted from him because of public pressure".  (There was a Presbyterian attending the conference from Iowa who is active in working against this land-grab effort.) 

Other areas they engage in are sustainable food systems, trade agreements, poverty and climate change.  Marcia Ishii-Eiteman (a Senior Scientist and Coordinator of the Sustainable Agricultural Program at Pesticide Action Network North America) is a Fellow there.  Several of you may remember her as a member of our speaker's panel at the PEC Conference at Highlands in 2012.  

Please take some time to look up the Oakland Institute website :

Caring for Creation together,

Diane Waddell
Presbyterians for Earth Care

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Monarch Teacher Network: Connecting Classrooms With Creation

I want to share a wonderful way of connecting with Creation.  At GA, I met Cindy Wackerbarth, a teacher who is very involved with the Monarch Teacher Network.  Please see her information which follows, and check out their website.
- Submitted by Diane Waddell, Moderator, PEC

The website is at  Sponsored by a NJ Educational Resource Center, it has been so well received that now there are trained individuals in at least 13 states from CA to New Hampshire to Florida.  The 2 day workshop has been offered as part of a graduate course at West Texas A and M, at public and private schools, and nature centers wherever there it is invited.  Teachers can receive continuing education credit.  

As I am writing this there are workshops occurring in Iowa, and there are several more scheduled this month.  From talking with you, I know you would thoroughly enjoy the two days with like minded, action motivated teachers or all kinds.  

Thanks for all you do.  
Cindy Wackerbarth
Falls Church, VA