Monday, May 27, 2013

WILD HUMANS (doing wild things)

National Geographic reporter Scott Wallace on trips to deep Amazon for his book "The Unconquered". How oil, gold, and illegal logging chase the last un-contacted tribes. Plus reports on Canadian Boreal failure, serial climate hacker Russ George, and shaping Nature in the city. Radio Ecoshock 130529 1 hour

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with a packed show. Are you counting on off-grid humans to survive if we don't? We'll track the last wild humans in a report from South America. You'll hear an update on the reported collapse of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, the further adventures of serial climate hacker Russ George, and a debate on trying to re-make nature in your city.

Off we go.


The first 32 minutes of the show is a wide-ranging discussion with Scott Wallace, journalist for National Geographic magazine.

We talk through his book about the last Amazon un-contacted tribes "The Unconquered". Why oil, gold, and tropical timber are corrupting the Amazon, a fundamental source of biodiversity for the planet. Wallace made a three month trip to find signs of "the Arrow People" - plus multiple trips to the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru. At times it was pretty hairy.

I provide an update on the "collapse" of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. Following my story 2 weeks ago on the green group Canopy withdrawing, this week the largest forest company, Resolute, quit. We hear from the remaining NGOs that the process may not be dead.

Serial climate hacker and plankton "farmer" Russ George was booted off the Board of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. The aboriginal Haida people say they have fired him, George says that's not possible, he owns nearly half the company. An update on the incredible disappearing $2.5 million.

We hear briefly from NOAA lawyer Richard Mannix on the need for an international agency to oversee geoengineering attempts like the Russ George/Haida case.

The show wraps with a sample from ""City Mouse, City Flower: A Discussion of Urban Nature." presented by Erik Hoffner of Orion Magazine.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download my 32 minute interview with Scott Wallace in CD Quality or Lo-Fi



Waorani Hunters, Yasuni Rainforest, photo by Scott Wallace.

What if a solar flare knocks out power to the world? Or the latest disease escapes becoming a great plague? At least we have the consolation there are still so-called "wild" humans out there on the fringes to survive. Or is that just another strangely comforting myth?

We are joined by a man who knows, long-time international journalist and reporter for National Geographic Magazine, Scott Wallace. His latest book is "The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes".

We have a lot to talk about. There's Ecuador's promise to leave Amazon oil in the ground to save the rainforest and global warming. There is the whole issue of biodiversity and whether the great Amazon rainforest can survive - not to mention the last of it's unconquered peoples.

But first, why do we hear so little in mainstream media about South America? Here in the North, it's like the lost continent. Why is that?

Maybe most Western-style people are just interested in others like themselves. But I also wonder if the major newspapers and networks have owners who don't want to talk about very different political systems in South America.


Anyway, Scott brings South America into the picture with his articles in National Geographic Magazine. Check out his April 2013 feature "Mahogany's Last Stand".

In the interview, Scott explains mahogany was running so short in Brazil, that country banned further export of the product. The mahogany loggers moved across the borer into Peru, where central government contol of the Amazon is weak to none. They try. In his blog, Scott tells us the Peruvian cops just seized some illegal timber. But that leaves the local tribes fearing for their lives, afraid of the violent loggers.


We talk about the magnificent Yasuni National Park in eastern Ecuador. Scott writes:

"Downpours are a near daily occurrence throughout the year, and there are few discernible changes of season. Sunlight, warmth, and moisture are constants."

"Over the years, oil concessions have been drawn over the same territory as the park, as economic interests have trumped conservation in the struggle over Yasuní’s fate. At least five active concessions blanket the park’s northern section, and for a poor country like Ecuador the pressure to drill has been almost irresistible. Half of the nation’s export earnings already come from oil, nearly all of it from its eastern provinces in the Amazon."

"In a proposal first put forward in 2007, President Rafael Correa has offered to leave indefinitely untouched an estimated 850 million barrels of oil inside Yasuní’s northeastern corner in a tract known as the ITT Block (named for the three oil fields it contains: Ishpingo, Tambococha, and Tiputini). As payment for preserving the wilderness and preventing an estimated 410 million metric tons of fossil fuel-generated carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, Correa has asked the world to ante up in the fight against global warming. He is seeking $3.6 billion in compensation, roughly half of what Ecuador would have realized in revenues from exploiting the resource at 2007 prices. The money would be used, he says, to finance alternative energy and community development projects.

Hailed by supporters as a milestone in the climate change debate when it was first proposed, the so-called Yasuní-ITT Initiative has been hugely popular in Ecuador. National polls consistently show a growing awareness of Yasuní as an ecological treasure that should be protected. But the international response to the initiative has been tepid. By mid-2012 only about $200 million had been pledged. In response Correa has issued a succession of angry ultimatums, leading detractors to liken his proposal to blackmail. With the initiative stalled and Correa warning that time is running out, activity on the oil frontier continues to advance through eastern Ecuador, even within Yasuní’s limits. Every day, another bit of the wilderness succumbs to the bulldozers and backhoes.

Read more in Scott's January 2013 article "Rainforest for Sale: The Story of Oil" in National Geographic Magazine.

President Correa of Ecuador is one of the few world leaders anywhere to offer to leave some oil in the ground, to reduce global warming. All countries will have to come to that position to stave off climatic disaster, that we know. The leadership apparently is in the global South.

There were two great droughts in the Amazon Rainforest, of all places, in the last couple of decades. Biodiversity is under threat or crashing. Some climate models show vast swaths of the Amazon rainforest converting to grassland, as a great drought develops there. First it would be logged or burn. If the rainforest goes, cloud formation will change, precipitation for Africa will fall (in another area slated for drought and desertification). Plus, a huge carbon sink becomes a carbon source.

Please check out our conversation with Scott Wallace on Radio Ecoshock.

Visit his web site at I recommend watching the little bio clip on that home page.

Find Scott's blog posts for National Geographic here.

Don't forget his book. Scott is a gifted story teller, with important issues to communicate. The book is "The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes"

You can take that Scott Wallace interview as the first installment in a series on human extinction. Next week, we'll investigate the growing chorus saying the human species will go extinct before the middle of this Century. I'll tell you who's behind it, and what real science says. It's a tale with a twist, tune in next week for sure.


Meanwhile I have to update you on stories you heard first on Radio Ecoshock. In our program on the first of May 2013, you heard Nicole Rycroft of the green group Canopy explain why they pulled out of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. It was a key effort to preserve at least half of the necklace of slow-growing trees across the top of Canada - now being clear-cut logged by dozens of forest companies.

Listen to/Dowload the Nicole Rycroft interview (Canopy) 22 minutes in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Or watch the Nicole Rycroft interview on Youtube instead!

Rycroft told us after three years of direct negotiations with major logging companies, promises were not kept, deadlines were not met, and not a single hectare of the Boreal Forest was legally protected. Canopy is going back to the 700 companies promising to avoid old-growth timber from Canada's Boreal Forest.

Now the largest forest company, Resolute Forest Products, formerly known at AbitibiBowater, has pulled out of the talks.

Resolute says the environmentalists are asking too much. They would have to close mills, and the impoverished northern aboriginal communities would suffer, if they don't continue massive logging operations in the north of two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

Some Canadian newspapers reported the agreement had collapsed, now that Greenpeace, Canopy, and Resolute pulp and paper were out. Other large timber companies have not announced they are leaving the talks, although they may, if they feel they will be at a competitive disadvantage. Three large environment and conservation groups said they will continue to push for protection of the Boreal Forest. One major funder, the Ivy Foundation, put at least five million dollars into this effort.

In the program, you hear a press conference statement by Tod Paglia, Executive Director of Forest Ethics, followed by Tim Gray, Program Director for the Ivey Foundation. I recorded this from a media conference call on May 21st.

Both groups still support the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement process, despite the loss of other major environment and company participants. I don't know if the process can continue, or if they can protect enough of the Boreal to protect the endangered Woodland Caribou.

The real issue, from my perspective, is not just the value of this intact ecosphere of the North - but the big impact rampant logging will have on climate change. The Boreal Forest could turn from being a carbon sink, moderating what is left of our climate, to a carbon source. This huge Northern forest could take hundreds of years to grow back, it it ever does.

Meanwhile, we witness another positive feed-back loop, heating the globe, and created by the human impulse to grab natural resources at any cost.

Environment groups like Greenpeace and Canopy will push Resolute Forest Products to meet the needs of nature. You can help by disinvesting in this rogue company, and making sure your pension plans and corporations are not supporting their products.


From Steve Krivit collection "Russ George Gives Vatican Certificate for Fictional Carbon Credits"

On to another story brought to light by Radio Ecoshock. Over the years I've investigated the claims and activities of Russ George. On September 7th and 14th 2007 I did a two part interview and critique of George's attempt to modify the climate by stimulating plankton blooms with iron. That effort failed. The multimillion dollar stock promotion of his company "Planktos" went bankrupt.

PLANKTOS: Offsets Real and Imagined Planting trees, seeding seas, grabbing CO2, for money. Full show interview with Russell George, CEO of Planktos, controversial carbon offset company. Part 1 of 2. Interview transcript here. Ecoshock Show 070907 1 hr 14 MB

Find a transcript of my full-length interview with Russ George in 2007 here.

PLANKTOS II: THE INTERVENTION Who are they, and will it work? Part 2: three critics respond plus Alex Smith's take. (Ecoshock show 070914 - 14 MB 1 hr) Greenpeace (9 min)Science Unit, ETC Group (9 min), and David Baines (16 min)(newspaper business columnist)

In the middle of October 2012, I did interviews and clips from a Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation press conference at the Vancouver Aquarium. Leaders from the Haida Village of Old Massett attempted to explain to the world press how and why they secretly performed a geonengineering experiment, possible the world's largest, in the Pacific Ocean near their home on the island of Haida Gwaii. The village spent 2.5 million on Russ George's dream to create carbon credits for sale, and allegedly replenish the failing salmon stock. No carbon credits were sold, and it appear the villagers lost their money to this scheme.

Here are the resources from October 2012

"Geoengineering Plankton at Haida Gwaii Serial climate hacker Russ George (Planktos) leads indigenous villagers to dump iron into the sea - a secret geoengineering project off Canada's West Coast. Press conference statements (recorded by Alex Smith) by the Haida Old Massett Village Chief, Ken Rea and Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation President John Disney (16 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi; statement by HSRC marine lawyer James L. Straith CD quality or Lo-Fi. See Radio Ecoshock 121024 blog here. Transcript of Chief Rea and Disney at Press Conference. Transcript of Question and Answer period Press Conf. (prepared by Alex Smith)."

Find all the links for that October special on this page.

On April 10th, I announced the offices of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation offices were raided by armed officers of the federal agency, Environment Canada. All computers and files were taken away.

Despite this, Russ George told the Times Colonist newspaper in British Columbia that he and the First Nations people would run a second experiment on the wild algae in the summer of 2013.


On April 30th, I attended an online briefing by the American National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration on marine geoengineering, and possible legal barriers against unilateral experimenters like Russ George. It was titled "Ocean Fertilization, Marine Geoengineering and the London Convention/London Protocol".

The audio quality is poor, but you can make out these two quick clips. First, Richard Mannix, a legal expert from NOAA's Office of General Counsel notes the Russ George/Haida Village experiment may have damaged clam beds on the island. The Haida had to dig them up. We don't have scientific proof that was due to the massive plankton bloom created off shore by the experiment.

Second, lawyer Richard Mannix points out there is no central legal authority to regulate or stop geoengineering experiments. Dumping iron into the sea should be controlled by the London Dumping Convention and the London Protocol. But there is nothing controlling who might spray sulfates into the atmosphere, or launch mirrors into space, to reduce sunlight arriving at our planet. Without such an agency, Mannix feels we are encouraging a "wild west" of geoengineering.

I managed to get in a question at the end, saying Russ George promises to repeat his ocean dumping scheme this year, and what could stop him? Mannix replied he was confident the Canadian authorities were investigating thoroughly, and it was possible Russ George could end up in "the slammer". His words.. "the slammer" is slang for jail. We'll see.


The story continues. On May 23rd, the Haida villagers announced on Canadian News Wire they were severing all ties with Russ George. The HSRC said, quote "it has removed Mr. Russ George as a director of the company. In addition, the HSRC has terminated Mr. George's employment as an officer of the corporation."

"Old Massett Village Chief Councillor Ken Rea stated: 'The board and our community has decided to recalibrate this business so that it moves forward in a constructive fashion and effectively responds to legitimate concerns raised by various stakeholders around the world'."

Sounds like Russ is out of a job. But not so fast! Russ George told the Vancouver Sun he can't be fired! George said the Board of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation did not have the authority to remove him. We learn from Russ that he owns 48% of HSRC through his own company called "Ocean Pastures Corp." All along we were led to believe it was strictly a First Nations business (and that's why the company claimed it could issue it's own permits).

George promised to keep going on the project. That's moxy! His data and equipment were seized by the Canadian government, with likely legal action pending. The Haida villagers, a potent group to say the least, insist they have severed all ties with Russ George. Village Chief Ken Rea told the Times Colonist "We have parted ways". I would read that more or less as a ban from the island, especially since the senior governing body of the Haida already denounced the experiment. Ken Rea says no plankton seeding experiment will be done this year.

That should end the story, but Russ George never really goes away. He's back on his blog touting his other persona, the amateur physics experimenter with a world-saving technology in cold fusion. His former company D2Fusion went bankrupt years ago. On his blog, George says he's worked on cold fusion since its discovery in 1989. His "work" was making a documentary film about it.

Find a full record of the activities of the two Russ Georges on Steve Krivit's page "Investigations of Russ George's Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction Research (LENR) and Plankton Carbon-Credit Activities".

With the failure of his plankton scheme, again, Russ George could next reappear as a businessman advocate for Cold Fusion. It's never over for Russ George with his big dreams, and multimillion dollar losing schemes.


Moving on, I have one more recording for you. On May 16th, Erik Hoffner of Orion Magazine hosted a web chat called "City Mouse, City Flower: A Discussion of Urban Nature." Guests were Beatrix Beisner, co-editor of the new urban ecology guidebook "Nature All Around Us", Liam Heneghan of DePaul University/Chicago Wilderness Science Team, and Kevin Anderson, proprietor of the blog Marginal Nature.

Find out more about Liam Henegan, both a bio and a video of his talk at New York University, here.

I was intrigued with the struggles and ideas in the discussion between Liam Heneghan, working from an academic planning perspective, and Kevin Anderson, who by day is a water and sewage worker for the City of Austin Texas. Anderson definitely gets his hands dirty, and laments the trend of cutting down "foreign species" to create the imagined past landscape of "native speciers" - during one of the worst droughts in living memory.

We tune in as Erik of Orion Magazine brings up adaptation to urban conditions. Kevin Anderson weighs in with the hot debate: should humans try to engineer nature again, this time right in the cities where we live?

Find the full 80 minute discussion "City Mouse, City Flower: A Discussion of Urban Nature" as an audio file at

Next week we'll ask the question: are we humans doomed to an early extinction? I hope the answer is "no". You'll hear the arguments as Radio Ecoshock continues to cover the biggest pictures.

I'm Alex Smith. You can support my work at the show web site,

Catch up on any programs you've missed as free mp3 downloads at the site.

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