Events in South Korea are putting U.S. and international environmental groups into coalition with antiwar groups, and in rare opposition to one of the most environmentally destructive forces on earth: the military industrial complex.
Normally, this doesn't happen. Typically, civil liberties groups oppose the detention and torture and assassination that come with military spending, but not the spending and not the wars. Typically, anti-poverty and pro-education groups lament the supposed lack of funding, but avoid all mention of our dumping 57% of federal discretionary funds into war preparation and war. Typically, for environmental groups, our top consumer of oil, producer of superfund sites, and poisoner of the earth is off-limits. We oppose pollution, but not pollution in the cause of killing people more quickly.
Jeju Island, South Korea, is changing this. A coordinated international campaign is trying to save this beautiful island from destruction. The World Conservation Congress 2012 is being held on Jeju Island — while just four miles away, in the island's Gangjeong Village, construction is beginning on a massive new naval base to be used by the United States. Dredging of the seabed and coral has already begun. 94% of the residents of Gangjeong Village have voted against construction of the base.
The extraordinary biological diversity, unique volcanic topography, and the culture of Jeju Island attract many tourists. The Sea of Gangjeong is a national cultural treasure adjacent to a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Only 114 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins remain in Korea, and they live here — one of many species threatened by base construction. The damage will be devastating.
If the base is constructed, it will host nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, as well as Aegis missile-carrying warships. U.S. taxpayers will pay the cost of the Obama administration "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific, while Jeju Islanders pay with a damaged home. Ultimately, the cost to the earth and the risk of war will belong to all of us.
Villagers have been arrested during nonviolent protests. Police and construction workers have assaulted elderly members of the community, who represent a large portion of the activists. Raising our voices in solidarity is the least we can do. But Samsung, the primary contractor for base construction, is sponsoring the World Conservation Congress (WCC), which opened pretending all was well. That pretense is crumbling.
From afar, we are flooding the WCC and Samsung with emails. You can help" Let them know we aren't fooled. Demand that Samsung halt construction and the WCC oppose the base.
On location, activists have made every single participant in the World Conservation Congress aware of the destruction underway on the island where the WCC is meeting. And a resolution is being introduced by 34 organizations from around the world calling for a halt to the military base construction.
Please take the time to read this resolution, and check out the list of signers. This is how the military industrial complex will eventually do itself in.
World Appeal to Protect the People, Nature, Culture and Heritage of Gangjeong Village
UNDERSTANDING that Gangjeong Village, also known as the Village of Water, on the island of Jeju, also known as Peace Island, is a coastal area home to thousands of species of plants and animals, lava rock freshwater tide pools (“Gureombi”), endangered soft coral reefs, freshwater springs, sacred natural sites, historic burial grounds, and nearly 2,000 indigenous villagers, including farmers, fishermen, and Haenyo women divers, that have lived sustainably with the surrounding marine and terrestrial environment for nearly 4000 years;
NOTING that Gangjeong Village is an Ecological Excellent Village (Ministry of Environment, ROK) of global, regional, national and local significance, sharing the island with a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve and Global Geological Park, and is in close proximity to three World Heritage Sites and numerous other protected areas;
NOTING that numerous endangered species live in and around Gangjeong Village, including the Boreal Digging Frog (Kaloula borealis) listed on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species; the red-footed crab (Sesarma intermedium); the endemic Jeju fresh water shrimp (Caridina denticulate keunbaei); and the nearly extinct Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins;
NOTING the global uniqueness of the Jeju Soft Coral habitats, designated as Natural Monument 422 of Korea: the only location in the world known to have temperate octocoral species forming a flourishing ecosystem on a substrate of andesite, providing ecological balance to the Jeju marine environment and the development of the human culture of Gangjeong Village for thousands of years;
UNDERSCORING that of the 50 coral species found in the Soft Coral habitats near Gangjeong, 27 are indigenous species, and at least 16 are endangered species and protected according to national and international law, including Dendronephthya suensoni, D. putteri, Tubastraea coccinea, Myriopathes japonica, and M. lata;
THEREFORE CONCERNED of the Civilian-Military Complex Tour Beauty project, a 50-hectare naval installation, being constructed within and adjacent to Gangjeong Village, estimated to house more than 8,000 marines, up to 20 warships, several submarines, and cruise liners;
NOTING the referendum of Gangjeong Village on August 20, 2007, in which 725 villagers participated and 94% opposed the construction;
ACKNOWLEDGING that the construction of the military installation is directly and irreparably harming not only the biodiversity, but the culture, economy and general welfare of Gangjeong Village, one of the last living remnants of traditional Jeju culture;
NOTING the Absolute Preservation Act, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province (1991) and that Gangjeong Village was named an Absolute Preservation Area on October 27, 2004: a permanent designation to conserve the original characteristics of an environment from the surge in development, therefore prohibiting construction, the alteration of form and quality of land, and the reclamation of public water areas;
CONCERNED that this title was removed in 2010 to allow for the Naval installation, and that this step backwards in environmental protection violates the Principle of Non-Regression;
RECALLING the numerous IUCN Resolutions and Recommendations that note, recognize, promote and call for the appropriate implementation of conservation policies and practices that respect the human rights, roles, cultural diversity, and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples in accordance with international agreements;
CONCERNED of reports that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the naval construction was inaccurate and incomplete and may have violated well-known principles of international law concerning EIAs, transparency, public and indigenous participation, right to know, and free, prior and informed consent;
CONCERNED of the destruction of sacred natural sites in and near Gangjeong Village, noting that the protection of sacred natural sites is one of the oldest forms of culture based conservation (Res. 4.038 recognition and conservation of sacred natural sites in Protected Areas);
ACKNOWLEDGING that IUCN’s Mission is “To influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable;” and that “equity cannot be achieved without the promotion, protection and guarantee of human rights.”;
NOTING Resolution 3.022 Endorsement of the Earth Charter (Bangkok, 2004) that endorsed the Earth Charter as “the ethical guide for IUCN policy and programme,” and that the military installation is contrary to every principle of the Earth Charter;
NOTING the U.N. World Charter for Nature (1982), and that the military installation is contrary to each of its five principles of conservation by which all human conduct affecting nature is to be guided and judged;
AND ALARMED by reports of political prisoners, deportations, and restrictions on freedom of assembly and speech, including the arrests of religious leaders, for speaking against the naval installation and for speaking in promotion of local, national, regional and world conservation and human rights protections;
NOTING Res. 2.37 Support for environmental defenders, “UNDERSTANDING that the participation of non-governmental organizations and individual advocates is essential to the fundamentals of civil society to assure the accountability of governments and multinational corporations; and AWARE that a nation’s environment is only truly protected when concerned citizens are involved in the process;”
NOTING principles enshrined in the Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development such as those concerning military and hostile activities (Art. 36), culture and natural heritage (Art. 26), and the collective rights of indigenous peoples (Art. 15);
FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGING that militarization does not justify the destruction of a community, a culture, endangered species or fragile ecosystems;
AND UNDERSCORING that IUCN’s aim is to promote a just world that values and conserves nature, and the organization sees itself as nature’s representative and patrons of nature;
The IUCN World Conservation Congress at its 5th session in Jeju, Republic of Korea, 6-15 September 2012:
1. REAFFIRMS its commitment to the UN World Charter for Nature and the Earth Charter;
2. CALLS ON the Republic of Korea to:
(a) immediately stop the construction of the Civilian-Military Complex Tour Beauty;
(b) invite an independent body, to prepare a fully transparent scientific, cultural, and legal assessment of the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area and make it available to the public; and
(c) fully restore the damaged areas.
Sponsor – Center for Humans and Nature
-Chicago Zoological Society (USA)
-International Council of Environmental Law (Germany)
-El Centro Ecuatoriano de Derecho Ambiental, CEDA (Ecuador)
-Sierra Club (USA)
-Fundacion Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Argentina)
-Center for Sustainable Development CENESTA (Iran)
-Asociación Preserve Planet (Costa Rica)
-The Christensen Fund (USA)
-Terra Lingua (Canada)
-Ecological Society of the Philippines (Philippines)
-Citizen’s Institute Environmental Studies (Korea)
-Departamento de Ambiente, Paz y Seguridad, Universidad para la Paz (Costa Rica)
-Coastal Area Resource Development and Management Association (Bangladesh)
-Fundação Vitória Amazônica (Brazil)
-Fundación para el Desarrollo de Alternativas Comunitarias de Conservación del Trópico, ALTROPICO Foundation (Ecuador)
-Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (Ecuador)
-Fundación Hábitat y Desarrollo de Argentina (Argentina)
-Instituto de Montaña (Peru)
-Asociación Peruana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, APECO (Peru)
-Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, COICA (Ecuador)
-Fundación Biodiversidad (Argentina)
-Fundacao Vitoria Amazonica (Brazil)
-Fundación Urundei (Brazil)
-Dipartimento Interateneo Territorio Politecnico e Università di Torino (Italy)
-Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (Costa Rica)
-Corporación Grupo Randi Randi (Ecuador)
-Living Oceans Society (Canada)
-Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental (Paraguay)
-Korean Society of Restoration Ecology (Korea)
-Ramsar Network Japan (Japan)
-The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (Isreal)
-Chimbo Foundation (Netherlands)
-Endangered Wildlife Trust (South Africa)
David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswansonand FaceBook.