We in DGR stand in solidarity with Survival International and support them because we believe that their analysis is correct and the organization is doing incredibly important work in standing up for indigenous peoples worldwide. While we encourage everyone to support Survival International and their very well-made campaigns, as an organization DGR pushes for more radical approaches than writing or signing letters and petitions, begging those in power to act in a different way. Those in power have never been on the side of the masses, the poor, the indigenous or the natural world. Asking nicely will not stop them continuing their atrocities.
At the next Convention on Biological Diversity summit, world leaders plan to agree turning 30% of the Earth into “Protected Areas” by 2030.
Big conservation NGOs say this will mitigate climate change, reduce wildlife loss, enhance biodiversity and so save our environment. They are wrong.
Protected Areas will not save our planet. On the contrary, they will increase human suffering and so accelerate the destruction of the spaces they claim to protect because local opposition to them will grow. They have no effect on climate change at all, and have been shown to be generally poor at preventing wildlife loss.
It is vital that real solutions are put forward to address these urgent problems and that the real cause – exploitation of natural resources for profit and growing overconsumption, driven by the Global North – is properly acknowledged and discussed. But this is unlikely to happen because there are too many vested interests that depend on existing consumption patterns continuing.
Who will suffer if 30% of Earth is “protected”? It won’t be those who have overwhelmingly caused the climate crisis, but rather indigenous and other local people in the Global South who play little or no part in the environment’s destruction. Kicking them off their land to create Protected Areas won’t help the climate: Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the natural world and an essential part of human diversity that is a key to protecting biodiversity.
We must stop the push for 30%.
The truth about Protected areas
In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.
This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding. Usually these projects are funded and run by big Western conservation NGOs. Once the locals are gone, tourists, extractive industries and others are welcomed in. For these reasons, local opposition to Protected Areas is growing.
“If the jungle is taken away from us, how will we survive?”
Kunni Bai, a Baiga woman, denounces efforts to evict her people in the name of “conservation”.
Why should we oppose it?
Doubling Protected Areas to cover 30% of the globe will ensure these problems become much worse. As the most biodiverse regions are those where indigenous peoples still live, these will be the first areas targeted by the conservation industry. It will be the biggest land grab in world history and it will reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty – all in the name of conservation. Creating Protected Areas has rarely been done with the consent of indigenous communities, or respect for their human rights. There is no sign that it will be any different in the future. More Protected Areas are likely to result in more militarization and human rights abuses.
The idea of “fortress conservation” – that local peoples must be removed from their land in order to protect ‘nature’ – is colonial. It’s environmentally damaging and rooted in racist and ecofascist ideas about which people are worth more, and which are worth less and can be pushed off their land and impoverished, or attacked and killed.
If we’re serious about putting the brakes on biodiversity loss, the cheapest and best-proven method is to support as much indigenous land as possible. Eighty per cent of the planet’s biodiversity is already found there.
For tribes, for nature, for all humanity. #BigGreenLie
The Irish Women’s Lobby (IWD) launched on March 8, 2021. I interviewed three members of the group recently about their goals and the particular issues they are dealing with in Ireland.
Meghan Murphy: What is the purpose of the Irish Women’s Lobby? What are your main aims and fights?
IWL: Well I guess the first thing we’d say is that, as Irish women, we’re in a very peculiar and disturbing time in Irish history. We are living in an environment and time where not only are our rights being eroded in Irish legislation, but the erosion of our rights is being championed as progress by people who should know better — among them some who are well paid to know better. There’s nothing unique about our situation, we see this being rolled out all across the Western world, but it is significantly more advanced in Ireland than in many other nations, and we have the “self-ID” [this is shorthand for this kind of legislation, allowing essentially anyone to self-identify as the opposite sex, easily] aspect of the Irish 2015 Gender Recognition Act to thank for that.
We set up the Irish Women’s Lobby (IWL) in response to this and other situations women are currently facing here. Ireland has become an increasingly hostile environment for any woman raising her voice in defense of her own sex-based rights, and this has been increasing year after year since 2015, but at this point we have reached a ludicrous level. Our predicament might have some comedic value if it weren’t so likely to cost some women their lives. This is because the situation here has advanced to the point where male sex offenders are now being incarcerated in female prisons.
The problem here is that Ireland passed the Gender Recognition Act in a form which allows legal “gender” changes without any requirement for medical intervention or evaluation. This was introduced with virtually no discussion and certainly no real investigation into possible negative repercussions. The enactment of this legislation has created a scenario where trans-identifying males can gain access to any spaces or services designated for females, with zero safeguarding. Alongside the legislation there has been relentless campaigning from “social justice” activists, propagating an environment where feminists are unable to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation.
Reflecting the power of the lobby, the takeover of the policy-making arena and NGOs in Ireland is extensive, and of course it is women who are targeted. The Irish Health Service removed all mention of “woman” and “women” from an ad campaign to prevent Cervical Cancer, apparently in an effort to be “inclusive.” Following protest spearheaded by Radicailín, a radical feminist group made up of Irish and migrant women, the ad was updated, but it still uses “woman” only once, and “people” five times (“women” doesn’t appear at all). Meanwhile, in Ireland, unlike with cervical cancer, prostate cancer remains a men-only disease, and has not magically become “gender-neutral” in an effort to be “inclusive.”
The public, for the most part, are largely unaware that the Gender Recognition Act is in place, nor do they understand the level of threat it carries for women and girls. The IWL is attempting to raise these and other issues, and create room for discussion across the public narrative. We are, of course, bullied and abused for it in a multitude of ways, as feminists are and always have been.
Our first and most urgent aim is to provide media and political representation for women in Ireland. This is because the National Women’s Council of Ireland is actively working against women’s rights. They — along with Amnesty International, Trans Equality Network Ireland, and other well-funded NGOs — signed a petition calling for the removal of “legitimate representation” from women like ourselves and others who “defend biology.” In a situation where we have the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Amnesty International demanding that any Irish woman (or man for that matter) who speaks out against the damaging and harmful effects of the 2015 Gender Recognition Act be denied media and political representation, we had no choice but to insist on our democratic right to that representation. When that letter was signed by those groups, and the National Women’s Council of Ireland in particular, we knew that as Irish women we had no choice but speak out in defiance of those who signed on to a call to silence Irish women in the public sphere. We feel the facts here speak for themselves; it should be plainly apparent that the signatories to that letter acted in a manner that was aggressive, disturbing, and blatantly totalitarian.
MM: How does the Irish women’s movement differ from the women’s movement in other parts of Europe and North America?
IWL: The women’s movement here differs in all sorts of ways, one unfortunate manifestation being the number of women who declare themselves feminists while undermining or outright aggressing against women’s sex-based rights. You’d have to despair for a feminism that doesn’t recognize its own purpose. All of this is of course heavily underpinned by social class, as is everything in Ireland. You could say class is to Ireland what race is to the United States – of course they’re not the same thing, but there are some startling parallels. In Ireland, class is the great unmentionable — you’re not supposed to talk about that. The problem is deeply rooted in our history of British colonialism, and has persisted for centuries.
Every part of the West will have its own regional issues. For us, a shift towards the left was socially necessary in order to counterbalance a national narrative that had leaned too heavily towards religious and social conservatism for too long, but we are knee-deep in neoliberal nonsense now. Some parts of the Western World have issues with the political narrative going too far right. We have the opposite problem: we’ve gone too far left — but like so many other places, it’s a “left” that has abandoned a class analysis, and with it, the working classes, both female and male. Ireland’s woke brigade have got drunk on their own Kool-Aid, but we’ve all got to share the hangover.
MM: What is the situation with prostitution currently?
IWL: The vast majority of women in Irish prostitution — about 95 per cent — are migrant women, predominantly from the poorer countries of Eastern Europe but also from Nigeria, Brazil, and parts of Asia. The percentages will fluctuate, but foreign women in the Irish sex trade always figure somewhere at 90+ per cent. That’s been the situation for years; it’s very sad. It’s also very sickening to see the Soros funded pro-prostitution lobbyists relentlessly campaign to decriminalize pimps in Ireland. Migrant women are generally paid a pittance once their pimp takes their cut, and the push to decriminalize their pimps comes from women who charge 300 and 400 euros an hour in escort prostitution and are salaried to press for the full decriminalization of the Irish sex trade on top of that. They’re in no way representative of the women who would suffer most if they got their way in decriminalizing the pimps of the Irish sex trade.
It is now illegal to purchase the body of a woman (or anyone) for sexual use in Ireland, but male habits of sexual entitlement die hard, and we would say there are not nearly enough convictions, though there have been some. There are numerous problems in this area, including that some organizations and individuals who speak out against prostitution use apolitical language, like “sex work” and “the sex buyers’ law” etc. This kind of framing argues against itself: you cannot say that prostitution is inherently violent while simultaneously framing it as employment, and you cannot say that what men purchase in prostitution is sexual access to women’s bodies while at the same time referring to them as “sex buyers.” The international abolitionist movement and the survivor’s movement in particular has very strong ties to Ireland. That movement has a language all of its own, much of it framed by survivors. It’s a pity more Irish campaigners didn’t take the time to learn it.
MM: Can you explain the issue around language a little further? What is preferable?
IWL: Terms like “sex work”, “sex buyers’ law,” and “the Equality Model” are never used here — not by anyone political, strategical, or experienced. Irish abolitionist activists say “prostitution” to refer to prostitution, “punters” to refer to johns, and “the Abolitionist Model” or “the Nordic Model” to refer to abolitionist legal frameworks. Survivors who spent a decade fighting for the Nordic Model now have to listen to the corporate reframing of “the Equality Model,” which may work well elsewhere in the world, but that’s not what Irish women fought for. This language was imposed on Irish sex-trade survivors by corporate feminists who never took the time to ask. You’d be interested to know what they’re thinking, except they’re not thinking. Feminist organizations that ignore survivor groups in their anti sex-trade campaign planning are not thinking at all.
MM: Is anything else of note happening with gender identity legislation and ideology in Ireland?
IWL: In 2007, the Irish High Court found that Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights as it did not have a process to legally recognize the “acquired gender” of transsexual persons. In 2011, a Government Gender Recognition Advisory Group after broad consultation recommended medical gatekeeping, and living full-time for a two-year period in the “changed gender” prior to receiving a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). The subsequent Gender Recognition Bill published in December 2014 required medical evaluation and certification.
However, following lobbying and subterfuge, the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) that was passed in 2015 had no such requirements, or any gatekeeping whatsoever. In fact, the GRA allows any person to download and fill in an A4 form, have it notarized, making them, for all intents and purposes, legally the “opposite” sex.
The lack of any gatekeeping whatsoever means that any man — be he a rapist, a pedophile, a voyeur, or any type of sexual pervert — can obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) that allows him to access all areas dedicated for women. That includes: hospital wards, changing rooms, prisons, domestic violence refuges, clinics treating victims of sexual assault, changing facilities etc. There are literally no limits. What’s more, “sex” is not a specific “protected characteristic” under Irish Equality legislation — “gender” is, rendering any defence of women’s right to single-sex facilities even weaker.
Because of self-ID, any violent male sex offender can legally identify as a woman, and demand to be imprisoned with vulnerable women in Ireland. This has already happened. One man charged with ten counts of sex offences was taken directly from the courthouse to the women’s estate in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison. Another violent young man — whose court report states that the expert from the Tavistock gender clinic did not believe he had gender dysphoria — was allowed to obtain a GRC while in state care as a violent offender, and has been housed in Limerick Women’s Prison. His own mother had to move cross country to a secret location to escape him, such was the seriousness of his homicidal intentions, which are wholly transfixed on women. The Irish public, however, were fed a story in the mainstream press about “Ireland’s Homicidal Girl.” Needless to say, the safety, health, and welfare of the imprisoned women — most of whom, if not all, are victims of sexual and violent abuse — are completely disregarded. Ireland’s terrible history of abusing incarcerated women is being perpetuated, but this time in the name of the “new religion” rather than the old.
MM: The IWL has an upcoming online event, on April 29, called “Speak Up For Free Speech.” Can you tell me about that event and why you felt it was important to organize something specifically addressing free speech?
IWL: The issue of free speech has become very urgent, both here in Ireland and across the Global North as legislation is being drafted and enacted to expand “hate crimes” to include “hate speech.” Wherever this legislation is enacted, it curtails our right to free expression in harmful and dangerous ways. Women face the prospect of being accused of a hate crime for stating biological facts, or even “misgendering.” If this bill passes, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Amnesty International won’t need to sign a petition demanding our right to political and media representation be removed, because those of us who “defend biology” will already be silenced by law.
Of the many pressing issues facing women and girls, the issue of free speech is absolutely crucial — if we are not allowed to say that women have the right to single-sex spaces, how the hell can we defend our right to those spaces?
We think the timing of this webinar is absolutely perfect — we are hosting Iseult White, who will be discussing free speech and cancel culture here in Ireland; Lisa Mackenzie, who will be talking about the Scottish experience, and of course we are really looking forward to hearing from you about what women across North America have been dealing with too.
Could we discuss silicon, that substance on which our digital world depends?  Silicon is a semiconductor, and tiny electronic switches called transistors are made from it. Like brain cells, transistors control the flow of information in a computer’s integrated circuits. Transistors store memory, amplify sound, transmit and receive data, run apps and much, much more.
One smartphone (call it a luxury, hand-held computer with portals to the Internet) can hold more than four billion transistors on a few tiny silicon chips, each about the size of a fingernail.
Computer chips are made from electronic-grade silicon, which can have no more than one impure atom per billion. But pure silicon is not found in nature. Producing it requires a series of steps that guzzle electricity  and generate greenhouse gases (GHGs) and toxic waste.
Silicon’s story is not easy to swallow. Still, if we truly aim to decrease our degradation of the Earth and GHG emissions, we cannot ignore it.
Silicon production starts with collecting and washing quartz rock (not sand), a pure carbon (usually coal, charcoal, petroleum coke,  or metallurgical coke) and a slow-burning wood. These three substances are transported to a facility with a submerged-arc furnace.
Note that transporting the raw materials necessary for silicon production—between multiple countries, via cargo ships, trucks, trains and airplanes—uses oil and generates greenhouse gases. 
Kept at 3000F (1649C) for years at a time, a submerged-arc furnace or smelter “reduces” the silicon from the quartz. During this white-hot chemical reaction, gases escape upward from the furnace. Metallurgical-grade silicon settles to the bottom, 97-99% pure—not nearly pure enough for electronics. 
If power to a silicon smelter is interrupted for too long, the smelter’s pot could be damaged.  Since solar and wind power is intermittent, they cannot power a smelter.
Typically, Step Two takes up to six metric tons of raw materials to make one metric ton (t) of silicon. A typical furnace consumes about 15 megawatt hours of electricity per metric ton (MWh/t)  of silicon produced, plus four MWh/t for ventilation and dust collection; and it generates tremendous amounts of CO2.
Manufacturing silicon also generates toxic emissions. In 2016, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation issued a permit to Globe Metallurgical Inc. to release, per year: up to 250 tons of carbon monoxide, 10 tons of formaldehyde, 10 tons of hydrogen chloride, 10 tons of lead, 75,000 tons of oxides of nitrogen, 75,000 tons of particulates, 10 tons of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, 40 tons of sulfur dioxide and up to 7 tons of sulfuric acid mist.  To clarify, this is the permittable amount of toxic waste allowed annually for one New York State metallurgical-grade silicon smelter. Hazardous waste generated by manufacturing silicon in China likely has significantly less (if any) regulatory limits.
Step Two’s metallurgical-grade silicon is crushed and mixed with hydrogen chloride (HCL) to synthesize trichlorosilane (TCS) gas. Once purified, the TCS is sent with pure hydrogen to a bell jar reactor, where slender filaments of pure silicon have been pre-heated to about 2012F (1100C). In a vapor deposition process that takes several days, silicon gas atoms collect on glowing strands to form large polysilicon rods—kind of like growing rock candy. If power is lost during this process, fires and explosions can occur. A polysilicon plant therefore depends on more than one source of electricity—i.e. two coal-fired power plants, or a combination of coal, nuclear and hydro power. 
A large, modern polysilicon plant can require up to 400 megawatts of continuous power to produce up to 20,000 tons of polysilicon per year (~175 MW/hours per ton of polysilicon).  Per ton, this is more than ten times the energy used in Step Two—and older plants are usually less efficient. A single plant can draw as much power as an entire city of 300,000 homes.
Once cooled, the polysilicon rods are removed from the reactor, then sawed into sections or fractured into chunks. The polysilicon is etched with nitric acid and hydrofluoric acid  to remove surface contamination. Then, it’s bagged in a chemically clean room and shipped to a crystal grower.
Step Three’s polysilicon chunks are re-melted to a liquid, then pulled into a single crystal of silicon to create a cylindrical ingot. Cooled, the ingot’s (contaminated) crown and tail are cut off. Making ingots often requires more electricity than smelting. The silicon ingot’s remaining portion is sent to a slicer.
Like a loaf of bread, the silicon ingot is sliced into wafers. More than 50 percent of the ingot is lost in this process. It becomes sawdust, which cannot be recycled. 
Layer by layer, the silicon will be “doped” with tiny amounts of boron, gallium, phosphorus or arsenic to control its electrical properties. Dozens of layers are produced during hundreds of steps to turn each electronic-grade wafer into microprocessors, again using a great deal of energy and toxic chemicals.
Questions for a world out of balance
In 2013, manufacturers began producing more transistors than farmers grow grains of wheat or rice.  Now, manufacturers make 1000 times more transistors than farmers grow grains of wheat and rice combined. 
After I learned what it takes to produce silicon, I could hardly talk for a month. Because I depend on a computer and Internet access, I depend on silicon—and the energy-intensive, toxic waste-emitting, greenhouse gas-emitting steps required to manufacture it.
Of course, silicon is just one substance necessary for every computer. As I report in letter #3 , one smartphone holds more than 1000 substances, each with their own energy-intensive, GHG-emitting, toxic waste-emitting supply chain.  One electric vehicle can have 50-100 computers.  When a computer’s microprocessors are no longer useful, they cannot be recycled; they become electronic waste. 
Solar panels also depend on pure silicon. At the end of their lifecycle, solar panels are also hazardous waste. (In another letter, I will outline other ecological impacts of manufacturing, operating and disposing of solar PV systems.)
I’d certainly welcome solutions to silicon’s ecological impacts. Given the magnitude of the issues, I’d mistrust quick fixes. Our first step, I figure, is to ask questions. What’s it like to live near a silicon smelter? How many silicon smelters operate on our planet, and where are they? If we recognize that silicon production generates greenhouse gases and toxic emissions, can we rightly call any product that uses it “renewable,” “zero-emitting,” “green” or “carbon-neutral?”
Where do petroleum coke, other pure carbons and the wood used to smelt quartz and produce silicon come from? How/could we limit production of silicon?
How does our species’ population affect silicon’s production and consumption? I’ve just learned that if we reduced fertility rates to an average of one child per woman (voluntarily, not through coercion of any kind), the human population would start to approach two billion within four generations. (At this point, we’re nearing eight billion people.) To reduce our digital footprint, should we have less children? Would we have less children?
What would our world look like if farmers grew more wheat and rice than manufacturers make transistors? Instead of a laptop, could we issue every student a raised bed with nutrient-dense soil, insulating covers and a manual for growing vegetables?
What questions do you have about silicon?
Yours, Katie Singer
Katie Singer’s writing about nature and technology is available at www.OurWeb.tech/letters/. Her most recent book is An Electronic Silent Spring.