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Deep Undercover: Police Officer in UK Fathered a Child with an Activist as Part of an Investigation

Court settlement raises new questions about ethics of police infiltration

What are the limits — if any — to undercover policing? At what point is a moral, ethical, or legal threshold crossed when an undercover operative insinuates himself into a targeted group or the lives of its members?

Last Thursday British media reported that the UK’s Metropolitan Police would pay £425,000 (about $686,000) in a settlement with a woman, known only as Jacqui, who was conned by a man who fathered her first child, said that he loved her, and then one day disappeared. She knew him as Bob Robinson. His real name, as she would learn 25 years later, was Bob Lambert. He was an operative with the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a special unit within the British police that infiltrated a host of environmentalist groups to gather intelligence. In several cases the operatives, almost always men, established long-term intimate relationships with women in order to gain access to the world of underground animal rights or environmental activists.

Metropolitan policePhoto by CGP GreyMetropolitan police officer Bob Lambert’s mission was to work his way into the “intensely furtive, hard-core wing of the animal rights movement.

Jacqui’s was 22 when she first met Lambert. He was more than ten years older than her, and had already been a member of the Metropolitan police for several years. He went undercover in 1983 not long before he met Jacqui. As Rob Evans and Paul Lewis explain in their book Undercover, Lambert’s mission was to work his way into the “intensely furtive, hard-core wing of the animal rights movement: the Animal Liberation Front.” Having a girlfriend who was already trusted and well connected within activist circles was one of the easiest ways to become a “deep swimmer,” a phrase used by members of the SDS to describe spies who completely immersed themselves in the groups they were monitoring. In addition to Jacqui, Lambert is known to have had romantic relationships with three other women during his career as an undercover operative. Seven other women have also filed charges against the Metropolitan police.

The revelation that she shared her life with a man she did not really know has wrecked Jacqui’s life. The Guardian reports: “The woman has been receiving psychiatric treatment and has contemplated suicide since she read a newspaper in 2012 and found out the true identity of the man who …more

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Indigenous Communities Challenge Big Oil in Belize

Groups push to keep US Capital Energy out of Sarstoon Temash National Park

The old school bus rattles along the dirt road, heading through the rainforest to the southernmost reaches of Belize. The sign would be easy to miss. Morning glory vines climb the small, rusted notice off to the right, nearly blending in with the banana plants and palm-thatch roofed houses in the Mayan community of Midway. Sarstoon Temash National Park. No Hunting, Fishing, Logging Or Fires.

A few hundred feet down the road, there is another rusting metal sign outside a small building that serves as the community health clinic: U.S. Capital Energy Belize. Oil Company Working For The Community. Like the clinic, the school and pre-school across the road are painted in the Texas-based oil company’s colors, yellow and green. Even the metal garbage bins around here are emblazoned with the company slogan: Energy that becomes life. The road ends where it meets the Caribbean Sea in the small Afro-indigenous Garifuna community of Barranco, one of the villages buffering the park.

Sarstoon Temash NationalPhoto by The Advocacy Project Temash River in the Sarstoon Temash National Park, near where US Capital Energy has been conducting seismic tests.

The Belizean government created Sarstoon Temash National Park — a 42,000-acre swath of waterways and lands rich in biodiversity that forms part of traditional Mayan territory — in 1994 without community consultation, but local communities have largely come to embrace the protected status of the area. And they have refused to cave to US Capital Energy as it attempts to develop oil prospects both in and outside of the park, pointing to the lack of consultation as well as the government’s double standards when it comes to environmental protection. 

“I mean, [the Belizean government is] going to tell me you can’t go and cut the leaves you want to make a thatched roof without their permission, you can’t go and fish, and you can’t do farming there — but it’s okay for a company to come and put a big rig in there?” says Tricia Mariano, president of the local Barranco branch of the National Garifuna Council, a group that works to preserve and strengthen the culture of the Garifuna people. “It’s contradictory,” she says, laughing.

Communities in the Toledo District of Belize have pursued two distinct paths of resistance, advancing a local indigenous conservation model within the park while also challenging oil …more

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Washington Completes the First Fully Electrified Scenic Loop Drive

Travelers can now take 440-mile zero-emissions ride through the Cascades’ glacier-clad peaks and evergreen forests

One of the most scenic road trips in the nation, Washington’s Cascade Loop Scenic Highway leads travelers on a 440-mile journey through a wilderness of glacier-clad peaks, past towns that proclaim their Western heritage, amid lush evergreen forests, alongside thriving vineyards, and across islands jutting into Puget Sound. With the recent installation of the final charging station, travelers can now navigate the entire scenic loop drive in an electric vehicle. Whether it is a day trip from Seattle, a week-long adventure, or something in-between, the strategically placed charging stations make it possible for electric car enthusiasts to undertake green travel as they wind their way through Washington’s diverse landscape.

With more than 60 charging stations along the route, even cars designed for the urban commute can navigate the loop without losing their charge. A 2014 Nissan Leaf, with a range of less than 100 miles, was the perfect vehicle for a test ride.

CascadesPhoto by Craig Damlo View from Diablo Lake Overlook in the North Cascades National Park.

Everett, located 30 miles north of Seattle, is an ideal starting point for those on the western side of the state. Heading out from Everett, the Stevens Pass Greenway provides electric vehicle drivers their first challenge as it climbs from sea level to the 4,000-foot pass. Charging stations along the way offer the opportunity to enjoy the scenery of quaint mountain towns, and the ski area at the summit allows drivers to charge before heading down to the Wenatchee Valley with its multitude of recreation possibilities.

From the Wenatchee Valley, the route heads north along the east side of the Cascades, hugging the Columbia River past fruit orchards and vineyards and eventually climbing into the heart of the North Cascades. Charging stations are available in picturesque towns such as Chelan, on the shores of magnificent Lake Chelan, and in the old west theme town of Winthrop. The final charging opportunity before climbing the pass is the mountain resort village of Mazama. From Mazama the route climbs over Washington Pass, which, at an elevation of 5,476 feet, is closed in winter. West of the pass, a charging station in Newhalem provides the boost needed to make it back down from the mountains. The route continues into Puget Sound over the Deception Pass Bridge and along Whidbey Island. Scenic island hamlets …more

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50 Years Ago, the Anti-Nuclear Movement Scored Its First Major Victory in CA

An interview with Bill Kortum, who helped lead the opposition to a nuke plant at Bodega Bay

Fifty years ago, on October 30, 1964, the American environmental movement scored a major victory when California utility Pacific Gas & Electric said it was abandoning plans to construct an atomic energy plant at Bodega Bay, about 70 miles north of San Francisco.

photo of a rugged coastlinephoto by Woody HastingsBodega Head

The struggle to protect Bodega Head is widely viewed as the launch point of the US anti-nuclear movement. The mass demonstrations at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, the opposition to PG&E’s development of the Diablo Power Station on the California Coast, the long-running American Peace Test actions against the Nevada nuclear test, the massive Nuclear Freeze marches – all of them came in the wake of the struggle against building a nuclear plant outside this small fishing village that would soon become better known as the setting of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The Birds.

To many Northern California residents today, it is amazing that such a proposal ever existed; that otherwise sane people thought it was a good idea to build a nuclear power plant at the Bodega Head. At the time, however, most Americans were pro-nuclear, including most self-indentified “conservationists” or “environmentalists,” a word that was just then coming into use. So it fell to an ad-hoc band of citizen-activists to raise the alarm about the power plant and to spearhead the opposition to it. If those concerned citizens had not risen up to oppose this ill-conceived plan, we would be living in a different Northern California today, saddled no doubt with an aging industrial forbidden zone on what had once been a beautiful rocky outcropping on the coast.

I had the chance to speak with Bill Kortum, one of the few people still living in Sonoma County who was involved. Although I had prepared a set of questions to ask for the interview, most of them were swept away by Kortum’s eagerness to just spill his thoughts and memories of the six-year “Battle of Bodega Bay.”

Today, the pit that PG&E started excavating for the planned power station, known locally as “the hole in the head,” has become a small pond on the ocean’s edge – evidence of how nature can heal itself when we stop our destructive practices and get out of the way.


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Missouri’s “Right to Farm” Amendment has Family Farmers Worried

New measure aims to preempt potential animal welfare and environmental regulations in the state

The right to farm. It sounds innocuous enough. Shouldn’t we all have some right to farm if we want to? Probably, but that isn’t exactly what Missourians were getting at when they passed a constitutional amendment this summer to protect the right to farm.

Spring Corn PlantingPhoto by CAFNR Spring corn planting in Missouri. Amendment 1 opponents worry that measure will ease the way for large-scale farms to dominate Missouri’s landscape.

The amendment, known as Amendment 1, or the “right to farm” amendment, guarantees Missouri citizens the right to “engage in farming and ranching practices.” It seeks to protect farming operations from new laws, such as anti-GMO legislation or animal welfare regulations, that would change or ban practices that Missouri farmers currently used.

Amendment 1 passed by a slim margin; so slim that there was a vote recount in September. After all the ballots were counted, and recounted, the measure passed by 2,375 votes out of nearly a million ballots cast. As the tight margin suggests, the amendment stirred up quite a bit of controversy, not to mention confusion, in the state, embroiling family farmers, big ag, animals’ rights advocates, and GMO activists.

Amendment 1 opponents worry that the vaguely worded law will give industrial agriculture the upper hand when it comes to farming policy and regulation in the state, easing the way for large-scale farms to dominate Missouri’s landscape. They are also particularly concerned that the measure will be used to challenge existing and future animal welfare regulations and environmental measures, including confinement conditions for hogs and poultry, limitations on puppy farms, pollution controls, and potential GMO labeling laws. The amendment, they say, will hurt smaller-scale family farms.

photonamePhoto by CAFNR The right to farm amendment may be used to challenge animal welfare regulations.

“What I expect is that this sort of greases the shoot for corporate agriculture in Missouri,” says Richard Oswald, President of the Missouri Farmers Union. “It’s not going to be a dramatic change, it’s just going to more of the same, with more and more takeover of what used to be things that independent family farmers did.” Oswald believes it will also “nullify those family farmer friendly statutes that we already had on the books that did help protect agriculture,” …more

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Protecting the “Last Ocean”

Delegates from 24 countries and EU to debate massive marine preserve in the Antarctic

Earlier this fall, the Associated Press reported that a remarkable creature had been pulled from Antarctica’s Ross Sea. According to the article, the colossal squid was “as long as a minibus” with “tentacles like fire hoses and eyes like dinner plates,” and was still clinging to its dinner when fishermen on the San Aspiring toothfish boat, from New Zealand, hauled it from the water this January. The unfortunate cephalopod was then transferred to Wellington, New Zealand, some 2,000 miles north, and tucked into a freezer for later scientific examination.

PenguinsPhoto by John B. Weller Penguins walking in a line in Antarctica. This week and next, delegates from 24 countries and the EU will try to permanently protect the Ross Sea and waters off East Antarctica.

It was a fitting find for the icy waters that are often called the world’s “Last Ocean.” Located adjacent to Earth’s most remote continent and shut in by ice for 10 months of the year, the Ross Sea has so far escaped the grim fate of overfishing, pollution, and invasive species decimating Earth’s other oceans. Its frozen shores and crystal-clear waters teem with species adapted to the harsh climate: Adélie and emperor penguins, Weddell seals, killer whales, Antarctic petrels, and many more. It’s the sort of place that reassures us wilderness still exists, beyond our reach and full of mysterious creatures.

penguin mom and baby Photo by John B. WellerAn adult penguin with a chick. The Ross Sea teems with species adapted to the harsh climate,
including Adélie and emperor penguins.

As the presence of the San Aspiring suggests, however, that image is no longer entirely accurate.

“With increased technology over the last 10 years, more and more fishing vessels are looking towards the Antarctic oceans,” says Mark Epstein, executive director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, a network of conservation NGOs focused on the region.

This week and next, government representatives from 24 countries plus the EU will attempt to permanently protect the Ross Sea and waters off East Antarctica from fishing and other threats by creating two huge marine protected areas (MPAs). Three times in the past three years, Russia, Ukraine, and China have blocked attempts to do the same. This time around, Russia’s troubled relationship with America and Europe could more

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Monitoring Environmental Destruction From the Sky

SkyTruth uses satellite imagery and data-crunching to track fracking, mountaintop removal, and oil spills around the world

The twenty-first century has been dubbed the "surveillance society," a culture where police departments increasingly deploy drones to spy from above, smart phones precisely track their owners' locations, and government agencies routinely record our emails and phone calls. In this new milieu, environmentalists have started to do some watch-dogging of their own, documenting industry's misdeeds by adapting newly available technology and tactics to fit their needs. 

Jonah Field, WyomingPhoto by EcoFlight.Wellpads, access roads, pipeline corridors and other natural-gas infrastructure in western Wyoming’s Jonah Field. High-altitude imagery allows SkyTruth to reveal the sheer scope of development as well as changes over time.

Leading the pack is a small outfit, SkyTruth, run by seven staffers and a handful of volunteers and interns from a single-story building tucked behind a small craft store in Sheperdstown, West Virginia (population 1,700). From this small-town setting, SkyTruth does big-data work, aggregating massive amounts of open source information about some of the world's most damaging and polluting industries.

SkyTruth was the first organization to fully map the mountains in Appalachia decimated by mountaintop removal, showing that over 2,700 ridgetops had been flattened across five states. This work, accomplished by comparing satellite images from the 1970s to 2009 and using digital elevation information to isolate mountaintop removal from other strip mining, helped prove that one out of every five streams in West Virginia had been harmed by mountaintop removal.

SkyTruth's operations extend far beyond Appalachia, reaching into the supply chains of some of the world's most globalized industries, such as deep-sea fishing in international waters. In the Kermadecs, an island chain more than 600 miles off the northeast coast of New Zealand labeled one of “last pristine sites left in the ocean” by National Geographic Society and Census Marine Life in 2010, fishing is strictly regulated. While most boats use beacons that transmit their location as part of a system to prevent ship collisions, illegal fishers often do not participate in this warning system or disable their beacons when they near protected waters. SkyTruth tracks ships to the edges of protected areas like the Kermadecs, then uses satellite radar to find fishing boats that have attempted to conceal their entry into the exclusion zone. They've also discovered fleets of boats from Spain, Ukraine, and China trawling the perimeter of the zone, creating a …more

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