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Seeds of Change

Petermann's Tank in Culebra
Seeds of Change
Images of environmental activism at iBuen Vivir! Gallery

The subjects of Anne Petermann’s photos currently on show at ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery are social/environmental activists demonstrating in locations from New York City to jungle Brazil, on matters ranging from behind-closed-doors trade negotiations and machinations to attempts by world agriculture megacorporations the likes of Monsanto to genetically modify grain crops to produce sterile seeds that therefore could not be replanted the following year, forcing farmers to buy new seed each year from the megacorporations.

You win some and you lose some. The title of the exhibit is Triumph and Tragedy: Movements for Change around the World. The fight against sterile seed is actually one of the wins. For the time being anyway. Led by La Via Campesina, a worldwide coalition of peasant organizations comprising farm workers, small producers, women’s groups, and indigenous communities that recently began focusing on the issue of “food sovereignty,” which it defines as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” The objective is to “put those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” La Via Campesina translates as “the peasants’ way.”

A moratorium on the development and use of sterile seed was initiated by La Via Campesina in 2004. Two years later, the moratorium was officially adopted at a UN biodiversity conference and has been in effect under UN auspices ever since.

One in the loss column—for the time being again—is the ongoing devastation of large tracts of Brazilian forest lands—including in the process the displacement of indigenous human populations—ultimately for the sake of a variety of lifestyle convenience demands of people in more developed parts of the world.

One photo depicts a veritable chain of small mountains of wood pulp ready for shipment to paper-making plants elsewhere. Apparently first the primeval forests are harvested, then replaced by faster-growing GMO tree species for subsequent harvest. Sometimes the displaced natives are able to effectively fight back, but when that happens, it seems pretty clearly a skirmish in a war they are destined to lose in the end to the megacorporations. One photo is of an indigenous man in a feather headdress, in Espirito, Brazil, 2005. The caption tells of how the indigenous community cut down a GMO eucalyptus plantation owned by the Aaracruz Cellulose Company to rebuild the village from which it had been forcibly removed—and then the village destroyed—to make way for the plantation.

But it’s a long-term war and only destined to be lost if no one fights it. The two most beautiful pictures in the exhibit are two versions of the same subject, magnificent Camel’s Hump Mountain in Vermont. A distant view reminiscent of various standard but always spectacular views of Japanese Mount Fuji. And slightly nearer view of the promontory and dense stands of deciduous trees and evergreens on and around it. The deciduous trees in the fall color array that Vermont arguably does better than any other place on earth. The caption talks about how during the past 150 years Vermont had been largely deforested, and as a result lost many native wildlife species—including beaver, otter, and moose—that in the general reforesting of the state in recent decades have returned to Vermont. On the other hand, some original native species—such as elk, caribou, and wolverines—seem to have been lost to the state forever.

The Anne Petermann exhibit continues through September 18, when a closing reception will be held from 6 to 9pm and the photographer will do a walk-through of the exhibit, discussing the issues, campaigns, and people documented.

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