Myanmar Security Forces: Stop Violent Attacks on Peaceful Demonstrators

Killings of Unarmed Civilians Demand Urgent Investigation & Accountability

Mighty Earth calls on Myanmar security forces to immediately cease violent attacks on peaceful protesters that have resulted in multiple deaths and injuries of unarmed civilians in the past 72 hours in cities across the country. We are dismayed by reports from multiple credible sources – including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – that “ police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force that…has left at least 18 people dead and over 30 wounded.”

We stand with the people of Myanmar in asserting that they should not be subjected to lethal force merely for peacefully exercising their universal human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association. We urge Myanmar’s military leadership to work with the country’s democratically elected officials and civil society to establish a clear and rapid return to civilian rule. Myanmar’s forests and the rights of its people depend on a legitimate government.

“The peaceful exercise of the universal human rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association anywhere in the world, but particularly Myanmar at this moment, requires respect and protection, not extrajudicial executions by security forces who fail in their obligation to honor such basic freedoms,” said Glenn Hurowitz, Chief Executive Officer at Mighty Earth. “The Myanmar military leadership must respect the rights and legitimate democratic aspirations of the Myanmar people, or face global pariah status for choosing unlawful violence over peaceful engagement.”

Henry Waxman Honored with a "Baldy Award"

"Mighty Earth Chairman Henry Waxman has been honored with Bill Maher's inaugural "Baldy Award."

As Maher quotes, “50 percent of the social safety net was created by Henry Waxman when no one was looking.” And that’s the thing about being a workhorse instead of a show horse: no one is looking.

Ultimately, that’s the spirit we’re striving to emulate at Mighty Earth – drive transformative impact even if no one is looking.

See Maher's announcement here:


Indonesian Coalition Urges Government to Save Tapanuli Orangutan, Protect “Wonderful Indonesia”

Indonesian Coalition Urges Government to Save Tapanuli Orangutan, Protect “Wonderful Indonesia”


Controversial US$ 1.6 billion dam project backed by China and Dharmawangsa Group threatens extinction of the rare Pongo tapanuliensis orangutan 

JAKARTA, INDONESIA – The stage is set for a crucial showdown in a long-running battle to save a newly discovered rare species of orangutan from possible extinction at the hands of a planned US$ 1.6 billion hydroelectric dam project. The state administrative court in Medan ruled Monday in narrow terms that it would not halt the construction of the dam. In the wake of that decision, a coalition of Indonesian organizations and international leaders is calling on the government to cancel the dam project and protect the ecosystem for the long term.

A letter urging cancellation of the project was delivered today to President Joko Widodo. Signatories include representatives of the Orangutan Information Centre, Center for Orangutan Protection, PUSAKA, Yayasan HAkA, FOKUS, Madani, Sawit Watch;  international leaders including former U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (Mighty Earth, Chairman), former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, former U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman, former U.S. Congressman George Miller, the Honorable Zac Goldsmith (MP United Kingdom), former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake, Jr. (Board Co-Chair, US-Indonesia Society), former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Cameron Hume, and more.

The proposed dam project, being constructed on the Batang Toru River, North Sumatra, by Chinese hydroelectric giant Sinohydro with financing from the Bank of China threatens the newly discovered Tapanuli orangutan species, as well as thousands of local people whose livelihoods will be put at risk.

The Tapanuli orangutan was only identified as a new species in 2017, the seventh great ape species in the world. Despite being newly identified, it is already perilously close to extinction with a population now numbering less than 800 individuals. It is estimated that the population has almost halved since 1985, and that it will continue to decline unless comprehensive protection measures are implemented.

The US$ 1.6 billion hydroelectric power plant, the largest on the island of Sumatra, is scheduled for completion by 2022. However, the dam was planned before the identification of the Tapanuli orangutan – meaning the environmental planning process didn’t consider the risk of extinction to this species.

The ownership of the project, considered part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is a maze of overlapping Indonesian and Chinese entities, Chinese finance, and the Chinese state-owned company Sinohydro.

“Chinese investment has the potential to do a lot of good, but this project risks tarring the reputation of the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Panut Hadisiwoyo, Founding Director of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC). “We hope that the Chinese government will reconsider this project in light of the discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan: can you imagine a foreign-funded project that threatens the Giant Panda with extinction ever being approved?”

One potential beneficiary of the dam is the nearby the Martabe gold mine, which is currently set to expand further into Tapanuli orangutan habitat. The mine is owned by a subsidiary of the giant British conglomerate Jardines Matheson, which has previously been criticized for its palm oil subsidiary’s tens of thousands of acres of deforestation of Sumatran orangutan habitat.

“Jardines has already profited from destroying tens of thousands of acres of Indonesian forests, and now it’s trying to mine gold that would forever be linked to the deaths of Tapanuli orangutans,” said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO Mighty Earth, an organization that has urged Jardines to help protect the Tapanuli. “Nobody wants to buy a gold necklace or wedding ring that is associated with killing an endangered species.”

The Dharma Hydro company, part of the Dharmawangsa Group, is also linked to the project. Dharma Hydro is the largest shareholder in North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE), the company behind the dam project. Paradoxically, even as it helps develop a dam that would inundate habitat of the world’s rarest great ape, the Dharmawangsa Group is marketing a new resort it is developing on the island of Beilitung as an “eco resort.”

Environmental assessments have found that the construction and operation of the dam and power plant will also threaten the livelihoods of thousands of downstream local residents who rely on the river’s ecosystem for their survival for fisheries, agriculture, transport, and daily water needs.

Photo: Andrew Walmsley

“The Indonesian government spends millions of dollars on advertising to promote our natural treasures through the ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ campaign,” said Hardi Baktiantoro from Center of Orangutan Protection, who also joined the interview. “President Jokowi should protect that investment by focusing on responsible energy and infrastructure projects that can meet our power needs while protecting Indonesia’s wildlife.”

These enormous threats likely would come with few benefits. The dam has among the lowest benefit-to-cost ratios of any planned hydro-energy project in the region. It would operate only during peak times and carries projected cost of over US$1.6 billion.  NSHE is also planning to build the dam in an area of intense geological activity, putting the project and surrounding communities at risk of earthquakes with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Reports have documented that there is no pressing need for the energy that would be produced by the dam and shown that there are viable alternatives for energy production in the region. For example, the nearby 330 MW Sarulla geothermal project produces clean energy and can be upgraded to 1 GW if needed to meet the flexible or peak load power needs the dam is supposedly designed to address – and all without posing a risk to the Tapanuli orangutan.

“Indonesia can meet its infrastructure and energy needs without threatening the Tapanuli orangutan or wasting massive amounts of money on the Batang Toru dam – there are options for geothermal, solar power, or even smaller, less expensive and damaging hydro projects,” said Arrum from Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “Ultimately, it is going to be us, the Indonesian people, that will have to pay back this enormous loan in our electricity bills”.

Further information, please contact:

Image Dynamics

Ayunda Putri

+62 8122 00 1411 (phone & text) / +62 8977 400 788 (whatsApp)

[email protected]

In a hot world, companies may be the last, best hope

In a Hot World, Companies May Be The Last, Best Hope

From: Glenn Hurowitz, Mighty Earth CEO |Re: Mighty Earth Update| October 8, 2018 

The world’s leading scientific climate change body, the IPCC, today released a report showing that there is even more urgency to addressing climate change than the world’s scientists had previously thought: that the world must cut pollution by 45 percent by 2030, and reach net zero pollution fifteen years after that. It’s the difference between having some coral reefs survive and virtually none at all; of agriculture surviving across vast swathes of the Earth, or mass wildlife and desertification; the world’s plants would have double a chance of holding onto more than half their habitat; and even oceans would lose 1.5 million tons of their fish. The report makes clear in its sober language that these are life and death questions.

At the same time that the rising heat demands the actions of our whole societies, many governments are turning their back on the environment. The United States official take on climate change is now that it’s so bad that’s there no chance of stopping it, so we might as well just burn as many fossil fuels as possible. Brazil seems poised to elect a leader who has vowed to join Trump in rejecting the Paris climate accord, putting the country’s forests and agricultural viability at risk. And even countries like Japan, which formerly led the way toward action, are subsidizing the burning of coal and palm oil at home and around the world. While other governments such as China and Europe have redoubled their commitments to action, this is a global problem, and they alone won’t be sufficient.

But although the media focuses on the primary role of government, let us not forget that for the most part it is not governments that do the polluting or deforesting,  but companies. Just because governments aren’t doing their job, doesn’t mean the job can’t be done. Indeed, some of the world’s greatest environmental successes have been achieved by companies acting either from their own sense of responsibility, or spurred by customers, investors, and society more broadly – often in ways that end up changing government. The big soy traders have for 10 years protected part of the Amazon when their customers demanded they do so; companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon have shifted to 100% clean energy; 274 coal plants in the United States have been slated for retirement or stopped by Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign;  investors representing $6 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuels; and previously notorious paper companies protected millions of acres of Canada’s forests.

No matter how far into a wonderland of suicidal auto-delusion governments descend, companies retain the power to act.  But there is no excuse for private sector lack of urgency, nor backstop if it fails. We have a dozen years. That means companies like Cargill have to get serious and jettison their absurd 2030 deadline for ending deforestation, and industries like steel, cement, oil, and chemicals that have previously taken few steps to reduce their emissions must get started today on the shift to 100% clean energy and carbon neutrality.

How We’re Driving Company Action Even in Red States

Here’s why we know it’s possible. We’re seeing citizens pour out to demand that companies stop polluting even in the “reddest” parts of the United States. Our campaign to transform the US meat industry to stop pollution and destruction of native ecosystems has struck a chord across the political spectrum.  In Haywood County, Tennessee, we helped turn dozens ofpeople out to town meetings to object to Tyson’s expansion plans, many of them wearing “Tyson: Don’t Tread on Tennessee” t-shirts. In response to citizens’ outcry, a frontpage story in the area newspaper reported that Tyson is pulling the plug on its meat factory plans – a major victory. We will continue working with communities in Tennessee to ensure Tyson sticks to its commitment.

In the days following the decision, two local volunteers who’ve been working with Mighty Earth were elected to public office on promises to fight concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – one became County Mayor, and the other was elected to the County Commission that oversees zoning.

All of our volunteers will be releasing our new Flunking the Planet report about how most major supermarkets and fast food restaurants – including ones that brand themselves as sustainability leaders like Whole Foods – have zero environmental policies in place for the meat they purchase – even though meat is typically by far the greatest driver of environmental impact of any product they sell. Indeed, Whole Foods purchases meat from many of the same sources as McDonald’s, including notorious polluters Tyson Foods and Cargill. Interestingly, the only exception was Wal-mart, which has taken important but modest steps to improve practices for how animal feed is grown and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A world away in Bolivia, citizens and politicians alike are acting to demand that international companies like Cargill and ADM stop exploiting their natural resources and people. On behalf of more than 100 Bolivian civil society organizations, indigenous organizations, and other representatives, 18 Members of Bolivia’s national and state legislatures and mayors to the world’s leading meat companies asking them to stop companies like Cargill from destroying Bolivia’s forests, and instead focus development on Bolivia’s 11 million acres of degraded lands.

Finally, I’m excited to announce that two impressive advocates are joining our forests team to help us persuade companies and governments to bring the needed urgency to this work. Mat Jacobson is our new Senior Forest Director, and will oversee our forest programs. He comes to Mighty Earth after almost 20 years in senior positions at the Pew Charitable Trusts and elsewhere. Amongst his many accomplishments, Mat was instrumental in securing the protection of more than 50 million acres of America’s last intact roadless forests under the Clinton administration, helped secure commitments to protect hundreds of millions of acres in the Boreal Forests of Canada, and was instrumental in the integration of Indigenous perspectives on nature into World Heritage policies and guidelines.
Abdul Tejan-Cole, a celebrated human rights lawyer and advocate, has joined us as our new Senior Director for Africa. He previously served as the Executive Director of the Open Society Institute’s West Africa Initiative, and as head of Sierra Leone’s anti-corruption commission, where he successfully prosecuted a number of high-level cases in fisheries and maritime issues. He has served as Secretary General, Vice President, and President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, as well as president of the West Africa Bar Association.  Abdul was also a war crimes prosecutor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and has been Board Chair of West Africa Democracy Radio and Timap for Justice. Environmental and land rights protection have been a long-time passion for Abdul.