Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California.


Karen Pickett is a member of the Board of Directors of Global Justice Ecology Project. She lives in the redwood country in the Bay Area of California and has been a grassroots activist for over 25 years, working on issues of forest and species preservation, recycling, native rights issues, alliance building between the labor and environmental movements, and activist civil rights.

She is founder and Director of the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters and is a co-founder of the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment. She leads workshops and classes on movement building and grassroots organizing, and is the recipient of a number of awards for her work.


By Karen Pickett
GJEP Board Member and Bay Area resident


The North Bay fires in California are not surprising, but they are shocking.

I live in a fire ecology area. I was unable to germinate native bush poppy seeds until I put the seeds on a bed of pine needles and set it afire. These poppies grow near knobcone pines, whose cones do not release their seeds except in the extreme heat of fire. In the understory are manzanitas, whose burls will sprout after all aboveground branches and foliage are gone. I am a few miles south of the conflagration in Northern California, so have suffered mostly smoky air but not flames lapping at my house.

We (modern day humans) haven’t yet learned how to live with fire; how to stay out of the urban-wildlands interface and leave a buffer there—for fires and for wildlife. Nor have we learned how to keep our species’ numbers in balance with an ecology that provides habitat for untold numbers of other species being crowded out to the point of extinction, including mycorrhizal fungi, soil bacteria and other species we haven’t yet met that are vital to life on earth.

In the midst of this horrifying tragedy, we love the heartwarming stories of positivity, and they keep us going in rough times. Acts of human kindness arising from the disaster area—of brave first responders, and people risking life and limb to save a cat or dog. The spin can’t be all negative. It’s not our fault, is it?

There’s no lack of blame to spread around, but it gets tangled. PG&E (the power provider) has a poor maintenance record and has been found at fault before—notably for the deadly inferno resulting from the San Bruno gas line explosion south of San Francisco in 2010. But reports now are referencing power lines along with “weak trees.” Weak trees? The villainizing of trees sounds like the justification used for salvage logging after forestland fires. As well, it’s the weather. We know our Mediterranean climate gives us long dry summers, but 2017 was the hottest on record, as was 2016 before that, and 2015, and it goes on, somersaulting backwards. What does 2018 have in store?

And the victims? I wish the news would quit calling it “wine country.” The Napa Valley is full of wineries, yes, but grapes have replaced the native species, often oak forests, coyote bush and of course the native ecosystem’s denizen species. And of the people who populate the area, the majority are working class, including large numbers of immigrant farm workers who pick the grapes, significant numbers of them undocumented. Needless to say, they don’t have insurance policies that cover their homes, now smoldering ash next to melted cars.

When will we humans grasp that our dominance is not a privilege granted us from some higher power; our privilege is not license to build-build-build wherever and whatever we desire and use enormous amounts of electricity until it short circuits and sparks fly.

What do we do? We don’t see weak trees, climate chaos, and “empty space” in wildlands as barriers to progress as we try to wrestle Mother Nature to the ground. We are humbled, we take off our blinders and see our part in damaging the balance of nature, including climatic cycles and loss of species diversity on the planet. We are to blame and are victims at the same time. And there’s no equal protection or blame under that law.

Will new regulations regarding building materials, zoning restrictions and density save us here in the west? Afraid not. A sudden global awakening about the amount of carbon and methane we’re putting into the atmosphere, along with population reduction, along with respect for wild land, natural processes and other species might make a dent. Then again, evolution happens.

Photo: Claudio Nogueira

The Role of Eucalyptus in Brazil comes under the Crosshairs of the International Anti-Transgenic Tree Network (June 2, 2023)

Impact of monoculture in territories was the subject of visits led by FASE in Espírito Santo


Note: FASE were co-organizers of the tour to the communities of Espírito Santo.

The article (included below in full) is written by Claudio Nogueira (FASE Communications Coordinator) and originally appeared June 2nd, 2023, on FASE’s website. It is available in both Portugese and English through Google Translate.


The pulp industry writes a sad story in Brazil. Its role in land occupation with eucalyptus monoculture imprints a perverse logic that suffocates traditional communities and goes far beyond false ideas of reforestation and environmental concern. This was the scenario encountered by members of the campaign “Stop GM Trees” (No to Transgenic Trees) and the Alert Against Green Deserts Network, in a tour organized by the FASE Espírito Santo team, visiting locations in the north of Espírito Santo and the extreme south in Bahia, between the 24th and 29th of May.

In all, around 25 people, including popular educators, quilombola and landless leaders, environmentalists and foreign researchers from Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Ireland, Argentina and Chile were able to verify the impact of eucalyptus plantations on the way of life of family farmers and traditional communities in the region. For three days, the group got to know the experiences of agroecological practices in areas taken over by the Landless Workers Movement (MST) at the Egídio Brunetto Training School and at the Índio Galdino settlement, in addition to hearing reports of the difficulties faced by the quilombola communities of Volta Miúda and Angelim 2 with monoculture plantations. After the visits,

eucalyptus espirito santo

Photo: Claudio Nogueira

For Beto Loureiro, educator at FASE in Espírito Santo, the tour was important for the researchers to realize that the impacts are already terrible, and the transgenic trees are going to be one more aggression in the historical series that monoculture causes in the territories, “since the expulsion of traditional communities, passing through the depletion of water resources and the enormous amount of poisons that they apply now, even by air”. “They are spraying the monocultures by drone, and this poison is spreading, falling on the communities’ plantations, falling on their homes, on their schools. In short, a real chemical war, which takes place here in the green desert, ”he explains.

Transgenic trees, a new threat

Brazil was chosen to host the meeting due to the extension of activities in the paper industry and approval by the company Suzano, in 2021, for the planting of genetically modified eucalyptus trees to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate. This follows the previous approval, in 2015, of FuturaGene’s fast-growing transgenic eucalyptus tree, which was not planted commercially. The country is the only one in Latin America where field tests seem to be taking place today with genetically modified trees.

Genetic engineering directly changes the genetic makeup (DNA) of an organism, bypassing normal plant or animal reproduction to create new traits. Genetic engineering includes techniques that make changes to DNA by inserting genetic material from the same, similar or wholly unrelated organisms, or, with genome editing (also called gene editing), by introducing genetic material that acts as “editor” to change the DNA. Genetic engineering applied to trees is a technical challenge fraught with serious environmental and social risks.

Photo: Claudio Nogueira

Most research is focused on increasing the productivity of planted trees for various industrial purposes. These objectives include pulp, paper and wood production; as well as the use of trees as “bioenergy” crops – to produce biomass and liquid “cellulosic biofuel”. There is also some interest in genetically modifying trees to produce other industrial materials such as pharmaceuticals, using the trees as “biofactories”, as well as experiments to sell carbon credits and proposals to release these trees into the wild to “restor” endangered species. of extinction.

“It made us realize that it is another problem that we will have to deal with”, ponders Beto. “These transgenic eucalyptus trees grow very quickly. Therefore, they must also suck water very quickly, they are resistant to poisons. We can imagine that the burden of poisons in monocultures will increase, and that is what we expect from these researchers: that they return to their countries also understanding that non-transgenic eucalyptus is already a tragedy”, he concludes.

The foreign delegation continued its tour of Brazil with audiences at UnB and Esplanada dos Ministérios, in Brasília, and will continue to Mato Grosso do Sul, also to verify the role of eucalyptus plantations in the environmental imbalance in the state.