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Global Justice Ecology Project Turns Five! Celebration September 5th

Join us Friday, September 5th 2008 at 5pm at the GJEP office (10600 Rte 116, Hinesburg–the yellow office building between the town hall and the Hinesburg Community Church.  Directions below article).  Meet us on the balcony for food, drinks, music and a slide show of co-Director Orin Langelle’s photos depicting five years of Global Justice Ecology Project accomplishments! Meet the hardworking and world-traveling GJEP staff and our Board of Directors, who will be coming from as far away as Kenya.  

Global Justice Ecology Project Turns Five

By Sara Armstrong, Campaigns and Office Assistant

As a fairly new employee at Global Justice Ecology Project, I am still working to piece together the stories and events that have taken place under the umbrella of this organization. It seems as if co-Directors Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle have fit at least fifteen years worth of activities into the five years that GJEP has been in existence.

The work of Global Justice Ecology Project has taken its two co-Directors and Rachel Smolker, the group’s Agrofuels Campaigner, all over the world, to places like Cancun, Mexico (to document and support international protests against the World Trade Organization’s unjust trade policies in September of 2003), Espirito Santo, Brazil (to co-host an international strategy meeting around efforts to stop genetically engineered trees and monoculture timber plantations in November of 2005), and Brussels, Belgium (to present before the European Parliament on the dangers of agrofuels [unsustainable, large-scale biofuels] and GE trees). They’ve also traveled extensively in the United States presenting and attending meetings of similar issues. 

When asked, “Why Hinesburg?” their response is simply: “Because we love it here!” Langelle and Petermann have lived in Hinesburg since 1996, but their first twelve years in Vermont were spent working for other organizations in Burlington. 

“When Global Justice Ecology Project was formed we didn’t see any reason to commute any more. Combined with climate change and rising gas prices, it just seemed more sensible to base our organization in our community. Plus, we wanted to get to know our neighbors,” says Petermann.

“We’re also of the mind that if we’re going to solve world crises we are going to have to start working with our community, because solutions are going to have to be community based from the people up,” added Langelle. 

The spark behind the creation of Global Justice Ecology Project was simply that the founders felt it was their calling to work for an organization that linked social, economic, and environmental issues together. They felt they needed to get at the root causes of these linked problems and decided to start a new organization. 

High on the priority list for GJEP is avoiding “band-aids” and surface solutions to these problems. Langelle and Petermann feel this separates them from other organizations that are working on similar issues. “One of the biggest challenges we face right now is climate change. We are trying to get to the root of problems like environmental destruction and overconsumption of resources, oppression of indigenous peoples, and economic domination because they are all connected to climate change,” says Langelle. 

While the organization has accomplished much over the past five years, Petermann and Langelle feel their greatest accomplishment has been getting the issue of genetically engineered trees widely known through GJEP’s “STOP GE Trees Campaign.” Petermann and Langelle have been working to stop GE trees since 1999, but with GJEP, they have moved to the international level, where they advocate for a United Nations ban on GE trees. They collaborate on this work with international organizations and indigenous communities, as well as groups in the United States, such as the Sierra Club.

GJEP has also been active at the international level working on climate change.  They have attended the UN Climate Conventions since 2004 where they mobilize with organizations and indigenous groups from around the world for real, meaningful action on climate change while organizing against “false solutions” to climate change such as large-scale agrofuels, carbon trading and carbon offset projects.

Langelle, whose passion for photojournalism coincides with his work at GJEP, adds that creating two photo exhibits (one of which traveled across the U.S. in 2004) has been an important accomplishment. About his photography Langelle states, “I attempt to document the reality of injustice; much of which is linked with the struggle for the land: who controls it and for what is it used.” Langelle also noted that GJEP uses both images and words to educate people, and that he and Anne are regular submitters to Z Magazine with articles and photos about their work and issues related to it. 

In addition, in its first five years, GJEP has grown from two employees to five, a great indicator of non-profit success. 

When asked to give an example of what type of impact they hope their organization will have on the world, Petermann referred to the monthly potlucks GJEP hosts four to eight times a year at the Carpenter-Carse Library. As part of wanting to get to know their neighbors, Petermann and Langelle decided to start hosting potlucks which featured a speaker or video on an issue GJEP felt was important to address with the community. 

“In return we’ve met lots of interesting people from Hinesburg, and had many useful and interesting conversations. We’ve learned a lot about our community. The potlucks are a way to open up space for dialogue, and provide a forum to start talking about locally appropriate and sustainable solutions to the myriad of problems facing us,” Petermann said.

Langelle adds that it is “urgent that communities start working together and talking about how they’re going to start crafting a new future. This not only applies to Hinesburg, where people are already starting this process, but to all communities.  We are going to need to figure out how we can collectively meet our basic needs of food, shelter and safety. The needs are the same across the world, but the solutions for each region will look drastically different. While the problems are global, solutions will be local.”

To learn more about the history and programs of Global Justice Ecology Project, and to meet our staff and board, please join us for our 5th anniversary celebration! It will take place Friday, September 5th 2008 at 5pm. GJEP’s office is located at #10600 Rte 116, the yellow office building between the town hall and the Hinesburg Community Church. We are celebrating five years of hard work and the expansion of our office. See where we work and join us on the balcony for food, drinks, music and a slide show of co-Director Orin Langelle’s photos depicting the hard work of GJEP’s staff over the years. 

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