tagged w/ Indigenous Rights
By Winona LaDuke
The neighboring Kaschewan Village is in similar disarray. They have been boiling water, and importing water. The village almost had a complete evacuation due to health conditions, and , “ … fuel shortages are becoming more common among remote northern Ontario communities right now,” Alvin Fiddler, Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a regional advocacy network explained to a reporter. That’s because the ice road used to truck in a year’s supply of diesel last winter did not last as long as usual. “Everybody is running out now. We’re looking at a two-month gap” until this winter’s ice road is solid enough to truck in fresh supplies, Mr. Fiddler said in an interview.
Kashechewan’s chief and council are poised to shut down the band office, two schools, the power generation centre, the health clinic and the fire hall because the buildings were not heated and could no longer operate safely. “ In addition some 21 homes had become uninhabitable,” according to Chief Derek Stephen . Those basements had been flooded last spring, as the weather patterns changed. Just as a side note, in 2007, some 21 Cree youth from Kashechewan attempted to commit suicide, and the Canadian aboriginal youth suicide rate is five times the national average. Both communities are beneficiaries of an agreement with DeBeers.
The Lost Boys of Aamjiwnaang
Back at Aamjiwnaang, the Ojibwe have blockaded the tracks. Those are tracks that are full of chemical trains, lots of them. There are some 62 industrial plants in what the Canadian government calls Industrial Valley. The Aamjiwnaang people would like to call it home , but they’ve a few challenges in their house.
“If the prime minister will not listen to our words, perhaps he’ll pay attention to our actions,” Chief Chris Plain explained to the media. There’s a recent Men’s Health magazine article called,“ The Lost Boys of Aamjiwnaang”. That’s because the Ojibwe Reserve of Aamjiwnaang has few boys. Put it this way, in a normal society, there are about l05 boys to l00 girls, born, that’s the odds for a thousand years or so. However, at Aamjiwnaang, things are different.
Between l993 and 2003, there had been two girls born for every boy to the tribal community, one of the steepest declines ever recorded in birth gender ratio. As one reporter notes, “these tribal lands have become a kind of petri dish for industrial pollutants. And in this vast, real-time experiment, the children of Aamjiwnaang (AHM-ju-nun) are the lab rats. I might have written "boys of Aamjiwnaang," but actually, there are a lot fewer of them around to experiment on. ..”
This trend is international, particularly in more industrialized countries, and the odd statistics at Aamjiwnaang, are indicative of larger trends. The rail line, known as the St. Clair spur, carries CN and CSX trains to several large industries in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley . Usually four or five trains move through a day, all full of chemicals. The Ojibwe have faced a chronic dosage of chemicals for twenty five years, and are concerned about the health impacts. They are also concerned about proposals to move tar sands oil through their community in a pre-existing pipeline.
The Idle No More movement is fired by the recent passing of the omnibus budget Bill C-45, which was approved by the Senate in a 50-27 vote. Aboriginal leaders charge the Conservative government with pushing the bill through without consulting them. They note the bill infringes on their treaty rights, compromises ownership of their land and takes away protection for Canada’s waterways .In the US, the Native community has been coming out in numbers and regalia to support the Canadian Native struggle to protect the environment- drawing attention at the same time to simlar concerns and issues here in the US. For instance, Ojibwe from the Keewenaw Bay Community in Michigan , rallied against a Rio Tinto Zinc mine project, and Navajo protesters in Flagstaff continued opposing a ski project with manufactured snow at a sacred mountain.
Pamela Paimeta , a spokesperson for the Idle No More movement in Canada, urges the larger community to see what is occuring across the country as a reality check. “the first Nations are the last best hope that Canadians have for protecting land for food and clean water for the future- not just for our people but for Canadians as well. So this country falls or survives on whether they acknowledge- or recognize and implement those aboriginal and treaty rights. So they need to stand with us and protect what is essential.”
To all those who posted recently about "apologies" to the Native Americans in America, you should all read about and support this movement in Canada. The time has come.By Winona LaDuke
The neighboring Kaschewan Village is in similar... more
Today Talisman Energy (TLM) announced its decision to cease oil exploration activities in the Peruvian Amazon and to exit the country upon completion of ongoing commercial transactions.
"We have fought long and hard against Talisman's drilling in our territory because of the negative environmental and social impacts we have seen from oil drilling around the world," said Peas Peas Ayui, President of the National Achuar Federation of Peru (FENAP). "Now that Talisman is leaving we can focus on achieving our own vision for development and leave a healthy territory for future generations."
Talisman is the fifth oil company to withdraw from controversial Block 64, located in the heart of indigenous Achuar territory in a remote and bio diverse region of the Amazon rainforest. Talisman has been exploring in Peru since 2004 and has come under increased pressure by human rights groups and shareholders for operating without Achuar consent.
"Talisman has had to face up to what the Achuar told them when they first invested in Block 64: The company cannot drill without the consent of the Achuar people," said Gregor MacLennan, Peru Program Coordinator at Amazon Watch. "Talisman's exit sends a clear message to the oil industry: Trampling indigenous rights in the rush to exploit marginal oil reserves in the Amazon rainforest is not an option."
Despite Talisman's claim of attaining local support from communities and signing good neighbor agreements with 66 communities downriver from their operations, the company never had the consent of the majority of communities living within Block 64. Talisman first invested in Peru one year after leaving Sudan and became sole operator in 2007, shortly after John Manzoni's appointment as CEO. Manzoni was replaced by ex-TransCanada CEO Hans Kvisle on Monday this week.
"We are the owners and the original people of this land," said Peas Ayui. "No outside person or company may enter our territory by force, without consultation and without asking us. We have been fighting against oil development on our land for 17 years and we maintain the same vision to protect our territory and resources for future generations. Let this be a clear message to all oil, mining and logging companies: we will never offer up our natural wealth so that they can extract our resources and contaminate our land."
More at the linkToday Talisman Energy (TLM) announced its decision to cease oil exploration activities... more
We recently celebrated the news that a high court in Brazil had ordered the immediate halt to construction of the Belo Monte Dam due to a lack of prior consultations with affected indigenous peoples. Now, however, the Brazilian government has presented a complaint to the Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court to overturn this historic ruling. The suspension of the Belo Monte Dam could be ruled on at any moment.
Send an email to Supreme Court Chief Justice Ayres Britto calling on him to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Xingu and to continue the suspension of the Belo Monte Dam!
More at the link below.We recently celebrated the news that a high court in Brazil had ordered the immediate... more
Federal Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil's Amazon region suspended all work today on the Belo Monte Dam, invalidating the project's environmental and installation licenses.
While the project has been suspended previously on numerous occasions, and those suspensions overturned on political grounds, this latest decision could have some legs. The decision breaks down in the following way:
The federal judge ruled that no consultations were held with indigenous people prior to Congress issuing Decree 788 in 2005, which effectively approved the Belo Monte Dam. Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution requires consultations to be held directly by the Congress prior to approval. In this case, approval was given three years before publication of the environmental impact assessment, and no consultations with indigenous peoples were ever carried out by the Brazilian Congress.
As a result, the project's environmental license (granted in 2010) and installation license (granted in 2011) are now considered invalid, meaning that no further work can continue on the dam.
Brazil's National Congress must hold a series of public hearings, or consultations, with the indigenous tribes that will be affected by Belo Monte. Only after such consultations occur and are considered satisfactory, must the Congress legislate a new approval for the dam.
The government and project consortium Norte Energia, S.A. can appeal to Brazil's Supreme Court, Brazil's Superior Court of Justice, the President of the Federal Tribunal, and Brazil's Attorney General, in the next 30 days. Since this is a constitutional matter, the appeal is likely to go to the Supreme Court.
In a press conference given today late in Brasil, Souza Prudente stated that "only in a dictatorial regime does a government approve a project before holding consultations."
The decision supports the arguments that the affected tribes have been making over the lifetime of Belo Monte: tribes will face downstream livelihood impacts as a result of a reduction in the flow of the Xingu River on the 100-km stretch known as the Volta Grande or "Big Bend," and were never properly consulted, much less gave their consent.
In the words of the decision itself,
"installation will cause direct interference in the minimal ecological existence of the indigenous communities, with negative and irreversible impacts on their health, quality of life, and cultural patrimony, on the lands that they have traditionally occupied for time immemorial. This requires the authorization of the National Congress after holding prior consultations with these communities, as deemed by law, under the penalty of suspension of the authorization, which has been granted illegally."
Beyond the fact that the Belo Monte Dam is now considered illegal by one of Brazil's higher courts, the fact is that Brazil doesn't need Belo Monte. Economic rationale for the dam is based on a projected economic growth of 5% or more a year, but over the past few quarters, GDP has been lucky to grow at even a measily rate. As far as Belo Monte's importance to Brazil's economic race, this is really a case of the horse following the wagon.
And, as illustrated by this historic court decision, the wagon has been trampling on indigenous people and their rights, along the way.
More at the linkFederal Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil's Amazon region... more
Bishop Erwin Kräutler has just received the Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize. "Dom Erwin", as he is known in Brazil, is Bishop of the Xingu, the largest diocese in the country and President of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) of the Catholic Church. Krautler been an unwavering ally of indigenous peoples and social movements opposed to the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River for over two decades. He was honored at an awards ceremony at the Swedish Parliament yesterday “for a lifetime of work for the human and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and for his tireless efforts to save the Amazon forest from destruction.”
Here are a few quotes from Bishop Krautler's speech at the awards ceremony:
I accept the Right Livelihood Award in the name of those who fight with me today, on behalf of the indigenous peoples, Amazonia and human rights. I accept it also in the name of the dozens of people who have given their lives, whose blood has been spilled and who were brutally assassinated because they opposed the systemized destruction of Amazonia.
There is a lack of public policy that encourages the preservation of Amazonia, this gigantic biome. Amazonia is “unique,” its biodiversity is “exceptional”! Nothing in the whole world exists that is comparable to this region, the marvel of God`s creation. Brazil is responsible for the largest part of this biome of Amazonia.
The Belo Monte project appears to be sacrosanct, unquestionable and assumes the air of being a veritable historical subject. Human beings, families and communities are no longer protagonists of their own history. They were not heard, they were silenced before the project was planned and elaborated in Brasilia, a project that never took into consideration the legitimate rights and preoccupations of the population of the Xingu. All those who are quoting this project are immediately labeled as 'enemies of progress', or 'against development'.
I am honoured with the award at a moment, when our struggle on behalf of the indigenous people, dignity and human rights are taking on new dimensions and greater importance in the face of the development projects that threaten Amazonia. Those anti-ecological projects of enterprise will have a huge and destructive impact on everyone sitting here in Stockholm this evening, on all people living on earth.
Read the entire acceptance speech
The Right Livelihood Award going to Bishop Krautler is a victory for popular human rights struggles throughout the Amazon in the face of authoritarian and destructive mega-projects such as Belo Monte.Bishop Erwin Kräutler has just received the Right Livelihood Award, often... more
Aaron Huey's effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people -- appalling, and largely ignored -- compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk from TEDxDU.Aaron Huey's effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge... more
A new "gold rush" is under way in the American West, but this time the prospectors are out for another metal: uranium.
The Grand Canyon region in the US state of Arizona holds one of the nation's largest concentrations of high grade uranium, the fuel for nuclear power.
As global demand for nuclear power has increased so has interest in the metal and, across the south-west, companies are seeking permission to restart uranium mining.
In the US, President Barack Obama has called for an increase in nuclear power to help reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.
The US government is currently weighing the costs and benefits of mining, with Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva proposing a ban on mining near the Grand Canyon.
But with the increase in uranium exploration come concerns about the future of the Grand Canyon, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of America's foremost natural wonders.
And Native American populations living near uranium mines fear exploration could contaminate their drinking water.
For now, the sole active uranium mine near the Grand Canyon's northern rim is run by Denison Mines Corporation, a Canadian firm.
The Arizona 1 mine employs 30 miners, and the firm says it goes to great lengths to protect them in the hazardous environment.
Among other precautions, large fans pump clean air into the mine and suck out most of the radioactive radon gas, while workers spray water across the site to keep down potentially harmful dust. The firm also says past accidents were swiftly and effectively cleaned up.
On a recent trip into the mine, none of the miners wore masks, and their hands and face were caked with uranium ore.
"It washes off," miner Cody Behuden, 28, told the BBC while licking his ore-caked lips.
Vice-president of US operations Harold Roberts said the miners were under no danger from ingesting uranium.
***************************************A new "gold rush" is under way in the American West, but this time the... more
1. Torch Cock Block
2. Take Back our City
3. Heart Attack
4. The Motherfuckin NLG
5. Gord Hill breaks it down.1. Torch Cock Block
2. Take Back our City
3. Heart Attack
4. The Motherfuckin NLG... more
1. Colombian attack on the indigenous
2. Blocking the flows of carbon
3. Mending the Niger Delta
4. RCMP can’t find Bin Laden
5. The Olympigs are here!
6. The resistance responds
8. Occupy Everything1. Colombian attack on the indigenous
2. Blocking the flows of carbon
3. Mending the... more
(Big Bay, Michigan) – Residents of the Yellow Dog Watershed, whose tranquil life in nature has already been degraded by preliminary mining activities in the area, are inviting everyone to join Native Americans and leaders of various faiths for a day of prayer and fasting, this Sunday near Eagle Rock to honor Lake Superior.
The Lake Superior Day (Sun., July 18) event near Big Bay in north Marquette County is named "Under the Shadow of Eagle Rock: A Day of Prayer and Fasting."
Residents of the Yellow Dog Watershed hope the public will join in prayers for the protection of the environment where Kennecott Eagle Minerals is building a nickel and copper mine.
The event will run from sunrise to sunset with rituals, prayers, meditations and ceremonies every two hours on the hour.
Lake Superior Bi-National Forum and Lake Superior Day
Lake Superior Day 2010 events:
Northland College and lake Superior Day
http://www.northland.edu/lake-superior-day.htm(Big Bay, Michigan) – Residents of the Yellow Dog Watershed, whose tranquil life... more
blog and site of the olympic resistance network
their about me:The Olympics Resistance Network is primarily based in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories and exists as a space to coordinate anti-2010 Olympics efforts. In doing so, we act in solidarity with other communities across ‘BC’ – particularly indigenous communities who have been defending their land against the onslaught of the Olympics since the bid itself.~orn/blog/?p=39
blog and site of the olympic resistance network
their about... more
Brazil's government has granted an environmental licence for the construction of a controversial hydro-electric dam in the Amazon rainforest.
Environmental groups say the Belo Monte dam will cause devastation in a large area of the rainforest and threaten the survival of indigenous groups.
However, the government says whoever is awarded the project will have to pay $800m to protect the environment.
The initial approval was a key step before investors could submit bids.
The proposal to build a hydro-electric dam on the Xingu river, a tributary of the Amazon in the northern state of Para, has long been a source of controversy.
The initial project was abandoned in the 1990s amid widespread protests both in Brazil and around the world.
The government says the scheme has been modified to take account of fears that it would threaten the way of life of the indigenous peoples who live in the area.
Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc revealed that those who win the bidding process to build and operate Belo Monte will have to pay millions of dollars to protect the environment and meet 40 other conditions.
However, critics say diverting the flow of the Xingu river will still lead to devastation in a large area of the rainforest and damage fish stocks.
They say the lives of up to 40,000 people could be affected as 500 sq km of land would be flooded.
When it is completed, Belo Monte would be third largest hydro-electric dam in the world, after the Three Gorges in China and Itaipu, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay. It is expected to provide electricity to 23 million Brazilian homes.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8492577.stmBrazil's government has granted an environmental licence for the construction of... more
During the course of this long-running, class-action litigation, it has been documented that the United States owes Indian people more than $137 billion for mismanagement of trust accounts. That was established just by the documents that were presented.
The original federal judge on this case was Royce Lamberth, who held at least three secretaries of the Interior in contempt for not producing thousands of additional documents. Also, during the course of this case, hundreds of relevant documents were found in the trash by Interior Department employees, who reported this to the court and to Interior Department officials.
So basically, now, the U.S. government is saying that it has identified the thief of Indian royalties and resources as itself. It has allowed the thief to determine the value of the settlement and mostly has allowed the thief to keep what has been stolen.
Only in America if you steal something and hold onto it long enough does it becomes yours.http://www.russellmeansfreedom.com/2009/the-united-states-continues-to-steal-land-from-... more
The Red Nation Film Festival has chosen Leonard Peltier to receive its first annual Humanitarian Award for his lifelong commitment to indigenous and human rights, as well as his leadership in efforts to alleviate poverty and domestic abuse among Native peoples. As a political prisoner for nearly 34 years, Peltier has helped focus world attention on government repression of Native resistance throughout the Americas, while the United States continues to make an example out of him of the consequences of seeking freedom. Unable to accept the award in person, Leonard wrote the following acceptance speech for award: Read at Above Link.
FREE LEONARD PELTIER NOW!!http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=8728841&blogId... more
Resist 2010: 8 Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics, is a short, fast-paced documentary focusing on the negative impacts of the 2010 Games to be held in Vancouver, Canada, and the ongoing resistance by Indigenous & other social movements.Resist 2010: 8 Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics, is a short, fast-paced... more
Indian tribe the Dongria Kondh face destruction of their lands and extinction at the hands of British mining giant Vedanta Resources.
The ash spills out across the plain beneath the brooding bulk of Niyamgiri mountain, swamping the trees that once grew here, forming dirty grey-brown drifts around the stems of the now-dead scrub.
Every day there is more ash, pouring out of the alumina refinery that squats among the steep-sided, jungle-clad hills of western Orissa, India. The dust hangs in the air and clings to the landscape, settling on the huts of the aboriginal Kondh tribes who call this place home, choking those who breathe it in.
Niyamgiri is as remote as any place in the country: 600km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, accessible only by narrow, shattered roads pocked with deep holes, a world away from the economic powerhouse that is 21st-century India.
It is a place of quiet beauty, of lush green paddy fields and huge mango trees, where self-sufficient tribes still share the jungle with elephant, tiger and leopard. Yet this most unlikely place is now the frontline in a clash of civilisations that has pitched the indigenous population up against the corporate might of the British mining company Vedanta Resources, intent on dragging Niyamgiri into the modern world.
It is the mineral wealth lying beneath the slopes of the mountain that has drawn Vedanta to Niyamgiri. It wants to turn the hillside into a giant bauxite mine to feed its refinery at the foot of the mountain.
The FTSE 100-listed company, which is run by the abrasive billionaire Anil Agarwal, is pressing ahead despite a desperate local rearguard action and an international outcry. Yesterday the British government turned on the company, issuing an unexpectedly damning assessment of its behaviour.
Vedanta hopes the refinery will produce at least one million tonnes of alumina a year. But the Kondh people – the Dongria, Kutia and Jharania – need the bauxite too. It holds water remarkably well and helps feed the perennial streams on which they and the animals that live on the mountain rely. Once the bauxite is gone, they fear, the streams will run dry. And that will be the end of the Kondh.
Faced with ferocious local opposition and an international campaign to stop the development, the company has returned time and again to the courts to push its plans through. In July, after numerous setbacks and rulings against it, it was finally given permission by India's supreme court to start mining.
It has wasted no time. Already, the skeleton of an enormous conveyor belt snakes out of the refinery and up to the foot of the mountain. Beyond it, an ugly scar of deep red earth runs up the hillside where hundreds of trees have been felled. Convoys of lorries trundle along the narrow roads, churning them to mud.
There are still legal challenges that the protesters can make and there is also the remote possibility that Vedanta shareholders, which include the Church of England, could bring pressure on the board to reverse its plans.
Although the mining is yet to start in earnest, those who live in the hundreds of small villages that dot the slopes are in no doubt that the effects of Vedanta's presence are already being felt. People and animals are dying, they say: the number of cases of tuberculosis have shot up.
Basanti Majhi sits with her hands folded in her lap, in a hut in the centre of the Kutia Kondh village of Rengopali, a couple of hundred metres from where the company has sited the red mud pond that holds the waste slurry from the refining process.
The 12-year-old started coughing hard last year; her family took her to a doctor, who confirmed TB. She complains of constant pains in her hips and joints and of problems from the dust that settles on the village. "The dust gets in my eyes and it makes it hard to breathe," she says.Indian tribe the Dongria Kondh face destruction of their lands and extinction at the... more
During rush-hour commute this morning, two Indigenous Canadian women – Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, and Heather Milton-Lightening – scaled flagpoles in front of the main entrance of Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) headquarters in Toronto, dropping a banner reading “Please Help Us Mrs. Nixon.com” – appealing to the bank to pull its massive investments in Alberta tar sands projects. Supported by RAN, the Ruckus Society, and their Indigenous People’s Power Project, they were joined by dozens of Toronto RAN activists, swarming entrances to ensure every RBC employee heard our appeal Mrs. Janet Nixon, the wife of RBC CEO Gordon Nixon, to lend her strong and influential voice to those fighting to protect Canada’s clean water and respect Indigenous rights by pushing RBC to stop bankrolling the tar sandsDuring rush-hour commute this morning, two Indigenous Canadian women – Eriel... more
(Valparaiso, Indiana) - Rev. Dr. George Cairns of Chesterton, Indiana delivers a Sunday homily about “the major evils of today – genocide and ecocide” entitled “Repent or the Time is Near” on May 31, 2009 at the Union Community Church in Valparaiso, Indiana.
In this two part homily video series, Rev. Cairns discusses the “Cosmic Christ” and a related story in “The Lutheran” magazine by Elaine Siemsen, the United Nations definition of genocide, the loss of language and other heritages in Indigenous peoples like the American Indian, Ecocide, the acclaimed ABC News Special “Earth 2100” and how many experts believes the Earth and its inhabitants are facing the “the Sixth Great Extinction” of the world.
Cairns talks about the results of the American Museum of Natural History national survey on Ecocide that “reveals a biodiversity crisis” and is entitled “Scientific Experts Believe we are in the Midst of Fastest Mass Extinction in Earth's History: Crisis Poses Major Threat to Human Survival; Public Unaware of Danger”
With the statute of limitations up, Rev. Cairns confesses his childhood antics to prevent a highway construction project from ruining the woods in which he played - now an interstate freeway has “vaporized” those woods that meant so much to him while growing up.
The other homilies on Celtic Christianity take a look at several topics including the European roots of the Celts (primarily Scotland and Ireland) and how Earth-based cultures can impact the future of civilization including actively protecting the environment, respecting fellow humans, different cultures and nature.
Cairns works closely with Rev. Gregory Jones on several social fronts.
Rev. Jones is the pastor of the Union Community Church and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University.
Founded in 2007, The non-profit Turtle Island Project is known for its ongoing work with Native American issues and the other wing involves other Earth-based religions like the Celts. Dr. Cairns is the co-founder of the nonprofit Turtle Island Project.
Rev. Cairns continues to work closely with the foremost Celtic group in the world, the Iona Community in Scotland.
Celtic Christianity Today
youtube & bliptv:
Rev. George Cairns, Spirit Cafe blog, United Church of Christ
Iona Community, Scotland
Union Community Church, Valparaiso, IN
Rev. Gregory Jones, Theology Department at Valparaiso University
The Lutheran Magazine: Who is the Cosmic Christ? By Elaine Siemsen
United Nations: genocide
Native American Genocide – then and now:
American Museum of Natural History survey on Ecocide:
ABC News Special “Earth 2100”
The Sixth Great Extinction:
http://www.well.com/user/davidu/sixthextinction.html(Valparaiso, Indiana) - Rev. Dr. George Cairns of Chesterton, Indiana delivers a... more
The uprising In the Amazon is more urgent than Iran's - it will determine the future of the planet.
In the depths of the Amazon rainforest, the poorest people in the world have taken on the richest people in the world to defend a part of the ecosystem none of us can live without. They had nothing but wooden spears and moral force to defeat the oil companies – and, for today, they have won.
Here's the story of how it happened – and how we all need to pick up this fight. Earlier this year, Peru's right-wing President, Alan Garcia, sold the rights to explore, log and drill 70 per cent of his country's swathe of the Amazon to a slew of international oil companies. Garcia seems to see rainforest as a waste of good resources, saying of the Amazon's trees: "There are millions of hectares of timber there lying idle."
There was only one pesky flaw in Garcia's plan: the indigenous people who live in the Amazon. They are the first people of the Americas, subject to wave after wave of genocide since the arrival of the Conquistadors. They are weak. They have no guns. They barely have electricity. The government didn't bother to consult them: what are a bunch of Indians going to do anyway?
But the indigenous people have seen what has happened elsewhere in the Amazon when the oil companies arrive. Occidental Petroleum are facing charges in US courts of dumping an estimated nine billion barrels of toxic waste in the regions of the Amazon where they operated from 1972 to 2000. Andres Sandi Mucushua, the spiritual leader of the area known to the oil companies as Block (12A)B, said in 2007: "My people are sick and dying because of Oxy. The water in our streams is not fit to drink and we can no longer eat the fish in our rivers or the animals in our forests." The company denies liability, saying they are "aware of no credible data of negative community health impacts".
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, according to an independent report, toxic waste allegedly dumped after Chevron-Texaco's drilling has been blamed by an independent scientific investigation for 1,401 deaths, mostly of children from cancer. When the BBC investigator Greg Palast put these charges to Chevron's lawyer, he replied: "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States?... They have to prove it's our crude, [which] is absolutely impossible."
The people of the Amazon do not want to see their forests felled and their lands poisoned. And here, the need of the indigenous peoples to preserve their habitat has collided with your need to preserve your habitat. The rainforests inhale massive amounts of warming gases and keep them stored away from the atmosphere. Already, we are chopping them down so fast that it is causing 25 per cent of man-made carbon emissions every year – more than planes, trains and automobiles combined. But it is doubly destructive to cut them down to get to fossil fuels, which then cook the planet yet more. Garcia's plan was to turn the Amazon from the planet's air con into its fireplace.
Why is he doing this? He was responding to intense pressure from the US, whose new Free Trade Pact requires this "opening up", and from the International Monetary Fund, paid for by our taxes. In Peru, it has also been alleged that the ruling party, APRA, is motivated by oil bribes. Some of Garcia's associates have been caught on tape talking about how to sell off the Amazon to their cronies.
Thank you to those who live in the Amazon who know what is most important to life on this planet. This of course didn't cause the Twitter frenzy the protests in Iran did, but nevertheless this too is about democracy... environmental democracy, and that to me is most important because without a sustainable environment you have nothing else.The uprising In the Amazon is more urgent than Iran's - it will determine the... more
After two years of brutal government repression and destruction of their homeland, the Ngöbe Indians of western Panama won a major victory yesterday as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Panama to suspend all work on a hydroelectric dam that threatens the Ngöbe homeland. The Chan-75 Dam is being built across the Changuinola River by the government of Panama and a subsidiary of the Virginia-based energy giant AES Corporation. The Commission’s decision was the result of a petition filed last year by the Ngöbe, after AES-Changuinola began bulldozing houses and farming plots. When the Ngöbe protested the destruction of their homes, the government sent in riot police who beat and arrested villagers, including women and children, and then set up a permanent cordon around the community to prevent anyone from entering the area. In addition to threatening the community, the dam will irreversibly harm the nearby La Amistad UN Biosphere Reserve.
“We are thrilled to have the Commission take these measures to protect Ngöbe communities,” said Ellen Lutz, executive director of Cultural Survival and lead counsel for the Ngöbe. “We are hopeful that this will help the government of Panama and AES recognize their obligation to respect Ngöbe rights.”
The Commission, which is a body of the Organization of American States, is still considering the Ngöbe’s petition and issued this injunction, called precautionary measures, to prevent any further threat to the community and the environment while the Commission deliberates on the merits of the case.
Specifically, the Commission called on the government to suspend all construction and other activities related to its concession to AES-Changuinola to build and administer the Chan-75 Dam and abutting nationally protected lands along the Changuinola River.
In addition to Chan-75, for which land clearing, roadwork, and river dredging are already well underway, the order covers two other proposed dam sites upstream. The Commission further called upon the government of Panama to guarantee the Ngöbe people’s basic human rights, including their rights to life, physical security, and freedom of movement, and to prevent violence or intimidation against them, which have typified the construction process over the past two years. The Commission required the government to report back to it in 20 days on the steps it has taken to comply with the precautionary measures.
Chan-75 would inundate four Ngöbe villages that are home to approximately 1,000. Another 4,000 Ngöbe living in neighboring villages would be affected by the destruction of their transportation routes, flooding of their agricultural plots, lack of their access to their farmlands, and reduction or elimination of fish that are an important protein source in their diet. It would also open up their territories to non-Ngöbe settlers.
The dam also will cause grave environmental harm to the UNESCO-protected La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, an international World Heritage Site that upriver from the dam site. Scientists believe that there is a high risk of losing important fish species that support the reserve’s wildlife, including several endangered species, because the dam will destroy their migration route.
end of excerptAfter two years of brutal government repression and destruction of their homeland, the... more