The Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network invokes indigenous peoples asking the world to reevaluate our relationship to Mother Earth. We can turn away from destroying, privatizing and commodifying nature, and instead to “indigenuity” to fashion sustainable solutions by re-sacralizing our relationship with Mother Earth.
This speech was given at the 2013 Bioneers National Conference. Since 1990, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges.
Transcript is below.
Mother Earth, Indigenous peoples, earth, Indigenous, land, recognize, nature, people, sacred, world, climate negotiations, life, protect, redd, humanity, industrialized countries, environmental, carbon trading, offsets, forests
This is our home with the Mother Earth. Everything around here has life, the spirit. The spirit, to these trees, the ground, and these plants. Even this air and the wind, the wind blows.
In our native way my name is The Bears Look Over Me. I have relatives I have friends who are the long claws, the grizzly bear and they give me some have an authority to talk about nature. I never used to wear glasses like long time ago but I’m finding that the more that I look at the computer screen you know, but every year we have ceremonies in the summertime and I put my computer away and so the my eyes we adjust to the earth to the trees to the land. So I can see things a lot better when I put away that screen.
So yes, it’s true. I’m the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. In short, we call it IEN. IEN was established in 1994. And by community based Indigenous peoples including our youth and elders, IEN was formed to address the many different issues Indigenous rights based approach to a lot of the issues that we’re dealing with around environmental and economic justice in North America, are what our brothers from the Haudenosaunee confederacy called Turtle Island. Working for environmental and economic justice is spiritual work that reaffirms our human relationship and responsibility to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth and the recognition of father sky. One of the goals of this work is to secure a healthy and safe environment for all people, all future generations, with no disparities, and who is more protected. The modern world cannot achieve economic sustainability. Without environmental justice and without strong environmental ethics that recognizes our human relationship or human relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth. The future of mankind depends on a new economic, and environmental paradigm. Indigenous peoples are confronting many challenges as we know, challenges such as extreme changes in the environment in our backyards, extreme weather events, extreme energy development, the continued push of economic globalization, and continuation of Western forms of development. Despite the signs of financial collapse, and depletion of natural resources around the world. fossil fuel development within Indigenous territories, our land or water, our seas are on the increase. It is business as usual. The petroleum industries, private corporations, with the helping hand of governments are expanding exploration to find more unconventional fossil fuels and further perpetuating the energy addiction of an industrialized society. The survival of Indigenous cultures, languages and our communities continue to be affected by a modern industrialized world that lacks awareness and respect for the sacredness of Mother Earth. as guardians and caretakers of Mother Earth. It has And our responsibility as Indigenous peoples to protect the natural environment to generate awareness of Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and promote models for sustainable development based upon our Indigenous spiritual values.
In the words of Rachel Smoker, one of the activists of the non non governmental organizations that have been attending these climate negotiations, she says, climate change has provided the perfect disaster capitalism storm, an excuse for expanding corporate ownership and control over the comments. Indigenous peoples participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. UNF triple C is what we call it. These climate negotiations and other UN meetings such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, are in the frontlines of a power structure that minimizes the importance of Indigenous cause cosmologies philosophies and worldviews these power structures reside within the UN process and prop up inequalities found in industrialized countries, the more developed of developing countries, the World Bank, and financial institutions, these powerful actors have economic systems that objectify commodify and put a monetary value on land, water, our forests, air that is contrary to many of our Indigenous understandings. Indigenous peoples in the north, as well as in the global south, are forced into a world market with nothing to negotiate, except the natural resources that we really are that we rely on for survival. History has seen attempts to commodify land, food, labor force, water, genes, and ideas, such as privatization of our traditional knowledge. carbon trading follows in the footsteps of this history, and turns the sacredness of our Mother Earth’s carbon cycling capacity and to property to be bought or sold in a global market. Through this process of creating a new commodity carbon, Mother Earth’s ability and capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is now passing into the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate. A carbon trading will not contribute to achieve in protection of the Earth’s climate, it is a fault solution.
It is a false solution that entrenches and magnify social inequalities in many ways. It is a violation of the sacred, plain and simple. Last year, last year on the road, leading to ***, the June 2012, Earth Summit Rio plus 20, who was in real plus who was in Rio de Janeiro. Raise your hands, raise your hands. There’s some people who were there. In Rio de Janeiro, the push for a green economy was widely being promoted as the key to our planet survival and the new buzzword for sustainable development. The green economy is nothing more than capitalism of nature, a perverse attempt by corporations, extractive industries and governments to cash in and creation by privatizing commodifying and selling off the sacred and all forms of life and the sky. I’ve been known to say that this whole scenario, I call it the WTO of the atmosphere. This includes the air we breathe, the water we drink, and all the again the genes and the plants and traditional seeds, trees, animals, fish, biological and cultural diversity, ecosystems and traditional knowledge that makes life and Mother Earth possible and enjoyable. This green economy regime places the monetary price on nature, and creates new derivative markets that will only increase inequality and increase the destruction of Mother Earth. We cannot put the future of nature and humanity in the hands of financial speculative mechanisms such as using the forest in agriculture, as carbon offsets, for example, called reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation are better known as REDD, and other market systems of conservation and biological offsets and payment for environmental and ecological services. here in California, there is a growing concern of California Global Warming Solutions Act AB 32. And its Cap and Trade carbon offset provisions that would implement a California REDD initiative whereby the state of California would be using forests and Mesoamerica, the Amazon, Africa and other sub national partner jurisdictions as punches for the carbon pollution of polluting industries such as Chevron, and shell, for communities such as Richmond, California here, this only furthers environmental injustice issues, for people living close to the chevron refinery to have to endure more pollution and their communities causing long term health problems, such as asthma, birth defects, cancer, and depression. REDD prolongs these impacts by making offsets available to these polluting companies, allowing them to avoid reducing their emissions at source. REDD type, and carbon offset projects are already out there already causing human rights violations and land grabs and environmental destruction. If REDD is implemented worldwide, it may open the floodgates to the biggest land grab of the last 500 years. Just as Historically, the Doctrine of Discovery was used to justify the first wave of colonialism by alleging that Indigenous peoples did not have souls, and that our territories were Terra nullius, land of nobody. Now, carbon trading and REDD are inventing similar dishonest premises to justify this new wave of colonial colonization and privatization of nature. Mother Earth is a source of life which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as natural capital. Herman Daly, the father of ecological economics, I was told, once said, there is something fundamentally wrong and treating the earth as if it were a business in liquidation.
We feel the pain of disharmony when we witnessed the dishonor of the natural order of creation, and the continued economic colonization and degradation of Mother Earth in all life and all life upon her. This inseparable relationship between humans and the earth, inherent to Indigenous peoples must be learned, must be embraced and respected by all people for the sake of our of our future generations and all of humanity. I urge all of you, all humanity to join with us in transforming the social structures, the institutions and power relations that underpin conditions of oppression, and exploitation.
The response to the global warming is global democracy, democracy for life, and for Mother Earth. We need action for humanity, not to be a carbon colonists, who sells the air we breathe, and privatizes the earth and the sky. Consistent with Indigenous prophecies, we awakening and we’ve heard this term throughout this Bioneers conference. We’ve heard it said many times by our Indigenous elders, our youth, are people who have come here, that consistent with these Indigenous prophecies. This way awakening to our true human nature is sweeping through both Indigenous and non Indigenous societies. For millennia, the wisdom keepers of Indigenous societies kept alive the deep wisdom of our traditional Indigenous worldview passed down By our understanding of the original instructions from generation to generation, long term solutions require turning away from prevailing paradigms and ideologies centered on pursuing economic growth, corporate profits, and personal wealth accumulation as primary engines of social wellbeing. The transitions will inevitably be toward societies that can actively adjust to reduce levels of production and consumption, and increasingly localized systems of economic organization that recognize an honor and are bounded by the limits of nature that recognize the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.
We recognize the need for industrialized countries to focus on new economies, governed by this terminology that I’m using. And we have to really look at the carrying capacity that can carrying capacity of Mother Earth, she is sacred. To restore the Earth’s balance we need to shift from a philosophy, a dominion over nature, dominion over yourself to a relationship and understanding and respect of the natural laws and love for the beauty of the creative female principle and energy of Mother Earth. At this time, I would like to invite Layla Johnson and Desiree Hart, aka the white Buffalo Soldiers on the stage to share a song.