Female thought leaders and martyrs defend the Earth
Globally women have made strides over the past century. More women are now leaders around the world than ever before, and yet often women are still marginalized. For instance, in grassroots organizations and alternative news media, women still do the brunt of the work often with significantly less recognition and reward. In the United States, a record 128 women are serving in the U.S. Congress, but major U.N. Conventions remain non-ratified by Congress including for human rights, and the rights of women, children, the disabled, and disappeared people.
The role of women, as far as the owners of industry and land are concerned, apart from providing cheap labour in the factories or on the land, has been to provide unpaid labour in the production and care of the next generation of workers.
For Earth Day 2019, we need especially to recognize the efforts and work of women in defense of Mother Earth and in resistance to societal and industrial exploitation and oppression. No where is this more evident than in developing countries where transnational governance is accelerating the persecutions of indigenous populations including assassinating indigenous women for being Earth guardians. At stake are desired resources such as the Earth’s last wildernesses, which virgin forests represent a conquest for plunder for minerals, metals, oil, timber, and harvests from soy, rubber, or palm oil plantations—all to increase short-term profits.
The extent to which incursions are changing rural habitat is downplayed. In Brazil native aborigine status protections are compromised as tribal offices have closed, allowing them to be hunted down and cornered by fake adventure tourists. Their surroundings are trampled upon in anticipation for development; the rivers they rely upon carelessly polluted. Much like the Native Americans, the last indigenous of the Amazon are exposed to diseases, land conflicts, and homicides by angry men.
More is at stake than removal and integration or the destruction of cultural heritage; for instance, Amazonia locks up carbon dioxide and produces up to 20% of the earth’s oxygen; its rivers and streams influences global rainfall patterns. In contrast, deforestation destroys carbon storage capacity while contributing to the likelihood of wildfires and drought. Development fragmentizes the flora and fauna while increasing the likelihood of invasive species. Today it is dangerous under the reactionary governments to even defend the rights of indigenous people. Hostility, intimidation, assassination, and displacement is incentivized by agent provocateurs.
Earth Guardians in the West
Rosane Santiago Silveira, (photo above) an environmental and human rights activist, was tortured and murdered in Brazil on January 29, 2019. According to Stop GE Trees, she was targeted for her leadership in a reserve council and preventing Barra Velha, a scenic coastal area, from eucalyptus plantation development. According to Stop GE Trees:
Rose joins dozens of environmental activists murdered each year in Brazil. In 2016 and 2017, the country ranked second in the number of murders of environmental activists, according to British NGO Global Witness, which reported 57 executions in 2017.
As noted earlier, indigenous women especially in Central America are not only tasked with defending their homes but face repercussions due to a culture of femicide. Indeed cultures worshiping violence tend to victimize the most vulnerable including women, children, the elderly, and the disabled.
Juana Ramirez Santiago, a Guatemalan human rights defender, was assassinated on September 21, 2018. According to Cultural Survival, she was the 21st human rights activist to be murdered in Guatemala that year. She was the founding member of Network of Ixil Women, an organization which provides psychological counseling, social help and birthing assistance to women in rural areas of Guatemala. Cultural Survival reports that hundreds of other targeted attacks against indigenous human rights defenders involved slayings, stabbings, shootings, and mutilation by machetes.
According to Unicorn Riot, in the United States there is a growing epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW). The states of Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana are pushing for a MMIW Task Force and bill at the Federal Level called Savanna’s Act (S.227). Although unstated, there is a likely connection to the protests held over the past decade on drilling and construction of oil distribution pipelines. The dirtiest and costliest oil developments are taking place, whether the Canadian tarsands or hydrofracturing wells with their short lifespans. Oil development is spreading sex-trafficking, narcotics, and new crimes.
Plains Indians have protested the KXL pipeline for actual or potential spills into the rivers such as the Missouri, Yellowstone, or Platte Rivers since 2008. Possible leaks into aquifers and streams, as well as the release of air pollutants are cited by 350.org. At the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014, Climate Justice Alliance, and Indigenous Rising held a conference. Present were indigenous leaders Chief Tom Goldtooth, Elder Josephine Mandamin, and Elder Casey-Camp. At the conference, Grandmother Josephine described to the audience how important it was for her to be a Water-Walker along the Great Lakes.
Grandmother Josephine, the “Water-Walker”, passed to the spirit world in February 2019. A touching eulogy and other remembrance statements are published at Indigenous Environmental News. Grandmother Josephine gave many interviews in her 17,000 miles of sacred walks around each of the Great Lakes to explain to strangers why she carries a water pail as an Anishinaabekwe. She says:
As women, we are carriers of the water. We carry life for the people. So when we carry that water, we are telling people that we will go any lengths for the water. We’ll probably even give our lives for the water if we have to. We may at some point have to die for the water, and we don’t want that.
Water is a human right, and according to a prophecy from an elder within the Three Fires Midewiwin society, by the year 2030 water may cost as much as gold if we continue with our negligence. Grandmother Josephine Mandamin went on her last walk in November 2017, but she will not be forgotten by the Anishinaabek Nation.
Earth Heroines of the East
Grit by Sasha Friedlander and Cynthia Wade, 2019 DCEFF.org
Dian is a young Indonesian woman who has grown up near the Sidoarjo mudflow released by oil and gas drilling. Since the huge explosion in 2006, flow from an underground mud volcano is slow but ceaseless. The levees beside Dian’s home have grow to nearly 40 feet in height, and there are no signs of abatement; to keep the height down and the embankment stable, liquid mud is released from a giant drain pipe directly into the river. Because of the buried village and homes underneath, the site no longer has any function other than as a tour destination. Dian’s mother, whose husband died from cancer shortly after the explosion, works as a guide. The community rallied for damages from loss of their farms, but the owner, Lapindo, only offered payments after years of political struggle. Lapindo continues to operate oil wells and refinery in the mudflow area and is incentived to drill more nearby wells. The documentary, Grit, by Sasha Friedlander and Cynthia Wade, at an encore presentation at the 2019 DC Environmental Film Festival, chronicles Dian’s transformation from a young girl into an outspoken advocate for her community. It exposes the role that corruption can play such as the health or university department’s refusal to investigate, and corporate media bias.
Mako Oshidori is a Japanese comedienne/journalist who is outspoken about the hidden truth about Fukushima. Her lecture in Dusseldorf, Germany is translated by the German IPPNW at Fukushimavoice-eng2. She challenges the official version of facts and explains the dangers of Fukushima’s failed nuclear reactors from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. TEPCO has persisted from the outset in downplaying the emergency, suppressing information, and discouraging citizens’ radiation monitoring. In 2014, the Abe government also enacted censorship in the form of a secrecy law. Japan wants to recoup Fukushima cleanup and disaster losses by rebranding the region as safe to live, work, and play as a prelude for the 2020 Olympics. However Oshidori describes how her entertainment career is impacted because she cannot use the words “nuclear” or “nuclear power” or “nuclear power plant” in sponsored shows. The emphasis on charades of normalcy has made a joke of democracy and freedom, and turned denialism into an international reality show contest. The comedienne says:
In Fukushima it has become a taboo to be afraid of contamination due to the nuclear accident or radiation exposure. They are not supposed to be afraid as the country, the government, and the researchers assure them it’s safe.
Various independent investigations reveal that a number of school children are concerned for their future and their health because they suffer unusual symptoms, and girls are told they must not have children. Mako Oshidori delves into interesting details on why the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains so dangerous, from structurally unstable, highly radioactive chimney stacks to leaks of large amounts of radioactive gas from reactions designed to prevent hydrogen gas explosions.
While the Earth continues to experience catastrophic pollution and upheaval related to extinction events and greenhouse gases, first-world nations, such as the United States, are oblivious on the need to halt fossil fuel development. Money and political clout are repressing practical low-carbon energy priorities. Meanwhile in April 2019, the carbon dioxide (CO2) measured in the atmosphere reached a new high of 415 ppm. At a defining moment in time with regard to climate change, the U.S. along with oppressive reactionary governments are doing their best to dismantle nonprofitable laws, defund regulatory agencies, discredit progressive thinktanks, starve independent journalists, criminalize refugees, and steal indigenous lands. Revenge killings for indigenous and grassroots activism halting mining and palm oil production have accelerated in recent years, amounting to scores of homicides around the world. Rigoberto Lima the 28-year old Guatemalan school teacher and environmental activist who filed a suit on pesticides in the river, was murdered in September 2016. Indigenous Costa Rican leader Sergio Rojas was assassinated in March 2019 for his leadership role in legally reclaiming Salitre Indigenous Territory for his tribe, the Bribri.
According to the International Committee of the 4th International (ICFI), the destruction of the planet is class-riven, while the results of global climate change will last for centuries. The problem now is:
The same divisions between nation-states and rival corporations that have produced economic catastrophes and military conflicts leading to world war prevent capitalist governments from coordinating the resources necessary to fight climate change.
As Global Justice Ecology Project comments, we are everyday in the United States encouraged to depoliticize, smile, and buy. Meanwhile, as is increasingly manifest although not by the mainstream media, those who can least afford wildfires, floods, disease, and famine will continue to be the ones who suffer the worst oppression.
Why Indigenous People Need to be Included in the Conversation
Top Image from StopGETrees.org article