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FLASHBACK | Beasts in Blue Berets –The Reality Of The United Nations

New American

September 1997

by William Norman Grigg

According to Gould, “UN women describe a godfather-like institution” — a network of cronyism and corruption. “This is compounded by the fact that in some UN member countries, women are treated as chattel instead of as equals.”

UN “peacekeepers” torture a Somali child over fire

“We are not going to achieve a new world order without paying for it in blood as well as in words and money,” warned Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the July/August 1995 issue of Foreign Affairs. Schlesinger had taken to the pages of the flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations to vindicate the dubious proposition that the United Nations military represents the thin blue line dividing peaceful civilization from savagery — in short, our planetary police. But what happens when the planetary police run amok and become the agents of bloodshed? When local police abuse their power, the abused have avenues of redress. From what body can those abused by the planetary police seek justice? The escalating scandal of unpunished atrocities committed by UN “peacekeepers” illustrates that the planetary police are beyond accountability.
“Perhaps our leaders should put the question to the people: what do we want the United Nations to be?” Schlesinger wrote. “Do we want it to avert more killing fields around the planet? Or do we want it to dwindle into impotence, leaving the world to the anarchy of nation-states?” Critics of the UN should eagerly embrace such a debate — provided that a copy of the above photograph is made available to all participants. First published in the United States on the cover of the June 24th issue of the left-wing weekly Village Voice, the photograph depicts two Belgian paladins of the new world order giddily holding a Somali child over an open flame. Other series of photographs depict UN soldiers kicking and stabbing a Somali, and another soldier apparently urinating on the Somali’s dead body; yet another shows a Somali child being forced to drink salt water, vomit, and worms. A second group of photos published in the July 15th Village Voice shows the dead bodies of bound Somalis — what appears to be the work of a death squad.One atrocity not caught on camera involved the “punishment” of a Somali child by placing him in a metal container and withholding water from him for two days; predictably, the relentless African heat killed the child. One Belgian UN soldier testified that it was a regular practice to use metal boxes as prison cells, and that other Somalis probably died similarly gruesome deaths.

Strangely Silent

One might expect the photographs and first-person accounts of such atrocities to arouse public indignation against the UN’s “planetary police,” just as the endlessly replayed videotape of the Rodney King arrest turned public opinion against the Los Angeles Police Department. Perhaps this is why the photographs have been all but invisible in the United States, and precious little media attention has been devoted to an examination of UN atrocities.

Village Voice reporter Jennifer Gould came across the accounts of the Belgian atrocities while doing an earlier story about sexual harassment of female employees at UN headquarters. “When I spoke with people at the UN, time after time I was told, ‘If you think it’s bad here, you ought to see what happens in peacekeeping operations,’” Gould told The New American. “I started looking into that issue and found that the abuses I reported were well-known and easily documented. They were all over the media abroad, and I was really surprised it hadn’t been written about over here.”

Belgian military authorities launched an investigation into the atrocities following publication of a front-page story by Belgium’s Het Laatste Nieuws. In early July, Privates Claude Baert and Kurt Coelus, the two paratroopers photographed dangling the Somali child over a flame, were acquitted by a military court, which ruled that the incident — described by Baert and Coelus as a punishment for stealing — was “a form of playing without violence,” according to prosecutor Luc Walleyn. And what of discipline from the UN, whose “Code of Personal Conduct for Blue Helmets” requires that peacekeepers “respect and regard the human rights of all”? Gould reports that a UN spokesman dismissed the acquittal of Baert and Coelus by insisting that “the UN is not in the habit of embarrassing governments that contribute peacekeeping troops.”

For its diligence in reporting unwelcome news, Het Laatste Nieuws was rewarded with a bomb threat. Reporter Lieve Van Bastelaere informed The New American that the man arrested for making the threat owned a local bar that is frequented by many people in the military, including veterans of “peacekeeping” missions. “He apparently had been angered by what he had read,” Bastelaere observed dryly. “We’ve enhanced our security here at the paper, and the police took the threat seriously, even though he may have been drunk when he made it. He claimed not to remember phoning in the threat when he was arrested.”

In September, another military tribunal will be held to investigate the actions of Sergeant Dirk Nassel, the soldier photographed forcing a Somali boy to ingest worms and vomit. However, the Belgian military system — which is deeply entwined with the UN “peacekeeping” apparatus — has yet to inflict substantive penalties for abuses committed in the service of the UN. Several years ago, according to Gould, “Belgian soldiers were also accused of holding mock executions for Somali children and forcing them to dig their own graves; though their officer was given a suspended sentence, the soldiers were acquitted.” It is thus firmly established in Belgian military jurisprudence that service in the new world army is a license to commit barbarities with impunity.

Canadian, Italian Atrocities

Nor was the Belgian component of the UN’s “Operation Restore Hope” uniquely barbarous. Three members of a now-disbanded elite Canadian paratroop regiment were tried and convicted of criminal charges in the beating death of a 16-year-old Somali boy named Shidane Arone; the three “peacekeepers” had been photographed smiling beside the bloody corpse of the boy, whose hands had been bound. The incident prompted the creation of a Canadian government commission to review that nation’s military and its involvement in “peacekeeping” missions; however, the inquiry foundered on the obstructionism of political and military bodies and produced what Canadian critics call an incomplete and inadequate report.

On August 8th, Italian military officials admitted that Italian soldiers assigned to UN duty in Somalia had also tortured and otherwise abused Somali civilians. According to the Washington Post, “Two generals who led the Italian forces to Somalia resigned in June following publication of graphic reports of sexual violence against a Somali woman, electric torture of a young man and allegations that an officer had murdered a young boy.” Drugs and prostitutes also were allowed to circulate freely among Italian UN troops.

The Italian government assembled a five-member commission of inquiry, which interviewed 145 people and traveled to Africa to interview Somalis who had been tormented by UN troops or witnessed the bestial acts firsthand. The panel’s 46-page report documented that “the criminal events were not just the result of ‘rotten apples’ that you may find in any structure, but were rather the consequence of a stretched line of command and amused compliance toward such high jinks by some junior officers.”

“Shocking as it is, the UN scandal in Somalia is no anomaly,” wrote Gould in the Village Voice. “[An analysis] of documents and reports relating to recent UN peacekeeping operations has uncovered incidents ranging from murder and torture to sexual exploitation, harassment of and discrimination against local women and children.”

The January 18th New York Times reported that 47 Canadian UN troops who served in Bosnia were accused of “drunkenness, sex, black marketeering and patient abuse at a mental hospital they were guarding.” The soldiers had been assigned the “humanitarian” chore of guarding a mental hospital at Bakovici in order to secure it for the staff’s return. “The hospital instead became the setting for heavy drinking; sex between soldiers, nurses and interpreters that violated regulations; black-market sales; and harassment of the patients….”

During the “frenzy of looting” that broke out in Liberia in the spring of 1996, peacekeepers used UN vehicles to make off with pilfered goods, according to the April 12, 1996 issue of USA Today. UN vehicles — and the troops responsible for them — have also been a boon to Balkan drug smugglers. The August 9, 1996 Washington Times reported that “U.S. and Bosnian officials suspect that high-ranking UN officials from Jordan based in the central Bosnian towns of Bugojno and Travnik have routinely provided UN vehicles to help smugglers get contraband past checkpoints. The officers appear to have received money and the services of prostitutes from the smugglers, led by Islamic foreigners who entered Bosnia with U.S. approval to defend the Muslim government.”

Significantly, the Bosnian narco-ring apparently received critical support from UN police monitors, who were stationed in the Balkans in order to facilitate the creation of a civilian police force dedicated to upholding “world law.” A Pentagon official told the Washington Times that such problems are predictable, given that “the international police task force [in Bosnia] is a compendium of people from diverse countries with different degrees of professionalism and training and different backgrounds in operations and ethics” — a fairly compelling explanation of why UN-style “world law” cannot work.

The UN’s “nation-building” mission in Cambodia — long touted as among the world body’s proudest achievements — added to that unfortunate land’s abundant history of lawlessness. In 1993, 170 residents of Cambodia protested the abusive behavior of blue helmet troops in a letter to Yasushi Akashi, who served as then-Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s representative in Cambodia. Prominent among the complaints was the mistreatment of women, who were treated to abuse and harassment by UN officials “regularly in public restaurants, hotels and bars, banks, markets, and shops.”

New York Times correspondent Barbara Crossette, whose primary beat is the UN, elaborated: “The bad behavior [of UN forces in Cambodia] was not limited to abuse of women. There were bar fights, brawls, and shootouts and a proliferation of brothels, stolen vehicles and general drunken boorishness. Geographical origins were no indicator of what to expect. While some Asian and African troops got out of line, it was the soldiers of a Bulgarian battalion who had the worst reputation. They went down in local legend as ‘the Vulgarians.’” Cambodia has descended again into murderous chaos, and Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, believes that “the mess that Cambodia finds itself in today is in large part a product of the UN’s failure to uphold the rule of law” in the course of its “nation-building” mission.

Nightmare in Rwanda

The same lawlessness infected the UN mission to Rwanda, which suffered a Cambodia-style genocide earlier this decade. Crossette noted that Rwandans accused UN troops “of illicit trading, hit-and-run driving, sexual harassment and criminal abuse of diplomatic immunity they have bestowed on themselves. The disruptive personal behavior of some troops has been a factor in Rwanda’s demand that all peacekeepers be withdrawn from the country….”

Also contributing to that demand is the fact that UN forces in Rwanda actually abetted the worst bloodletting in recent memory — the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which a half-million Tutsis were annihilated in approximately 100 days. “Many of the mass murderers were employees of the international relief agencies,” testified Peter Hammond of Frontline Fellowship in Holocaust in Rwanda. In one incident recounted by Hammond, Belgian UN troops stationed in a heavily fortified compound in Kigali “deceived the [Tutsi] refugees by assembling them for a meal in the dining hall and then [they] evacuated the base while the refugees were eating. Literally two minutes after the Belgians had driven out of their base, the Presidential Guard poured into the buildings annihilating the defenceless Tutsi refugees.”

When the Tutsi-organized Rwandan Patriotic Front drove many of the worst Hutu murderers from Rwanda into the Congo (then called Zaire), the UN intervened militarily — on the side of the murderers. One year after the genocide, wrote Peter Beinart in the October 30, 1995 issue of The New Republic, “former [Rwandan] government militias, often armed and sometimes in uniform, control many UN refugee camps, terrorizing civilians and plotting to reinvade.” Janet Fleischmann of Human Rights Watch-Africa reported, “The UN clearly took the lead in assisting these refugees who were in uniform and armed … and that helped them establish control over the refugee camps.” This development provoked the renowned French humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres and several other charitable organizations to withdraw from militia-controlled UN refugee camps.

When the UN “peacekeeping” mission to Rwanda finally furled its blue banner in March 1996, the reaction on the part of Rwandans was one of unalloyed relief. “Hundreds of genocide survivors protesting outside the UN headquarters in Kigali cheered … as the UN flag was lowered to mark the end of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mandate,” reported a March 3, 1996 Reuters wire service report. Apparently, Rwandans would rather face the prospect of bloody anarchy than submit to the variety of “peace” administered by UN troops.

Follow the Brothels

The market in prostitution — including child prostitution — thrives wherever blue berets decamp. According to Gould, records of UN peacekeeping missions document that “brothels have sprouted nearby — and in one case allegedly inside — UN compounds. In the latter case, prostitutes were allegedly employed by the UN and were reportedly even shipped on UN planes to fornicate with a UN staff member in hotels paid for by the UN.”

Last December a UN study on children in war reported that blue berets had been involved in child prostitution in six of the 12 countries which had been studied. In country after country unfortunate enough to attract the UN’s “humanitarian” intervention, “the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been accompanied with a rapid rise in child prostitution,” the document reported. Following the signing of a peace treaty in Mozambique in 1992, for example, “soldiers of the United Nations operation … recruited girls aged 12 to 18 years into prostitution.”

However, as Jennifer Gould learned, the mistreatment of women is something of a UN tradition — the world body’s enthusiastic support for radical feminism notwithstanding. In a report published in the May 20th Village Voice, Gould described the plight of Catherine Claxon, a UN employee who filed the first-ever sexual harassment complaint against the UN in 1991. After Claxon filed her complaint, “Someone fired a shot through the glass window of a coffee shop by the United Nations” — just above Claxon’s head. “Another bullet shattered Claxon’s windshield as she drove home from her job at the UN one night on the Long Island Expressway.” On three other occasions, Claxon was nearly run off the road — at the same spot where she was nearly killed by the gunshot. According to Gould, “UN women describe a godfather-like institution” — a network of cronyism and corruption. “This is compounded by the fact that in some UN member countries, women are treated as chattel instead of as equals.”

Haunting Prophecy

Gould described the UN as “a bizarre universe of intrigue and outrage, where diplomats from 185 countries — stuffed suits simmering with regional, religious, and class-bred hatreds — try to promote world peace.” Such is the character of the institution whose masters crave the power to enforce “world law.” The essence of that abstraction is captured in the photograph of “peacekeepers” Baert and Coelus playfully swinging a Somali child over a fire: Unaccountable power employed mercilessly against the helpless.

More than seven decades ago, while the U.S. Senate was debating ratification of the League of Nations Covenant, Senator William Borah (R-ID) sought to cool the ardor of the League’s supporters by dousing it with a bracing shower of cold reality. Those who believed that a world army would consist of stainless champions of “world peace” were ignoring the unyielding facts about human nature. A world army, Borah declared, would consist of “the gathered scum of the nations organized into a conglomerate international police force ordered hither and thither by the most heterogeneous and irresponsible body or court that ever confused or confounded the natural instincts and noble passions of a people.” Can there be any doubt that the UN has vindicated Borah’s dismal prophecy?

[William Norman Grigg is the author of several books from a constitutionalist perspective. He was formerly a senior editor of The New American magazine, the official publication of the John Birch Society.]

Non-Profits and the Pacification of the Black Lives Matter Movement

Counterpunch

August 14, 2015

By Brendan McQuade

Killer Police

Above: Mo. Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson hugged Adrian (who wouldn’t give his last name) in Ferguson on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 17, 2014, on W. Florissant. [Source]

Rebellions aren’t simply repressed. They’re pacified. While repression—the iron hand—is useful to terrorize a population into submission, the issues animating a rebellion must be partially redressed—the velvet glove—to forestall a further reaching revolutionary upsurge. The most effective way to defeat rebellion is to blunt its grievances and overtake its leaders. This is precisely what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement.

For the past year, much attention has focused on the most dramatic responses to the Black Lives Matter movement: the militarized police and smoke grenades, states of emergency and curfews, government surveillance and fears of infiltration. While these forms of repression should not be discounted, they should be properly understood. Heavy-handed responses polarize the struggle. The middle ground disappears and both sides radicalize. For those seeking to maintain the status quo, this is not the best outcome.

It’s much better to co-opt moderates and divide the opposition. After the initial explosion in Ferguson following Mike Brown’s death, Governor Jay Nixon put a black officer, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson, in charge. Johnson immediately won praise, when he ordered his officers shed their riot gear and started walking with marching demonstrators. In this new context, liberal organizations began to separate themselves from more radical demonstrators. The NAACP organized events “to channel the anger over Brown’s death into positive action such as getting people to register to vote and to obtain college grants.” Johnson and other police executives marched at the head of a NAACP demonstration. The response to the Ferguson Rebellion had shifted from crude repression to subtle pacification.

Established non-profit organizations are essential to this work. They bring needed legitimacy to the state’s efforts to contain dissent. In Ferguson, the NAACP and local religious groups have sought to temper protests, limit property damage, and redirect discontent toward institutional channels. Despite their best intentions, these groups become potent weapons to mollify discontent and moderate change.

The same dynamic was recently at work in Chicago, where the ACLU of Illinois sold out grassroots movements, who had been working to curtail stop and frisk by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). In the summer of 2014, the CPD conducted a quarter million stops that did not lead to an arrest, four times the rate of New York City. Nearly three quarters of those stopped were black. In response to this systemic racial profiling, We Charge Genocide, a grassroots abolitionist organization, wrote the Stop, Transparency, Oversight and Protection (STOP) Act. This municipal ordinance would have required the CPD to collect and share comprehensive data on police stops.

The We Charge Genocide (WCG) name is an allusion to a 1951 report that Civil Rights Congress presented to the UN. The study cited lynching, police brutality, legal disenfranchisement, and systemic inequality as evidence that the US government was engaged in genocide against its black citizens. In September 2014, WCG presented its own report to the UN Committee Against Torture that detailed the Chicago police’s systemic harassment and abuse of minority communities, the failure of existing redressive mechanisms, and the resultant impunity of the Chicago police. For the past ten months, WCG has worked to educate and mobilize youth of color about the CPD’s racially discriminatory stop and frisk practices.

While grassroots activists were mobilizing support for the ordinance among Chicago’s communities and alderman, the ACLU entered secret negotiations with the CPD and mayor’s office to broker an alternative agreement. On the very day that the STOP Act was to be filed by three aldermen, the ACLU announced the details of their agreement with city government. Instead of public disclosure, the ACLU-CPD “settlement” names an independent consultant, former US magistrate Arlander Keys, who will issue biannual reports on the CPD’s street stops and recommend policy changes. This is sharp contrast from the STOP ACT, which would have required quarterly public reporting of more comprehensive stop and frisk data: demographic information of those stopped, the badge numbers of officers involved, as well as the location, reason, and result of the stop

In effect, the ACLU used WCG and STOP Act as bargaining chip to advance a narrow policy goal. As the WCG’s public letter put it:

What you have “won” is fundamentally different from the STOP Act, both in its means and in its ends. Our goals are rooted in the experiences of those most directly impacted; yours are not. Our movement is rooted in a political analysis that recognizes the need to shift power away from police and into our communities; your policy “victory” is not. Our motivation is rooted in a theory of change that prioritizes movement building and centering the leadership of those most affected; yours is not. Now, because of your self-serving interest in pushing simplistic policy changes, we and our allies face a much harder task pushing the critical package of reforms included in the STOP Act but ignored in your settlement. There is no such thing as an easy victory, and yours has come at a high cost.

The ACLU agreement shifted the terrain of struggle. Their agreement is a half measure that allows the CPD and city government to show that they are doing something, while, at the same time, undercutting a more radical plan that would have subjected the CPD to more meaningful public accountability.

More importantly, the ACLU-CPD agreement denies WCG and the larger Black Lives Movement an important victory. In their letter, WCG acknowledged that the ACLU “settlement represents just one of many efforts… to co-opt our movement by engaging with less threatening groups. Passage of the STOP Act would be public recognition of the real, grassroots power of young Black and Brown Chicagoans; instead the City wisely sought to settle into an ongoing relationship with a legal organization that poses no real threat to the status quo.” In other words, the ACLU is not an ally. It works to pacify the Black Lives Matter movement by blunting its grievances and overtaking its solutions with half measures.

The ACLU did not become complicit in the pacification of the radical movements because they are part of some crude conspiracy. It’s more subtle. The ACLU is a foundation funded non-profit. It’s part of the web of elite institutions that exercise political power in the United States. By class background, socialization, and worldview, the ACLU’s lawyers and administers have more in common with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy than they have with WCG activists.

The overlapping interests of elites in the ACLU and city government highlight the importance the idea of pacification. In the recent years, critical scholars have recuperated the term “pacification” from military jargon to highlight continuities between warfare and policing. Both are class projects to eliminate enemies and fabricate social order. The iron hand and the velvet glove work together. To pacify “communists” in Vietnam or “terrorists” in Iraq, you need to build a government that enough people can abide. The same dynamic is at work in Chicago, where the ACLU just helped the city government efforts to pacify ongoing black insurgency.

 

[Brendan McQuade is a visiting assistant professor of international studies at Depaul Univeristy.]

UN as Corporate Clubhouse

Public Good Project

August 15, 2015

By Jay Taber

The UN as a corporate clubhouse — where billionaires like convicted inside-trader George Soros and anti-trust arch enemy Bill Gates swagger with Bono  — began in 1947 with John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s purchase of six blocks in Manhattan for UN Headquarters. Since then, global initiatives sponsored by the UN Security Council, Human Rights Council, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, World Health Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Social and Economic Development programs have all born the mark of Wall Street. Indeed, privatization and other acts of corporate aggression against democracy and indigenous sovereignty have benefited beyond belief from UN support, leading to the incontestable conclusion that the UN is a dishonest broker.

 

[Jay Taber has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part IV

The Art of Annihilation

January 26, 2015

Part IV of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer [Part I, Part II, Part III]

 

+++Note from the authors: The bulk of research for this investigative report was conducted from December 2013 to April of 2014. New alliances/affiliations/stats that have since materialized may or may not be reflected at this time.

 

Social Panorama of Latin America

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has highlighted a slowing of progress in poverty reduction in Latin America, citing “rising food costs and weaker economic growth” as contributing factors. UN economists based in Santiago reported that 164 million people, or 28% of the region’s population, are still considered poor. That is nearly unchanged from 2012. Of those, 68 million of them are in extreme poverty – a poverty that most Americans cannot even begin to fathom.

Yet there are bright spots. ECLAC’s “Social Panorama of Latin America” report (March 2014) notes that Venezuela and Ecuador led the region in decreasing poverty in 2012. The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6% (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0% (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1% (from 35.3% to 32.2%).

This 5.6% decrease in Venezuela translates into a 19% decline in poverty overall, which Mark Weisbrot, co-director of Center for Economic and Policy Research, “noted is almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest – if not the largest – in the world.”

Yes – they are extracting oil. (Ecuador relies on oil for a third of its national budget.) Just like the Harper Government, the Obama Government and most all other states that are able.

The main difference is that the US spends it on bombing other countries and killing innocent people – for profit and plunder – while Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador are spending it to lift their people (and others oppressed by imperial states) out of poverty. [Ecuador will increase by more than 50% the budget for Health, the executive will allocate more than 5.6 billion dollars by the year 2017 and also plans to hire about 19,000 doctors. Source]

Of course, the words militarism, imperialism and colonialism are not in the NGO dictionary. Nor is the word capitalism.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that it is the wealthy that created the climate crisis. It is the wealthy that perpetuate and propel the fossil fuel production/extraction economy.

As an example, the entire state of Venezuela accounts for only .057% of global emissions while 50% of emissions come from 1% of the world’s population. (If you can afford to get on a plane and fly anywhere at all, this places you in the 1% category.)

Per capita (per person) emissions: Ecuador: 2.2 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Bolivia: 1.15 tonnes CO2 of emissions per capita | Venezuela: 6.30 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | United States: 19.22 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Canada 16.60 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Congo: 0.3 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita.

As a further example, ALBA delivered relief aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (video below published on September 19, 2013), while Imperial states continue to destabilize the Middle East.

http://youtu.be/TPkzOtpu5dg

The left would like to believe that anti-imperialist states can change the existing world order on their own; that without dismantling the industrialized, capitalist economic system, states such as Ecuador and Venezuela can and must simply shut down their oil production. (Of course, we have no such fantasies for our own voracious nations.) But, such a feat would achieve nothing more than food shortages for their citizens, many of whom are already starving. And on an international level, this will change nothing. Rather, imperial forces would ramp up efforts to destabilize, invade and occupy. Further, leaders of ALBA states do not claim they are capable of such a task:

“Ecuador is not trying to change the situation as it has come to be; yet we will try and protect our people from this unfair world order. This is what the integration of the Latin American nations is meant to help accomplish. United, we will become stronger and gain more weight on the international arena. I insist that even if we can’t change the current world order – as this is something too challenging for Latin America to tackle, we do not have enough influence – we nonetheless have a duty to protect our nations from this unfair and immoral world order driven by the interests of the capital alone.” — Interview with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, Oct 30, 2013 

How to Co-opt Revolutionary Ideas

cochabamba06

Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, Photo by The City Project

On April 19-22, 2010, following the failure of COP15 (where vulnerable states were grossly undermined), the State of Bolivia hosted The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. A global gathering of civil society and governments gathered in Tiquipaya, just outside the city of Cochabamba. “Particularly notable was the large number of Indigenous people from throughout South and North America, who played leading roles in defining the meeting’s environmental philosophy and drawing up a program for action. Morales urged the delegates to commit to learn and benefit from the wisdom of the world’s indigenous peoples.” [Source] Working Groups included a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, a World People’s Referendum on Climate Change, and the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal.

Two primary revolutionary declarations were achieved: The Peoples Agreement and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

The People’s Agreement was and remains the only democratically written climate agreement that actually could have addressed the magnitude and scale of our multiple ecological crises. Further, it came to be recognized by the United Nations, due in large part to the tenacity of a single person on behalf of a single state, Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations, Pablo Solón (from February 2009 to July 2011.) Today, somewhat ironically, Solón is the Executive Director of the NGO Focus on the Global South.

October 10, 2010 – Tianjin, China: “The proposals of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth have been maintained and expanded upon in the new negotiating text on climate change that emerged from the last round of negotiations in Tianjin, China. Throughout the process in Tianjin, attempts were made to substitute the negotiating text, which contains the positions of all countries, with a text that would be limited to recognizing the principal elements of consensus for Cancun.

The negotiating text that will be taken up in Cancun includes, among other elements, the following proposals from Cochabamba:

 

  • Reduce emissions by more than 50% for 2017.
  • Rights of Mother Earth.
  • Full respect for human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and climate migrants.
  • Formation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal.
  • No new carbon markets.
  • 6% of GDP in developed countries to finance climate change actions in developing countries.
  • Lifting of barriers to intellectual property that facilitates technology transfer.
  • No commodification of forests.”

 

[Source: Communiqué by the Plurinational State of Bolivia]

By the following year, although key issues of the People’s Agreement were presented in the Durban negotiation text, (again due only to the work by the Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations), [Dec 7, 2011] the People’s Agreement, more and more was quietly being marginalized and buried by even the more legitimate climate justice groups. After Durban, the People’s Agreement was displaced, in its entirety, by a gentle call for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

The call for a “Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth” was then replaced with the call for “Rights of Nature.”

Global Alliance Rights of Nature

On April 12, 2012, in response to a Rights of Nature event, a NYC activist inquired on an International Climate Justice listserv: “The rights of mother earth enshrined in the Cochabamba Declaration. Is there a reason why Global Exchange isn’t promoting CD here? Seems like an ideal and key document to promote our fight against greed and for science-based climate policy, respecting indigenous rights and Mother Earth both inside the U.N. system and beyond.”

There was no response.

Almost immediately following the success of the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of, a new alliance was created named the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, which created/assigned an executive committee. “Their intention was to explore ways to expand the concept of Rights of Nature as an idea whose time has come.” [Source] This campaign is also referred to at times as The Rights of Mother Earth campaign.

A key founding partner was the heavily funded U.S. NGO, the Pachamama Alliance.

Thus, the ground-breaking declarations (The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of April 2010) were lifted out of the hands of the people – back into the hands of U.S. foundation management/ control.

The website for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (created on September 6, 2010) is registered to Thomas Linzey, founder of CELDF and advisor to the New Earth Foundation. On the CELDF website, one finds the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights – CELDF Draft Rights of Nature Ordinance, dated April 15, 2010.

A few months later, on October 13, 2010, CELDF publishes the article Global Alliance for Rights of Nature Formed from Historic International Gathering in Ecuador: “A groundbreaking International Gathering for Rights of Nature was organized by The Pachamama Alliance and Fundación Pachamama in September, where conscious individuals and organizations who have worked to promote the recognition of Rights of Nature, met to expand this concept around the world. Out of this four-day meeting in Patate, Ecuador, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature was formed…. Fundación Pachamama and The Pachamama Alliance were active participants at the Conference and behind the scenes.”

In the December 2010 publication of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, it is reported, “In August of this year, the Legal Defense Fund co-convened an event hosted by Fundación Pachamama in rural Ecuador. Its purpose was to formalize an international organization which will advocate for legal frameworks that recognize legally enforceable rights for natural communities. The Legal Defense Fund was then selected as the organization which would provide drafting and campaign assistance to communities and nations following the lead of the over two dozen communities in the United States which have recognized rights for Nature, and the country of Ecuador, which has become the first country in the world to recognize natural rights within its constitution.

It is of interest to note that the Pachamama Alliance and its “sister organization,” Fundación Pachamama, supported the inclusion of Rights of Nature in Ecuador’s Constitution, and also endorsed the call for a World Conference of the Peoples regarding Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights. Further, despite the REDD partnerships on behalf of Pachamama Alliance and Foundation, as referenced in documents, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (with Pachamama Alliance as founder) appears, on the surface, to be against any commodification of the commons. As an example: Tweet: “July 25, 2012: Rights of Nature – The Road to Rio+20 – http://t.co/vjyiVn7n.

It is of further interest that prior to both the formation of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (August 2010) and the World People’s Conference (April 2010), the website Rights of Mother Earth was created on February 16, 2010. It is registered to Robin Milam, Administrative Director for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and a Pachamama Alliance Journey Leader.

Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain for what other reason Pachamama Alliance would co-found Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, other than to do what foundations do best: control, manage, shape and contain movements with revolutionary potential. Perhaps CELDF, in this case, is successfully contained for the most part, in a carefully supervised box – wondering why there is so little focus/awareness on this “movement.” One thing is certain – there is very little interest in promoting this campaign.

In the real world, “likes” and “shares” offer no reprieve whatsoever to our ongoing and accelerating ecological devastation/collapse. However, what is significant in Twitter/social media is who/what organizations are chosen by NGOs and paid “activists” to “follow.” This is especially significant in respect to the first Twitter accounts chosen (to follow) as these principal choices demonstrate clearly who and what ideologies they NGO/individual align themselves with. And although it is true that social media, despite the endless attention it receives, offers no stay of execution whatsoever to our ecological/climate crisis, in the world of the non-profit industrial complex, social media is of paramount importance – precisely because it has no true impact beyond 1) collecting intelligence (in all forms) for the world’s most powerful advertising moguls, corporations and the establishment, providing an unprecedented wealth of information that previously was difficult and costly to obtain, and 2) building brand recognition (thereby increasing foundation funding). Thus, to demonstrate how there is no serious effort to promote Rights of Nature, the following information speaks a thousand words.

The Rights of Nature Twitter account is essentially dead with a total of 46 tweets and 44 followers since its inception on Earth Day, April 22, 2011. The Facebook group fares slightly better with 664 members. Compare this with the Pachamama Alliance FB page with almost 40,000 “likes” and a very active Twitter account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. The Twitter name/link has since been changed to Rights4Nature.) [1]

The Rights of Nature Twitter account follows 16 individuals/orgs including Nature Conservancy (#1), RSPB (UK’s largest “nature conservation” charity), founding members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, the founders of Pachamama Alliance, Al Gore’s Climate Reality, Hawken’s Wiser.org, 350.org and Bill McKibben. As of December 13, 2013, no Indigenous groups whatsoever were followed by this account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. [2]

During 2013, this account was used for little more than one purpose: to promote “ecological tourism” via Pachamama “Journeys. [Rights of Nature – Amazon Rainforest Wisdom Immersion Journey Leader: Robin Milam… Cost: $3,475] As of December 19, 2013, one more tweet has been issued – a request for organizations to join Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in requesting the re-opening of Fundación Pachamama.

The address provided for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is 2036 Nevada City Hwy #193 Grass Valley, California 95945. [3] Researching this address also leads one to The Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce (128 East Main Street, Grass Valley CA 95945). Robin Milam is listed as the webmaster. Her business is listed as One World Awake, which shares the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature address.

Ecological Tourism – More Hypocrisy

“Eco-tourism, as defined by the World Tourism Organisation, represents only 2 to 4 per cent of international travel spending. Suppose it grew to the point where it dominated the tourist industry. Could such a large-scale industry be managed in a small-scale way? Can anyone who has flown half way around the world in a jet powered by subsidized fossil fuel and puffing out greenhouse gases qualify as an eco-tourist?” — David Nicholson-Lord, 2002

The hypocrisy is rich (literally). Pachamama Alliance chides the Ecuadorian Government for drilling oil in the Yasuni, all while their ecotourism boutique/niche – catering to the lifestyles of the rich – is absolutely dependent upon the expansion of fossil fuels. Travel expenses as reported on Pachamama’s Alliance’s 990 form accounted for over a cool half million in 2011 ($592,557). Here, the irreconcilability of preserving capitalism with preserving the planet cannot be overstated.

“Success” Stories

Success Story One: Runa

Robin Fink is the Program Director at Fundación Pachamama (since November 2009) and Board Member at the Runa Foundation (Fundación Runa) (May 2012 to present). In her role at Pachamama Alliance, Fink works closely with the Indigenous Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon. [4]

Runa Corporation is a privately held company in the food and beverages industry. It’s also an excellent case study of what the new “green economy” looks and feels (as in marketing/branding) like. [“Runa LLC is a privately held organic Amazonian beverage company that processes and sells guayusa. The company is based in Brooklyn, New York with offices in Quito and Archidona, Ecuador.”][SOURCE]

In the 21st century, most every corporation has a foundation. The benefits (for oligarchs and corporate entities alike) of establishing a foundation are formidable. Securing/protecting interests under the guise of philanthropy and tax evasion represent a mere two of many benefits. [“Fundación Runa” provides tools and resources to indigenous communities and farmers’ associations working towards their vision of sustainable development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We focus on two core areas; community development and environmental management. We provide technical assistance and financing to farmers associations and cooperatives to build capacity and inspire entrepreneurship. We work with local stakeholders to conduct participatory research and strategic planning for conservation and sustainable land management in the Ecuadorian Amazon.”]

When one observes the heavy hitters on the Runa Foundation Board of Advisors, it is certain that many are betting on this company being acquired by Pepsi or Coca-Cola in the not-so-distant future for the tune of hundreds of millions. Most recently Coca-Cola swallowed up the majority of “Innocent” Drinks for an estimated £100m. [“The three Cambridge graduates who launched Innocent Smoothies have sold the bulk of their remaining shares to Coca-Cola for an estimated £100m – 15 years after dreaming up the idea for the healthy drinks company on a snowboarding holiday.” Financial Times, February 22, 2013] The Runa Foundation Advisors include Yolanda Kakabadse, president of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) since 2010, Trustee of the Ford Foundation, President of International Union for Conservation of Nature (1996-2004); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF (2005-2010, US Secretary of Agriculture (2001-2005), named 46th most powerful woman by Forbes in 2009; Doug Hattaway, president of Hattaway Communication since 2001, Senior Communications Adviser for Hilary Clinton (2008); Michael Conroy, Board Chair of Forest Stewardship Council since 2010, Board Chair of Fair Trade USA (2003-2010; Jacob Olander, Director of Forest Trends’ Incubator since 2008, Co-founder of EcoDecisión since 1995, Expert in conservation finance and payments for ecosystem services; Florencia Montagnini, professor of Tropical Forestry at Yale University since 2001, research advisor to the Smithsonian Institute’s PRORENA program since 2001, expert in tropical forestry and agroforesty systems.

On the Runa blog, under the post At Runa, We Don’t Actually Farm Guayusa, the company states:

“In this way, we foster the local entrepreneurial spirit, build sustainable and transparent partnerships with the farmers, and proactively work together to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.”

Yet this is not true. In reality, drawing more people into a suicidal system based on perpetual infinite growth is anything but sustainable. [“Never has failure been so ardently defended as success.” — Voltaire’s Bastards] Further, as this corporation grows (the sole purpose of the venture), the introduction of Western identities ensures the introduction of Western values into the Ecuadorian Amazon – ensuring the erosion of culture and identity. The erosion may be slow and subtle, yet it is inevitable, as Western culture has always ensured.

To seek out Earth’s last remaining peoples who are the pure epitome of true sustainability, and then introduce them to capitalism and build a dependence upon the capitalist economic system under the guise of “local entrepreneurial spirit” is paternalism and exploitation at its best. Any venture that cannot sustain itself in a local economy, sustained by local resources, contributes to further annihilation of the planet, regardless of the sophisticated language/marketing that delivers nothing more than what we wish were true.

Runa founders Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie met in an entrepreneurship class at Brown University. Together, they put together a business plan that would “turn Ecuador’s cultural heritage into an income generating opportunity for farming families.” They launched the business in December of 2009.

RUNA BRANDING

Runa Corporation is a business built on an Amazonian tree leaf called guayusa, native in the Upper Amazon regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. Traditionally, indigenous families (Achuar) wake up together at dawn to drink guayusa. They sit around the communal fire drinking gourds full of guayusa until sunrise. During this time, the village elders teach the youth about ancestral myths, hunting techniques, social values, and about what it means to be “Runa” in the Indigenous cosmovision. The guayusa ritual continues to be a cornerstone of Kichwa culture, a practice that brings the family and community together around the simple experience of drinking tea. Community shamans, known as yachaks or rukus in Kichwa, will also play a traditional bamboo flute (known as kena) and a two-sided weasel-skin drum, and sing soft rhythmic songs during these early morning hours. The shamans also interpret dreams from the previous night, and make recommendations to guide the community and help them live in harmony with the rainforest. After drinking the first gourds of guayusa, children are often sent to go bathe in the river and receive its strength and cleansing for the day to come. [Source]

Every day, Runa pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each for fresh guayusa leaves to make guayusa tea products sold through their online store to the US and Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. Runa states that they have raised the income of 300 farmers by 25% each, whose family income averages $30-70 per month. Runa sales are expected to surpass $1 million for 2012. [August 27, 2012 | Source]

According to Runa, every day the corporation pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each. As they have compensated 300 farmers, let us assume the three different indigenous farmers are representatives of 3 co-operatives: 3 x $35 = $105 | $105 x 365 (days) = $38,325 | $38,325/$1,000,000 *100 = 3.83% of the revenue. $38,325 of a $1 million revenue stream (2012) represents a 3.83% of revenue “shared” with the famers without whose land and labour, harvest and generosity there would be no product at all. (Note that the 3.83% of revenue received from Runa has been divided up amongst the 300 farmers. This equals $127.75 for each farmer per year. This equals $10.65 per month per farmer – which verifies Runa’s statistic of increasing the average farmer’s annual income of $30-$70 per month by approximately 25% if one uses $30 as the benchmark.) [5]

Bear the farmers’ earnings (above) in mind when, in a nod to history continuing to repeat itself, Coca-Cola buys up the majority of Runa for a cool £100m or so in the not too distant future. Runa foundation advisor Yolanda Kakabadse, of WWF, just happens to also be a member of the Environmental Advisory Board of CocaCola.

“… we also receive about $500,000 from USAID, from the US government, the Andean Development bank, the German government, a couple other NGOs who were very impressed by our model.” [Source]

Runa has received grants totalling $500,000, from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (approximately $250,000) and Corporación Andina de Fomento (a Latin American development bank). Funds have also been given by the German government/GTZ. In November of 2011 the company closed a $1.6 million round of angel investments. In January of 2012 the founder sought $2 million in a Series A equity round. [Source]

One NGO that was “very impressed” by the Runa model was Fundación Natura. As a result, an alliance was formed between them to develop an “agroforestry” project to “domesticate” the guayusa plant – a crop which has never been technically managed.

 “Furthermore, we are moving along on a number of other fronts, including fleshing out our alliance with Fundación Natura (the largest conservation NGO in Ecuador) to develop our project to plant guayusa and other agroforestry trees in Ecuador….” — Founder Tyler Gage, May 6, 2009 [Emphasis added]

 

“Additionally, we are pioneering the sustainable cultivation of a crop that has never been technically managed, so it has taken lots of trial and error to refine our agroforestry model and planting techniques.” — Founder Tyler Gage, July 15, 2010 [Emphasis added]

Developing the Rainforests

Fundación Natura (Nature Foundation) is Ecuador’s first environmental NGO. Founded in 1978, Fundación Natura grew rapidly due to large USAID grants and money derived from debt-for-nature swaps engineered by WWF (Meyer 1993; Echavarria 2010). [Source] These swaps had an important effect: they contributed to shifting responsibility away from the government to private organizations by channelling funding via domestic (though foreign funded/controlled) NGOs rather than through the government agency in charge of managing protected areas. [Source: Globalization and Resistance: Transnational Dimensions of Social Movements, 2002] This strategy of foreign interests bypassing government is compelling considering the fact that USAID would like to see NGOs given legal recognition (further discussed in the final three paragraphs).

Fundación Natura is associated with the World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF, is a member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and a member of international environmental networks such as the Latin American Network of Forests (RLB), Conservation International (CI) and Climate Change Network. [Source]

When USAID, WWF et al are expanding/promoting a new “agroforestry” agenda, it means one thing – that this method serves to benefit the elites. Carbon offsets, biomass and biodiesel are just a few of the false solutions that hold promise for the agroforestry projects in developing countries. [6] In developed countries, such as Canada, the single enticement is the carbon market. [7]

 “The potential of using carbon offset credits from agroforestry projects for farmers in developing areas has become more prevalent in both Clean Development Mechanism and voluntary carbon markets.” — Carbon Credit Payment Options for Agroforestry Projects in Africa, 2011

The traditional Kichwa [8] farm in Ecuador is called a chakra. The chakra farming technique involves integrating food crops (or animals) into the trees of the forest. As an example, cacao trees are grown among other fruit trees and crops under the shade of a forest – simultaneously tending to the land for more than one purpose. Chakras have been farmed sustainably for centuries.

The term “agroforestry” was coined in the mid-1970s as part of a research study led by John Bene of Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

Agroforestry could be described as the West “modifying” / emulating the traditional chakra to accommodate their own worldview via a Euro-American lens. Agroforestry systems often involve clearing vital underbrush to plant new crops as well as the cutting of trees. Selected trees are then replanted to provide firewood, food, medicine, and other non-timber forest products (that will benefit the West) – such as Runa’s guayusa. We can also safely assume genetically engineered trees are part of many agroforestry projects. Indeed, the paper “Genetic Improvement of Agroforestry Trees” was presented at the 2014 IUFRO Forest Tree Breeding Conference in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2014. In 1991 it was noted that “the initial euphoria about agroforestry has died down…” but just two decades later with “climate wealth opportunities” abounding, the push for agroforestry is making a comeback.

“…the potential applications of biotechnology in agroforestry research are unlimited.” — The Literature of Forestry and Agroforesty, 1996

Agricultural schemes (with development programs/training provided by those in the West) are intended to “consolidate and replicate the production system of ancestral chakras, fish farming, sustainable tourism, safety and food sovereignty-oriented marketing.” [Source] But behind closed doors, it is without doubt the promise of the lucrative carbon market that has industry and the non-profit industrial complex salivating.

Not surprising, the agroforestry model is anything but a perfect reproduction of the forest in its natural state. A study by Matthias De Beenhouwer, Raf Aerts and Olivier Honnay discloses that when a natural forest is converted into an agroforest, the total species richness declines by eleven percent. For forest species, the differences were larger, with a decline of 35% (natural forest to agroforest). Faring worse are the ecosystem services* (water filtration, nutrient rich soil, and other services that the forest ecosystems naturally provide). Management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services by a strong decline of 37%. (*Note that the research of quantitative carbon sequestration was not included in this study under ecosystem services).

“Forest species richness and total species richness were significantly lower in the more intensively managed than in the more natural land use categories. Response ratios showed that the decline in total species richness was higher when comparing agroforest with plantation (?46%), than when comparing forest with agroforest (?11%)…. Response ratios showed that management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services with 37% when comparing forest with agroforest and with 27% when comparing agroforest with plantation. Our data suggest that species richness decline follows a concave yield function whereas ecosystem service decline follows a more convex yield function.”

The study is clear: anthropogenic disturbance jeopardizes the ability of tropical forests to sustain ecosystem services.

The loss of species, in tandem with the decline of species richness and ecosystem services in a world of accelerating ecological collapse must be considered critical losses. It is reckless to market agroforests as intelligent/progressive substitutes for rainforests in their natural state.

“Whereas the non-forest species show no significant decline, species confined to forests were the first species to be affected by management intensification, demonstrating that even in an agroforest matrix, natural forest is irreplaceable for their conservation.” (Gardner et al., 2009; Gibson et al., 2011; Muñoz et al., 2013)

However, the NPIC, working hand-in-hand with foreign corporations such as Runa, use the above study to argue that even though agroforests incur critical and significant losses, and there is no replacement for a rainforest in its natural state, agroforestry is less damaging than plantation/monoculture agriculture.

How kind of the empire, its banks and its tentacles (the non-profit industrial complex) to develop systems that are moderately less damaging than a full conversion to monoculture. Let us be clear: just as “less cancer” is still cancer, “less species loss” is still species loss, “less ecosystem damage” is still ecosystem damage. In less than one year during their first year of operations, Runa planted over 75,000 trees in more than 120 hectares of agroforesty plots.

“Runa provides direct market access, agroforestry training, and holistic development services to Amazonian farming families.” One must seriously question what the white Euro-American could possibly offer to the Amazonians in regard to holistic development and growing food in their forests.

To be clear, this leaf (the guayusa), rich in ethnic mystique, “packaged” with deep culture by the Indigenous people (to be branded/marketed to those in a commodity culture – devoid of meaning) IS the product. Yet, as sales increase (exponentially, which is the goal), the actual percentage of revenue to the farmers will decline.

USAID has “given” Runa a grant to reforest 1200 acres of degraded lands with guayusa. When one looks at this simple “gift” along with the dossiers of the advisors to Runa, there is little doubt that carbon markets and REDD – to be sought and implemented – are a goal behind the scenes in the boardrooms. There is also little doubt that Indigenous communities in many instances will not be made aware of the revenue stream that will take place under the guise of the “new economy.”

Of interest is Eliot Logan-Hines, listed as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Runa Foundation. Logan-Hines attended Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He went on to co-author Chapter 18 (REDD policy options: Including forests in an international climate change agreement) of the 2009 publication Forests and Carbon: A Synthesis of Science, Management, and Policy for Carbon Sequestration in Forests.

Of course the future Guayusa plantations will be made to sound brimming with biodiversity with a focus on environmental stewardship. In some instances, perhaps they will be. Both credibility and legitimacy are always essential elements for all such altruistic business ventures. And in many instances, where the growth is not dependent upon the actual and visible destruction of the forest (such as logging), the preservation of biodiversity costs the investors nothing while increasing their legitimacy.

One can argue that there must be increased farmer income, and with such “green” politically correct ventures as Runa’s, this can happen alongside the restoration of the Amazon. Yet, drunk on the idea of a “green economy,” there appears to be a collective amnesia in acknowledging that the sole reason the Amazon is being obliterated in the first place is due to the industrialized capitalist economy. We ignore Einstein’s common sense observation on what constitutes insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Capitalism dictates that whatever must be done to ensure green – as in dollars, not planet – must be done. It is essential that poverty (created by the industrialized capitalist system) be alleviated and eradicated throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, Western industrial capitalists believe this massive undertaking can only be realized within the confines of an industrialized capitalist system, which depends on exploitation of the World’s most vulnerable, essentially making this daunting task impossible.

True “philanthropy” would be an anonymous gift to communities to develop/create their own localized gift economies and co-operatives – entirely free of outside influence and “partnerships” – with absolutely nothing in return to the “philanthropist” nor his/her associated interests. This would be a true demonstration of sincerity in the long-awaited task “to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.” Of course, true autonomy for non-whites is of no interest to today’s “green” and “social” capitalists.

Adopting/stealing progressive language of social movements is nothing new for the elites. Note the word “participatory” (as in participatory democracy in socialist countries) below:

“It’s more fulfilling, more sustainable, more exciting, and more participatory,” said the founders in regards to the company operating a triple bottom line.

Note the rarely spoken fact that business trumps all social needs:

“Wain Collen, Education Director of Fundación Pachamama, emphasizes that ‘NGOs who aim to help indigenous communities most often end up causing more problems than they solve, ‘Our advisors and industry experts continue to remind us that above all, we need to run a successful business, regardless of how social it is. Without a strong, successful business we can’t generate any benefits for anyone.”

When asked about some challenges of running the “social enterprise” (formerly known as a corporation), the founders mentioned the process of acquiring “knowledge” as a big obstacle: “As university students we were accustomed to the ready availability of any and all knowledge any time all the time. However, in Ecuador concepts like ’email’ and ‘the Internet’ are still very, very new….”

Yet, if there is any silver lining to be found in this latest version of “white saviours empowering Ecuadorean farmers,” it is this: Runa received a $500,000 (USD) equity investment from the CreEcuador Fund – an initiative of the current Ecuador government. “The Build Ecuador Fund (CreEcuador) plans to cash out its investments in Runa in roughly 6 years, in order to use its earnings to make additional investments in sustainable businesses. However, rather than selling shares to a private investor, the fund’s vision is to sell shares to Runa employees and the farmers. [Source: Social Enterprise in Emerging Market Countries: No Free Ride, 2013] Yet whether farmers will be able to afford these shares remains to be seen.

[The source of information for Runa founders commentary is from the article The Path to Social Entrepreneurship With The Founders of Runa, August 27, 2012. It is critical to note that even the source of this “news” (“Social Enterprise Buzz”) is of North American origin.]

eColonialism

WesternCharity

Surely whites “teaching” Indigenous populations how to engage in internet “knowledge” as identified and deemed necessary by Western interests (in this image above, note the obvious emphasis on Facebook “education” by an unidentified NGO) is just another example of forcing our suicidal economy, hyper-individualized/commodity culture, and “democratic” “values” on others (who up to that point were fortunate enough to be relatively free of them). As parents, we cannot deny an intense anxiety that questions the psychological impact, effects, conditioning and behavioural change resulting from the consumption/addiction of FaceBook and other social media upon our children. The anxiety weighs heavy, like a rock, as we simultaneously deny and justify our own participation. And yet we raise no objection to those most exploited, most vulnerable, being subjugated as corporate fodder and prey. We close our eyes to the sacrifice – the voracious system must be fed.

This is not to say that the protection of Indigenous rights in the Information Age and the right of Indigenous Peoples to access information and communication technology services and connectivity are not to be respected, Rather it is to challenge the fact that the dominant world view is deliberately constructed by Western ideology, which then is propagated via corporate mass-media echo chambers (internet, print, radio, television, film) – thereby framing, shaping and normalizing predetermined social and cultural concepts that constitute the status quo. Not only is the ingestion of controlled doctrine unhealthy, these ideologies/formal doctrines, conceptualized by the elites, serve to protect the interests of hegemony. [9] And although we like to convince ourselves that internet technology has been a massive success, as we stand on the precipice of planetary collapse, one could quite easily argue that this “success” is illusory, and perhaps the truth is in stark contrast to what we would like to believe in more ways than one. In the lecture “The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism,” Jodi Dean makes the sound argument that the web has formed part of a profoundly depoliticizing shift in capitalism, which has enabled the marriage of neoliberalism to the democratic values of participation and the reduction of politics to the registration of opinions and the transmission of feelings.

Moreover, upon any formerly isolated person’s introduction to the web, having no prior scope or alternate influence outside of the non-profit trainee/volunteer from the West, how can one not be overwhelmed and ultimately absorbed by the elites’ dominant cultural hegemony? Aside from paternalism and colonialism, this also constitutes a rabid academic imperialism.

“It is an electronic mass media driven phenomena [sic] which over time will not only expand the frontiers of the multi-national communication firms but will far exceed even the vast reach of the once powerful and hegemonic British Empire. eColonialism outlines the hegemony of the USA as global American media and communication conglomerates seek out and view the global economy as their market to dominate.” — Tom McPhail, eColonialism Theory: Hegemony and the Role of American Media

Video: Academic Imperialism – Claude Alvares (Running time: 12:40)

 

On March 22, 2012 Pachamama highlighted the Alliance’s latest “success” in introducing/providing Apple iPads to build communications in the Achuar communities citing an “unprecedented opportunity for coordinated communications throughout the logistically isolated, far-flung communities with films that are about Achuar, by Achuar and in the Achuar language.” iPad-type devices and hand-held mobile phones play a vital role in furthering eColonialism. [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South, A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

Achuar_iPad_editing_550

Image: Pachamama website: “iPads Offer a Link for Far-flung Communities” – Westernized education, religion, business values and technology, built upon Western ideologies, globalization and capitalism, continue to penetrate and expand throughout the Achuar communities.

Success Story Two: Fundación Pachamama Projects

“Excluding the role missionaries have had on Achuar culture may serve to satisfy the ecotourists’ imperialist nostalgia by convincing them that the Achuar have what the West has lost: an isolated, pristine ‘indigenous’ culture that has not been tainted by the negative influences of industrialization.” Source: “Take a Picture with a Real Indian”: (Self-) Representation, Ecotourism, and Indigeneity in Amazonia, 2011

Pachamama Alliance highlights CEKSA (Complejo Ecoturistico Kapawi S.A.) and Aerotsentsak as two examples of sustainable development, stating “With the partnership of Fundación Pachamama, the Achuar nationality formed and continues to own and manage two very successful companies… [B]oth companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

CEKSA is the corporation that manages the award-winning Kapawi Ecolodge.

Aerotsentsak is the only Achuar-owned airline flying to Achuar territory.

It is critical to question the wisdom (and perhaps also the sincerity) of creating an industry that is completely dependent on fossil fuels – and the capitalist system itself (a system dependent upon infinite growth where violence upon Earth’s most vulnerable peoples and life forms is inherently built into the system) – and then calling it sustainable. Not to mention, it’s an industry that rather than catering to the needs of a localized economy and her people, is dependent upon the 1% percent of the world who created/create 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, the partnership between Makusar, Fundación Pachamama, TrekEcuador, and Mentefactura presented a successful project profile to the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB).) In May 2010 the Tiinkias Ecotourism Center (TEC) received its first visitors group: a 16-member tour from The Pachamama Alliance, in what could be considered a scouting trip to an eco camp that was still missing several components and finishing touches. In January 2011 the TEC started welcoming periodic groups, and received about 100 visitors, which more than doubled in 2012 and is slowly and steadily growing. The TEC also started combining its adventures with visits to Kapawi Ecolodge.

“But the benefits of tourism have a corollary, and Mr. Tsamarin [Luis Vargas) lamented them: the loss of communal values and a new market mentality, alcohol abuse, litter, men cutting off their traditional ponytails. The Achuar now want to expand a controlled form of tourism farther into their territory, and have built a camp in the forest near the remote community of Tiinkias to offer visitors a more rustic experience than Kapawi. I would be the first tourist there.” [Source]

There is no doubt that such “success stories” are modern day fairy tales for the progressive left. Real life utopias where the 1%, including the liberal left, can immerse themselves in the lair of absolute opulence: “a haven of ease, good taste, and understated luxury” – both literally and metaphorically. [Source] [1998: “Kapawi is targeting the high-end market, with an all-inclusive price of nearly $300 per person, per day, cost that includes transportation from Quito.”]

What exactly underlies the Pachamama statement that “both companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

Here it is critical to recognize that the geographic areas deemed necessary for development by Pachamama and corporate interests are populated by Indigenous people who literally live off (and on) the land. These are Earth’s final remaining lands that have been untouched by industrialized civilization, and are still, in many instances, absolutely abundant where climate change has not yet induced drought and devastation. Lynne Twist, co-founder of Pachamama, confirms this in her book The Soul of Money: “Twist lived for a time with the Achuar people, who for thousands of years have lived a rich life in the rainforest with no need for actual money.” [Soul of Money Book Review]

Yet, vital critique regarding the underlying ethnocentric and capitalist standards for initiating, managing and evaluating such “sustainable” developments appears to be of little to no interest – to anyone. Like the warm golden sun, beautiful and intoxicating as it shines upon our skin, collectively we bask in the lies that allow us to continue insanity without reflection – uninterrupted. The embraced ignorance, like the warmth of the sun, is luxurious.

Nature Tourism Gold Rush

 “The most important factor to remember as a conservation organization is that when you start approaching the tourist market, business is business or you are out.” — Bezaury-Cree, 1991

Responsible travel, sustainable tourism, ecotourism, nature-based tourism, adventure travel, experiential tourism, voluntourism, educational travel, etc. etc. etc. The rhetoric may change (and does), but the facts do not. Consider that in 1950, international tourists numbered approximately 25 million. Further consider that on December 13, 2012 the UN celebrated international tourism surpassing the one billion mark. This asinine celebration followed the failure of yet another United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP18), making the “celebration” of burning carbon for leisure all the more delusional as the Earth continues to pass planetary tipping points. While celebrating tourism increasing from 25 million to over 1 billion in a mere six decades (a clear example of exponential growth), just one glance at the narcissistic Facebook page created to further promote travel demonstrates the predominantly white Euro-American majority – the very ones creating 50% of all GHG emissions. [Another example of ecotourism’s exponential growth is the recognized statistic that tourism to reserves and national parks in Costa Rica grew from 63,500 to 273,400 foreign tourists, exceeding a quadrupling in a mere six years, between 1985 and 1991.]

In the 1980s, with the growing interest in ecotourism worldwide, Galapagos tourism professionals and tourism companies began to look to the mainland for new tourism destinations. Ecuador had been an established nature tourism destination for over two decades as a result of the early popularity of the Galapagos Islands. (2005) [Source]

According to a 1991 USAID study, at that time, the number of foreign tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands was 50,000-60,000. Approximately 24,000 tourists traveled to the Oriente region (Ecuador’s El Oriente occupies the lowlands of the Amazon basin) for an average of 5 days (in 1990), while foreign tourists traveling to the Amazon region were found to be under 3,000. The Oriente stats represented an increase exceeding 50% in a mere 3 years (between 1987 and 1990), with over half of all Oriente tour operators having started their operations within those last five years (1985-1990). In addition, in 1991, a 40% increase in hotel and lodge capacity in the Oriente took place and continued to expand. The rapid development became known as the “Nature Tourism Gold Rush.” With fewer than 3,000 foreign tourists visiting the Amazon region, this would have been considered an incredible untapped market, ripe to be exploited. [Source]

By the early 1990s, ecotourism had exploded, with hundreds of ecotourism ventures being developed within the planet’s most pristine and isolated areas. Dozens of these “ambitious experiments”* were financed by USAID, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Investors from Europe lined up to partake. An explosion in investment in CBE (community-based ecotourism) projects was well underway with 161 “donor projects” taking place in Latin America, Africa and Asia. By 1996, Conservation Corporation (South Africa) had designated $60 million to the development of 60-100 luxury lodges in East and Southern Africa. This trend coincided with the emergence of neoliberalism, the corporate greens, and the free-market “environmentalists,” with obfuscation, co-optation and steadfast denial ruling ever since. [*”You wonder whether the fate of the Achuar – the indigenous group that owns the lodge and the land that surrounds it – will be different, whether an ambitious experiment in alternative development could allow the tribe to make its peace with the modern world while preserving a way of life so different from – and alien to – Western sensibilities.” Source]

Of the 40 CBE projects in the Ecuadorian Amazon, more than half of them were owned and managed by foundations “representing” local communities. [Community-Based Ecotourism in Ecuador and Its Contribution to the Alleviation of Poverty, 1990]

Dialogue about the inevitable consequences of neoliberal and capitalist ideologies that are being woven strategically into the fabric of Indigenous communities is, almost without exception, deliberately evaded. Rather, the Indigenous communities are presented to the world as the latest beneficiaries of Western development. The West is viewed as the generous white saviour, which by default, assigns the Indigenous peoples (again) to the role of passive “objects” to be saved. To avoid the label of modern-day, full-blown colonists, foundations (via NGOs) and private institutions created the ultimate altruistic image by offering engagement and even full partnerships to selected communities. This would lend much legitimacy to those who deserved none.

Not of interest is the fact that evaluations of management and “success” would/will be observed through, almost exclusively, the eyes of the Euro-American. Zoning, consulting, advertising, and other constructs of the Western world will be deemed as the “correct” path to success, with “success” defined by Western standards (i.e., profit and Western constructs/ideologies). What is lost in this unabashed bravado, buried just beneath the beloved rhetoric of autonomy, diversity and democracy, is that no foreign outsider possesses the intimate knowledge of both land and culture that is imperative to any so-called success in the competitive field of ecotourism.

It is a rare instance when the capitalist encounters something he must possess, but which cannot be purchased. Although the white saviours could now (and still do) bask in the newly appointed cloth of generosity, the reality was (and remains) that the knowledge required to exploit these pristine lands for tourism (i.e., for profit) could not be obtained without the generosity of the Indigenous Peoples of those lands. By framing the foreigners as the saviours, private enterprise would capture rewards of access to land and forests, resources, knowledge and (essentially) free labour – a free-market capitalist’s paradise. NGOs, par excellence, fulfilled their highly financed role of expanding neoliberalism and Western ideologies.

Neoliberalism, Colonialism and Imperialism and in the Caribbean

The multi-million dollar ecotourism projects (“social experiments”) normalized the hierarchies established under colonialism by obscuring the capitalist agenda behind the rhetoric of “community-based tourism” projects. Concealed was the role of economic processes that shape and mold the boundaries between Nature, the market, corporate power and state. Facilitated by the non-profit industrial complex was the task of privatization and marketing of state-society relations behind the concept of the (neoliberal) conservation mode of production. All roads lead to the commodification of Nature, culture, spirituality, and even fantasy. Even symbolism must be considered symbolic capital.

As an example of the imperial and colonial mindset in regards to states of the Caribbean, in a 2006 USAID document (USAID Sustainable Tourism Training), it is noted that “modernization of the public sector is therefore necessary and has been influenced by the growth of the middle class, the diversification of the private sector, and pressure from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” This document explains that “the continued impetus for public sector modernization requires public education and bi-partisan support for reforms. One major aspect of public sector modernization in the Caribbean concerns the need for transfer of several activities, in part or in full, from the public sector to the private sector. The move towards heavier reliance on the private sector as the engine for change and development …. The transfer of appropriate activities from the public sector to the private sector and NGO’s will release governmental financial and managerial resources…. Caribbean governments are a long way from satisfactorily fulfilling all of these functions.” [Emphasis added.]

The same USAID document goes one step further, suggesting that NGOs should be given legal recognition “as an important element in the development of sustainable community development as associated with ecotourism.” The fact that elite interests would like to see NGOs granted legal recognition (this means protection) reveals how critical, and understood, NGO involvement actually is for the further expansion of neoliberalism and US foreign policy.

 

 

 

Endnotes:

[1] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature FB group now has 1,205 members. The Pachamama Alliance FB page now has 112,460 “likes.” The Rights of Nature Twitter account now has a total of 126 tweets and 118 followers.

[2] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature Twitter account now follows 41 individuals/orgs.

[3] More recently an alternate address has been added: Rights of Mother Earth, PO Box 88, 6317 Oberwil b. Zug,
Switzerland ” [Source]

[4] Prior to this position Fink was a Project Coordinator and Grants Writer for Ayuda Directa USA (July 2006 – Sept 2009) where she “worked directly with indigenous communities of the Ecuadorian Highlands in identifying local needs and then advocating for them in project descriptions, grant proposals, and community service projects.”

[5] Update, May 13, 2014: “Runa currently works with over 2,000 indigenous farmers in the region and has generated over $125,000 in income for them.” [Source]

[6] “The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UNFCCC creates new oppor­tunities for developing-country farmers to benefit from their contributions to carbon sequestration and renewable energy. Inter­est in agroforestry has increased since a report by the Inter-Centre Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2001) indicated that changes in land use from annual crops to agro­forestry is one of the most promising ap­proaches for sequestering carbon through CDM-approved afforestation. Although the carbon sequestration value of agroforestry has received greater attention to date, there is also evidence that agroforestry has good potential to generate renewable energy in the form of biomass and biodiesel that could qualify for the CDM if it can be shown to replace non-renewable sources (Venema and Cisse 2004). ” – World Agroforestry Into the Future, 2006

[7] “Once an offset system is in place, agricultural producers could implement carbon sequestration projects and sell their reduction credits to large industrial emitters. Emitters would be willing to buy credits from the agriculture sector when the price of those credits is lower than the cost of implementing measures to reduce their own emissions.” – Carbon sequestration potential of agroforestry practices in the L’Ormière River watershed in Quebec, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, November 2008

[8] The largest of the many indigenous populations who have resided in the Amazon for centuries.

[9] “Moreover, because the working class own no mass communications media, they are overwhelmed by the bourgeoisie’s cultural hegemony, and, because they have no intellectuals of their own, they adopt the imposed bourgeois worldview (Weltanschauung), which thus constitutes a false consciousness about their own economic exploitation by the strata of the upper classes; with that false awareness the working class lose their social and political, economic and cultural independence as a social class.” [Source]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palawan: Stop Blaming Indigenous Peoples’ Farming Practices (Kaingin) for Deforestation

Look Instead to Boom Crops, Oil Palm Plantations and Mining

Intercontinental Cry

April 28, 2015

by Coalition against Land Grabbing and United Tribes of Palawan

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Batak ancestral land, sustainably managed through traditional kaingin practices

Recent years have seen an exponential increase in land deals across the Philippines with the conversion of large expanses of land with crops mainly intended for export. Meanwhile, traditional upland farming practices implemented through swidden (‘slash-and-burn’) technology–known locally as kaingin or more appropriately uma–are demonized and antagonized through restrictive legislation. This is despite the fact that the latter fosters local self-sufficiency and plays a fundamental role in the livelihoods and worldviews of Indigenous societies.

Palawan, known as the “Philippine last Frontier”, in spite of its unique recognition as a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve, has not been spared from massive investments in extractive resources and industrial agriculture, especially oil palm and rubber. And yet, Indigenous Peoples and upland dwellers continue to be blamed for causing massive deforestation and ecological disaster.

Not surprisingly, the recent front cover of a well known Philippine Newspaper (The Daily Inquirer, May 9 issue) holds a headline accompanied by a powerful image that easily conflates all upland peoples as criminal agriculturalists.

“Images are powerful and can be damaging,” says Wolfram Dressler, a Research Fellow from the University of Melbourne (Australia), who has carried out extensive anthropological research in Palawan. “They can direct blame without nuance and context. The masses (and government) absorb such images to reinforce centuries-old narratives demonizing kaingin—a term that many farmers avoid because of its pejorative nature,” Dressler adds.

The Inquirer‘s article was triggered by an aerial survey carried out by the Center for Sustainability (CS), a nonprofit organization that supposedly works for sustainable development in Palawan. The group spotted key locations from the air, previously covered by forest, which have now been cleared as a result of external forces such as mining, oil palm plantation development and shifting agriculture. According to the group, in addition to clearing by ‘poor farmers’, forest burning in the south has been linked to the proliferation of palm oil and rubber plantations, and the main target of ‘slash-and-burn’ activities is the clearing of primary forests for development.

Ironically, for carrying out its photo survey, CS conservationists borrowed the private plane of multimillionaire Jose Alvarez, the present Governor of Palawan, who is a well-known supporter of large-scale agro-industry development (especially rubber which accelerates deforestation and deprives more traditional indigenous communities of their resource-base). He is a member of the same family that logged Northern Palawan’s forest in the eighties. He also chairs the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). In principle, this government body is mandated to ensure the sustainable development of the whole province through the implementation of a Strategic Environmental Plan or SEP (R.A. Republic Act 7611). Under the SEP, no development project should take place in Palawan unless the proponents secure a so-called SEP clearance. In reality, massive oil palm expansion and related forest clearing takes place without the requisite SEP clearance.

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Massive forest clearing for oil palm plantations in Sandoval, Municipality of Bataraza

Marivic Bero, Secretary General of the Coalition against Land Grabbing (CALG), comments,

“Here in Palawan, we have the best laws in place to protect both the environment and the rights of our Indigenous Peoples. However, the limits of law lie within the implementation process, wherein rules and regulations are conditioned by the inability of concerned government agencies and their officials to stand by their own mandates”.

She further argues that the government prohibition to ban kaingin represents a blatant violation of the major tenets of the ‘Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997′ (Republic Act no. 8371) which recognizes, protects and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communalities. “This is a very powerful law… and should not be undermined by ‘minor’ laws and municipal ordinances banning shifting cultivation”, says Bero.

While Palawan’s environment is being ravaged–by agribusiness (mainly oil palm and rubber), mining enterprises and various forms of land grabbing–state agencies such as PCSD (as well as some Palawan NGOs) still view Indigenous kaingin as ‘illegitimate agriculture’ and as the primary cause of deforestation. “Turning a blind eye to the plunder of forests by industrial logging, mining activities, agribusiness, and livestock production, state agencies continue to label and classify kaingin farmers as primitive, backward and unproductive who waste valuable forest resources, particularly timber”, Dressler points out. “In this way, government agencies have unleashed anti-kaingin campaigns that justified the resettling of kaingineros and adoption of permanent forms of agriculture that are not suited for the uplands. In turn, kaingin is coercively regulated with fines or jail time, while indigenous upland farmers are frequently harassed by forest guards.”

In 1994, a ban against shifting cultivation (bawal sa kaingin) was enforced by former Mayor Edward Hagedorn through the so-called ‘bantay gubat': an implementing arm composed of poorly trained forest guards. Sadly, when this happened, no murmur of dissent was raised by Palawan NGOs, in spite of the severe hardship experienced by hundreds of Indigenous communities because of the ban. The latter, however, was strongly opposed by Survival International (SI). An international campaign by SI resulted in a partial lifting of the ban. In the end, the former Mayor decided to allow Batak as well as Tagbanua tribes continue their traditional kaingin practices with a ‘controlled burning’ in place of the previous ‘zero burning’ policy. However, as the years passed by, the ban on kaingin was renewed with gusto. It is now being implemented under the current administration.

“Ever since the ban on shifting cultivation was implemented in PPC Municipality, Survival has been lobbying for the government to exempt Indigenous communities, such as the Batak, from the ban”, explains Sophie Grig, Senior Campaigner at Survival International.

“We are disappointed that in spite of international pressure, the local government still continues to implement a law which is creating food-shortage and malnutrition amongst the previously self-sufficient tribes of Northern Palawan”. In spite of its failure, the ‘ban on kaingin’ initially implemented in Puerto Princesa Municipality, is now being emulated by others. Recently, the Government of Brooke’s Point has proposed the implementation of similar restrictions in its own municipality and, if the ban will push through, hundreds of upland Pala’wan communities will be threatened with food insecurity and malnourishment.

The CS aerial survey added more fuel to the fire, through the production of dramatic photos that are presented without due context. These images prompted Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez to declare war on kaingin by proposing the creation of a “forest conservation task force that will undertake a 10-year plan to arrest the problem of slash-and-burn farming”.

“We are extremely worried about these new developments,” says John Mart Salunday, an Indigenous Tagbanua who is presiding NATRIPAL, the largest Indigenous federation in Palawan.

“There are several indigenous communities’ conserved areas (ICCAs) in our province where traditional kaingin has been sustainably practiced from [generation to generation]. Unfortunately, the ‘anti-kaingin policy’ and the ‘bantay gubat’ implementing it, make no distinction between unsustainable ‘kaingin’ done by Filipino migrants and the traditional ‘kaingin’ still practiced by many Indigenous Peoples.”

“Upland rice is such a strong part of our identify and our people have selected more than 80 varieties of rice over hundreds of years, not to mention the diversity of other crops: cassava, ubi, sweet potato, banana and many others. If all this is taken away from us, our tribes will have no future.”

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A group of indigenous Pala’wan planting upland rice in the Municipality of Brooke’s Point.
The richness and complexity of indigenous upland farming systems in Palawan has not gone unnoticed to both local and foreign researchers such as Roy Cadelina, James Eder, Melanie McDermott, Nicole Revel, Charles Macdonald, Wolfram Dressler and Dario Novellino who have carried out in-depth studies on indigenous farming practices and their relevance in local cosmologies, worldviews, identities and ethnobiological knowledge.

“If one compares the wisdom of Indigenous upland farmers to the ignorance of most foresters, politicians and conservation biologists in the same field of knowledge, the gap is striking,” observes Dario Novellino, an anthropologist from the Centre for Biocultural Diversity at the University of Kent (UK), who has lived in Palawan for almost 30 years. Novellino maintains that the government ban on kaingin in Puerto Princesa, rather than protecting the environment, has placed insurmountable pressure on the forest and altered the sustainability of the indigenous farming system.

“I have seen forest guards (bantay gubat) advising Indigenous farmers to cut only very small trees for their ‘uma’ (upland fields) and to cultivate the same plots of land continuously… These indications are based on a very poor understanding of forest ecology. If you clear areas where only small trees are found, it means that you are going to plant land that has not yet regenerated its soil nutrients. When you cultivate these fragile soils, over and over, you cause them to become infertile. Ultimately, only cogun (Imperata cylindrica) will thrive in these areas… the forest will never grow back.”

Well-known scholars have argued that traditionally practiced kaingin (or integral kaingin) involves the intermittent clearing of small patches of forest for subsistence food crop production, followed by longer periods of fallow in which forest re-growth restores productivity to the land.

Dressler explains,

“Kaingin can yield complex assemblages of forest and other vegetation in unique mosaics comprised of open canopy tree associations to mature closed-canopy forest systems best understood at the landscape scale. As a complex system of agriculture and forestry, integrating production from cultivated fields and diverse secondary forests, kaingin farming may yield a wide range of ecosystem services and resources integral to livelihoods and forest environments in the mountains of Palawan.”

IP-victims-of-kaingin-ban.jpg-729x1100

IPs victim of the ban against ‘kaingin’. This child is forced to eat small quantities of purchased rice since his tribe can no longer plant it.

However, when such a complex system is altered–for instance, through the implementation of punitive policies–the repercussions on forest ecology and people’s sustenance becomes dramatic. According to Novellino, when Indigenous upland communities are not allowed to procure carbohydrates (rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, etc.) necessary for physical survival, through their farming practices, they are forced to increase pressure on commercially valuable NTFPs (non-timber forest products) such as rattan, almaciga and honey which they must in turn sell to purchase rice. This can result in the swift depletion of non-timber forest resources and place even more pressure on the forest itself. Indeed, this is exactly what happened because of the implementation of the ‘zero burning policy’ by former Mayor Edward Hagedorn.

One can only speculate why the Government of Palawan is so quick to raise its voice against kaingin while remaining silent about the huge expanses of forest and fertile land that the agro-industry receives. We know the official explanation: oil palms are only planted on ‘idle’ and ‘abandoned’ land to enhance the province’s economy while increasing job opportunities and transforming unused areas into productive plantations. But are such lands truly ‘idle’ and ‘abandoned’? A recent study by ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) indicates that the answer is ‘No’. According to the study, most of the so-called ‘idle’ and ‘unproductive’ lands include areas that have been used since time immemorial by Indigenous societies.

“The removal of natural vegetation and of previous agricultural improvements by oil palm plantations is leading to the total collapse of traditional livelihoods, thus fostering communities’ impoverishment and increasing malnutrition”, says Novellino. He sustains the Government has failed to consider that most of the so-called ‘idle’ and ‘underdeveloped’ lands include areas that are being utilized by rural and Indigenous populations for different purposes (gathering of NTFPs and medicinal plants, kaingin, etc.). He believes that a direct relationship exists between oil palm/cash crop expansion, the impoverishment of people’s diets, the progressive deterioration of traditional livelihoods and the interruption of cultural transmissions related to particular aspects of local knowledge.

Dressler argues,

“In contrast to commercially oriented monocultures, mixed swidden systems benefit Palawan’s Indigenous Peoples by offering a variety of timber and non-timber harvests for subsistence and commercial sales to diversify production and spread risks, thus avoiding the ecological and economic shocks associated with relying on one product too heavily.”

Apparently, this is not perceived by the Government as a strong enough reason to switch its development agenda towards more sustainable forms of agriculture. Instead, local food security continues to be sacrificed in the name of oil palm and rubber development while anti-kaingin policies are strongly implemented with no distinction between traditional Indigenous farming practices and migrants’ unsustainable slash-and-burning.

Welly Mande, a Tagbanua of CALG, comments,

“If the government is serious about ensuring the welfare of its constituents it should enhance the capability of upland farmers to produce enough food, rather than fostering cash crop[s] such as [oil palm] and rubber that are not for local consumption but for export.

What we would need instead are lower risk models of agricultural development that give a greater share of benefits to the poor while improving and fostering the production of endemic crops such as coconuts and rice.”

For the sake of fairness, we should now ask ourselves whether Indigenous shifting cultivation practices throughout Palawan are sustainable (based on long fallow periods). At present, they are not sustainable; nevertheless, the blame for forest destruction should not be placed on upland dwellers. One need only look at the historical process that led to unsustainable kaingin practices such as the dramatic reduction of Indigenous ancestral domains due to massive migration of landless farmers, encroachment by mining and plantation companies, insurgency and militarization just to mention few.

It is a rather nice irony that official propaganda against kaingin–coupled by NGOs’ market-based conservation approaches–continues to provide additional incentives for international institutions to finance more of the same (e.g. reforestation of indigenous fallow fields which are wrongly classified as ‘degraded areas’). Often, such reforestation programs deprive local communities of areas that are necessary for field rotation, thus jeopardizing the sustainability of their farming system.

It will require detailed and multidisciplinary studies to determine where, and to what extent, the conditions for optimal long fallows in Palawan are still present and how many Indigenous communities are still practicing long rotation cycles. In turn, the law should move away from coercion and demonization of kaingin towards more culturally-sensitive approaches that provide incentives to Indigenous cultivators for increasing and fostering production of local genetic varieties of rice and other traditional cultivars. In places where swidden practices have become irreversibly unsustainable, specific strategies should be developed in close coordination with local communities, rather than imposing top-down technical solutions and enforcing legal persecution.

In other words, upland farming strategies should be evaluated through an integrated and interactive long-term process of research and development in close partnership with local upland farmers. This process should identify Indigenous best farming practices, taking care to understand them and the contexts in which they are used. Meanwhile, in the short term, it would wise if journalists and their ‘zealous’ conservationist allies refrain from publishing images that uncritically depict upland dwellers as ‘environmental criminals’, putting the blame of deforestation on those who suffers from it most.

Misunderstanding the Civil Rights Movement and Diversity of Tactics

The Hampton Institute

June 13, 2015

By Lorenzo St. Dubois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s gotten to be a pattern on the Left. When Black protest erupts into insurrection, as it did in Ferguson and Baltimore, most liberals and white radicals express empathy for the cathartic release of anger, but urge the oppressed that this is not the way. This is “not strategic,” says the leftist concern-troll. This is “what the police want.” Most of the time they manage to stop short of asking “why are they burning down their own neighborhood?” -if only to be mindful of clichés-but some can’t even help themselves there. In the aftermath, Amy Goodman (seemingly channeling Alex Jones) will spread conspiracy theories on how the government “orchestrated” the rioting.[1] The respectability politics of nonviolence will return.

It’s hard to believe that anyone who has paid attention to Black Lives Matter takes these positions in good faith because, of course, the riots in Ferguson were objectively the best thing that happened to a movement that was already more than a year old. In August 2014, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had been almost completely forgotten by white America except as grim punchlines, while national civil rights leaders were more concerned with Chicago’s gang killings than with the national wave of police terror. Yet by December, in the wake of recurring rioting in both Ferguson and the Bay Area, the Ferguson PD was under investigation by Amnesty International, the Justice Department and the United Nations ( and #BlackLivesMatter had been named Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society ).

This month the pushback comes with Jonathan Chait’s promotion of a scholarly paper on the effects of rioting on Black liberation in the 1960s. Chait’s argument can be critiqued on just about every level: the paper has a distorted idea of what liberation is (apparently, it means electing Democrats), an undefined idea of what rioting is, and on top of that the paper isn’t even accredited scholarship, in the sense that it hasn’t been peer-reviewed by anyone (except of course by Jonathan Chait).

Chait first got uptight about this subject last year, when he and Ta-Nehesi Coates had an indirect back-and-forth over the efficacy of Black insurrection. Chait wrote regarding Ferguson that “Property damage and looting impede social progress.” Coates replied with a concise historical sketch of militancy in the civil rights era:

The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is inseparable from the threat of riots. The housing bill of 1968-the most proactive civil-rights legislation on the books-is a direct response to the riots that swept American cities after King was killed. Violence, lingering on the outside, often backed nonviolence during the civil-rights movement. “We could go into meetings and say, ‘Well, either deal with us or you will have Malcolm X coming into here,'” said SNCC organizer Gloria Richardson. “They would get just hysterical. The police chief would say, ‘Oh no!”

But now Chait claims that a draft research paper by Omar Wasow, an assistant professor at the department of politics at Princeton, fills in the blanks left within the broad strokes of that sketch. “And his answer is clear,” Chait announces. “Riots on the whole provoke a hostile right-wing response. They generate attention, all right, but the wrong kind.”

Chait and Wasow’s position is a restatement of the timeworn “backlash thesis.” Over the years, this thesis has been largely discredited by various studies (studies which, unlike Wasow’s, were peer-reviewed). The weakness with the thesis is not that there was no serious white backlash to the anti-racist movement, but that the backlash started as soon as the civil rights struggle began in the mid-1950s, not suddenly after the mid-60s Northern rebellions.

The Limits of Nonviolence

Take for instance Michael Klarman’s book From Jim Crow to Civil Rights (which one reviewer calls “the first great and indispensable work of American constitutional history in the twenty-first century”). Klarman demonstrates that Brown vs. Board of Education didn’t inspire an unambiguously effective civil rights movement; it inspired an uncertain experiment in passive resistance which in turn provoked the segregationist “massive resistance” movement. And just as Brown didn’t lead to widespread desegregated schools, the Supreme Court decision that emerged from the Montgomery bus boycott didn’t lead to widespread desegregated buses-most Southern municipalities simply ignored it, and launched highly effective repression against Black activism and liberalism generally. Montgomery itself enacted new segregation laws after the boycott victory, and terrorized both moderate and radical political figures (Rosa Parks fled the city after the campaign, both because she was blacklisted from work and because of credible death threats). On the rare instances where the federal government stood up for school desegregation, like in Little Rock in 1958, the conservatives were strong enough to wait out the withdrawal of troops, or else simply shut down the schools rather than comply.

A new hope seemed to emerge in the early 1960s with the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the Mississippi voter registration drives. But the sit-in movement only led to the desegregation of Woolworth’s luncheonettes-most Southern eateries remained Jim Crow. The Freedom Rides were actually unpopular with the American public, most of whom thought Blacks were moving too fast. And the Freedom Rides led to yet another federal decision that was seldom honored in the South. The Mississippi movement provoked a wave of lynchings that the Kennedy administration did nothing to prevent. Klarman noted that the early civil rights movement had a “backlash-counterbacklash” dynamic.

Klarman’s work builds on that of scholar Gerald Rosenberg who demonstrated that no dramatic change for Black liberation occurred until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The direct impetus for that law was rioting in Birmingham in May of 1963: thousands of local blacks defied Martin Luther King’s exhortations to nonviolence, set fire to nine square blocks of downtown, and sent a police officer to the operating room. The author of the most comprehensive study of President Kennedy’s civil rights policy, Nicholas Bryant, noted that

It was the black-on-white violence of May 11 – not [the nonviolence of the previous weeks] – that represented the real watershed in Kennedy’s thinking…Kennedy had grown used to segregationist attacks against civil rights protesters. But he – along with his brother and other administration officials – was far more troubled by black mobs running amok.[2]

Birmingham wasn’t an isolated episode; Black insurrection flared across the country for the rest of 1963 and into 1964. Sometimes it was milder than Birmingham and sometimes it was more explosive. SNCC leader Gloria Richardson recalls that in her campaign in Cambridge, Maryland, activists exchanged gunfire with National Guardsmen just a few months prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

“Burning in Every City, North and South”

President Kennedy’s response to Birmingham is the key historical moment of the movement. According to White House tapes, the president initially thought about sending federal troops to Alabama in May 1963 with the idea of acting against Blacks if the rioting continued-not against Bull Connor. He ultimately kept the troops on stand-by. As the month wore on and Kennedy saw Black rebellion spread to Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York, he eventually concluded he would have to make a major gesture of support for African-Americans. On June 11, he gave his landmark Civil Rights Address, in which he first proposed the Civil Rights Act. The Address acknowledged the role of riots:

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety… The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

Kennedy’s speech is the first time the federal government even acknowledged it had a major racial problem in the North. The post-Birmingham uprisings were indeed the root of the nationwide white backlash, but they were also the beginning of a truly nationwide civil rights movement. And they proved to be the first real federal breakthrough in either the North or South.

Some of Professor Wasow’s charts actually illustrate my points better than they illustrate his:

2015 0611satmis ch

We can see in this chart that there was little violent activity in the early sixties movement-but we can also see that there was very little nonviolent activity in the movement either. The marked decline of nonviolent protest shown in 1962 confirms Malcolm X’s characterization in his “Message to the Grassroots” speech that the movement seemed to be on its last legs that year. Then, in 1963, we see violent and nonviolent activity spike in unison – if anything violent protest leads the trend. The riotous tendency in that year helped to stimulate nonviolent protest (including preparations for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom). And as we’ve already seen, it directly inspired Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address and proposal of his civil rights bill.

The chart also shows a smaller but still significant curve towards violence in 1964. The peak of this curve appears to be June 1964- the month the Civil Rights Act was finally passed. And once again, riots and peaceful protests rose and fell together in similar timeframes. Also note that the Watts rebellion doesn’t spring out of nowhere in August 1965; it’s part of a general increase in militancy that begins in the first half of the year, which means that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is also inseparable from the threat of riots (Note too that the overall rates of violent protest in 1965 and 1963 are nearly the same).

Wasow doesn’t mention the Birmingham riot, or the Cambridge riot, or the “fires of frustration and discord…burning in every city, North and South,” in 1963. They don’t help his case. But they do prove the case of the anarchist writer Peter Gelderloos, who’s noted for years that the civil rights movement at its strongest was a model of diversity of tactics.

The underlying premise of Wasow and Chait seems to be that since it’s dangerous to win (there’s a backlash) it’s much better to lose. In his study of the struggle for the Civil Rights Act, legal historian Gerald Rosenberg has a more heartening message:

“Overcoming discrimination is a good news/bad news story.The bad news is that discrimination is deeply enmeshed in the fabric of American life; it is hard to change. But there is good news. The good news is that change is possible.”

Notes:

1. Democracy Now! uncritically publicized the idea that the National Guard stood down in Ferguson in order to encourage rioting. However, it was documented later that the officials’ motivation was concern about the public image of militarized policing.

2. Nicholas Andrew Bryant, The Bystander: John F. Kennedy And the Struggle for Black Equality (Basic Books, 2006), p. 393

Originally posted at Lorenzo’s blog, Diversity of Tactics.

How the US Mental Health System Makes Natives Sick and Suicidal

Indian Country

June 18, 2015

by David Walker

At a youth wellness conference at Yakama Nation I helped organize in 2001, an elder of the Kah-Milt-Pah honored us with her presence. For the first two days, she sat next to her daughter in the front row, one palm resting on a handmade cane, watching and listening as keynote speakers stepped up. I remember she became particularly focused when a youth invited to the stage to share his life challenges broke down mid-sentence.

At 4:30 p.m., near the end of the last day, she struggled to rise and then stood next to her chair. Members of the discussion panel fell silent while she was helped to the stage by her daughter. She then turned around to face the 700 or so mostly Native attendees and began speaking in her native dialect about the sacredness of children. A microphone was hurriedly brought over as her daughter stood beside her, carefully translating her words into English.

This translating was time-consuming, and as an organizer, I knew the event center closed at 5 p.m. Soon, a custodian approached me and whispered, “We need to shut down.”

We stood together for a moment listening to and watching her, dressed in her dark calico dress, a kerchief holding back her grey braids, leaning over her cane.

“Fine,” I said, “you tell her.”

He smiled and shook his head. She finished at about 7:30 p.m., and I don’t believe anyone left, not even that custodian.

Later on, I found out that she understood and spoke English well; she just chose not to speak it. Her insistence on using her native language told everyone present how she felt about the colonizing language of English, imposed in her lifetime by coercion and force. It may have become the common tongue of Indian Country, but she would not feel obliged to use it. Only her Native words could speak to the heart about “what has happened” to the children.

The intrusion of a new language upon a people can build bridges, tear them down, or serve an oppressive agenda. It can do all three at once. In the last 40 years, certain English words and phrases have become more acceptable to indigenous scholars, thought leaders, and elders for describing shared Native experiences. They include genocide, cultural destruction, colonization, forced assimilation, loss of language, boarding school, termination, historical trauma and more general terms, such as racism, poverty, life expectancy, and educational barriers. There are many more.

One might expect such words to be common within the mental health system in Indian Country. Yet the major funder and provider of Native mental health, the Indian Health Service (IHS), doesn’t seem to speak this language.

For example, the agency’s behavioral health manual mentions psychiatrist and psychiatric 23 times, therapy 18 times, pharmacotherapy, medication, drugs, and prescription 16 times, and the word treatment, a whopping 89 times. But it only uses the word violence once, and you won’t find a single mention of genocide, cultural destruction, colonization, historical trauma, etc.—nor even racism, poverty, life expectancy or educational barriers.

This federal agency doesn’t acknowledge the reality of oppression within the lives of Native people. Instead, it uses another powerful word, depression. For about a decade, IHS has set as one of its goals the detection of Native depression. This has been done by seeking to widen use of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), which asks patients to describe to what degree they feel discouraged, downhearted, tired, low appetite, unable to sleep, slow-moving, easily distracted or as though life is no longer worth living.

The PHQ-9 was developed in the 1990s for drug behemoth Pfizer Corporation by prominent psychiatrist and contract researcher Robert Spitzer and several others. Although it owns the copyright, Pfizer offers the PHQ-9 for free use by primary health care providers. Why so generous? Perhaps because Pfizer is a top manufacturer of psychiatric medications, including its flagship antidepressant Zoloft® which earned the company as much as $2.9 billion annually before it went generic in 2006. Even with the discovery that the drug can increase the risk of birth defects, 41 million prescriptions for Zoloft® were filled in 2013.

The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” (iStock)
The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” (iStock)

The Pfizer PHQ-9’s lead developer, Dr. Spitzer, was the “task force leader” for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III-Revised (DSM III-R) when I started graduate training as a clinical psychologist in 1986. The DSM III-R created 110 new psychiatric labels, a number that had climbed by another 100 more by the time I started working at an IHS clinic in 2000.

Around that time, Pfizer, like many other big pharmaceutical corporations, was pouring millions of dollars into lavish marketing seminars disguised as “continuing education” on the uses of psychiatric medication for physicians and nurses with no mental health training.

I recall being asked if I was going to one of these seminars, held at the fanciest restaurant in a city north of the Yakama Nation Reservation. Although a government employee is technically not allowed to accept gifts of more than $20, this lavish (and free) meal seemed a grey area. After all, it was “educational.” I didn’t happen to drink alcohol, so I wasn’t interested. After this event, several primary care colleagues began touting their new expertise in mental health, and I was regularly advised that psychiatric medications were (obviously) the new “treatment of choice.”

Since those days, affixing the depression label to Native experience has become big business. IHS depends a great deal upon this activity—follow-up “medication management” encounters allow the agency to pull considerable extra revenue from Medicaid. One part of the federal government supplements funding for the other. That’s one reason it might be in the best interest of IHS to diagnose and treat depression, rather than acknowledge the emotional and behavioral difficulties resulting from chronic, intergenerational oppression.

The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” This means IHS considers Native patients with a positive PHQ-9 screen to be mentally ill with depression. And in just the last four years, the Indian Health Service has spent over copy.1 billion to treat Mentally Ill Indians. In quiet ways, IHS admits to being obsessed on this point. For instance, in its National Behavioral Health Strategic Plan 2011-2015, IHS states an objective to “recognize the heavy influence of biomedical models” (it’s not certain what happens after recognition), but in its very next objective, notes a desire to “assist the Indian Health System to make needed prescribed psychotropic medications available to persons served.”

There are many things wrong with this model. For instance, the biomedical theory IHS is still promoting is obsolete. After more than 50 years of research, there’s no valid Western science to back up this theory of depression (or any other psychiatric disorder besides dementia and intoxication). There’s no chemical imbalance to correct. Even psychiatrist Ronald Pies, editor-in-chief emeritus of Psychiatric Times, admitted “the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend.”

Unhinged Trouble With Psychiatry
Unhinged Trouble With Psychiatry

Researchers, writers, and mental health professionals have sought to get word out about the deceptiveness of this false science for decades. In 2011, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Medical Journal, summarized the work of three such voices for the New York Review of Books. Angell reviewed The Emperor’s New Drugs by Harvard psychologist Irving Kirsch in which he concludes that there is no significant difference between the drugs and sugar pills for reducing depression. Angell also reviewed award-winning investigative journalist Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, in which he describes the pharmaceutical industry’s funding of “key opinion leaders” for promoting its medications and its profound influence on increasing the number of DSM “disorders” eligible for medicating. Dr. Angell closes with a review of Daniel Carlat’s Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry. After Carlat thoroughly “follows the money” in pharmaceutical funding of psychiatry, he admits to nearly doubling his hourly income by seeing his patients for “psychopharmacology” instead of therapy.

The Emperors New Drugs
The Emperors New Drugs

IHS continues to apply the PHQ-9 in its stated belief that “early identification of depression will contribute to reducing incidence” of suicide, violence, etc. while allowing “providers to plan interventions and treatment to improve the mental health and well being of American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

Antidepressants do not reduce suicide. Much money has been spent on studies trying to support such an idea that either fail or are easily exposed for poor science and shoddy designs that result in retractions and back-pedaling. A 2010 study of sales of antidepressants in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark from 1975 to 2006 found no relationship between suicide rates and the great popularity of psychiatric drugs.

In an astonishing twist, researchers working with the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that building more mental health services is a major factor in increasing the suicide rate. This finding may feel implausible, but it’s been repeated several times across large studies. WHO first studied suicide in relation to mental health systems in 100 countries in 2004, and then did so again in 2010, concluding that:

“[S]uicide rates… were increased in countries with mental health legislation, there was a significant positive correlation between suicide rates, and the percentage of the total health budget spent on mental health; and… suicide rates… were higher in countries with greater provision of mental health services, including the number of psychiatric beds, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, and the availability of training in mental health for primary care professionals.”

Global Suicide Rates World Health Organization
Global Suicide Rates World Health Organization

In fact, authors of the 2010 study stated rather specifically that the suicide rate climbed alongside the increased “availability of training in mental health for primary care professionals.” This describes the very strategy IHS has been using to try to reduce suicide.

Mental health folks didn’t care for such findings and wanted to try again. A 2013 follow-up study by Anto Rajkumar and colleagues using similar WHO data gathered from 191 countries found, “Countries with better psychiatric services experience higher suicide rates.” It might be beside the point to mention that research repeatedly demonstrates physicians commit suicide at twice the rate of other people. After all, they have more legal access to drugs.

Despite what’s known about their significant limitations and scientific groundlessness, antidepressants are still valued by some people for creating “emotional numbness,” according to psychiatric researcher David Healy. Research undertaken at the University of Washington in 2004 suggested people will quit using antidepressants because of feeling numb while others continue for the same reason.

The side effect of antidepressants, however, in decreasing sexual energy (libido) is much stronger than this numbing effect—sexual disinterest or difficulty becoming aroused or achieving orgasm occurs in as many as 60 percent of consumers. Such a side effect can in itself increase anxiety, depressed mood and hopelessness. In this way, IHS has become complicit in reducing sexual interest while having a potentially negative impact on intimate relationships within the communities it serves. The agency has been spreading lies about faulty brains with “chemical imbalances” for years now and recasting reactions to oppressive social conditions and life challenges as a pathological illness to be numbed or sedated.

Dr. David Healy is better known for his research showing that antidepressant medication increases suicide and violence in certain people. When I mentioned his early work to IHS primary care colleagues, I met great skepticism. But Healy’s work has withstood the test of time, including repeated scrutiny by major scientific authorities worldwide, even by a reluctant FDA that dragged its heels before mandating a “black box warning” about suicide and violence potential. Over the years, I’ve thought about Dr. Healy’s work when incidents of mass violence have occurred at Red Lake, Tule River and Marysville.

A formal report on IHS internal “Suicide Surveillance” data issued by Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center states the suicide rate for all U.S. adults currently hovers at 10 for every 100,000 people, while for the Native patients IHS tracked, the rate was 17 per 100,000. This rate varied widely across the regions IHS serves—in California it was 5.5, while in Alaska, 38.5. It’s important to note that IHS has experienced chronic difficulties in getting its providers to comply with entering all the suicides they encounter in their practices for this project. Yet there are crucial lessons to learn from what has been tallied.

Suicides for all U.S. youth in the age range of 15 to 24 nearly tripled from 1958 to 1982, but since 1999, this rate has remained stable at between 10 and 11 per 100,000. The IHS Suicide Surveillance data reveals the rate for Native youth to be climbing . Over 52 percent of suicides described in the Great Lakes report were by young Native people aged 10 to 24. Between 2005 and 2010, the average suicide rate for Native 14 to 24 year olds greatly exceeded even the overall Native rate. According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth and young adult suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate. (National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan)
According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate. (National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan)

It’s not surprising that alcohol was involved in 82 percent of reported suicide attempts. It’s a shocker, however, that medication overdose was the primary method people used. Fifty-nine percent of Native people attempting suicide favored overdosing on meds—well beyond use of firearms, hanging, intentional car wrecks, or other means.

Nearly one in four of these suicidal medication overdoses used psychiatric medications. The majority of these medications originated through the Indian Health Service itself and included amphetamine and stimulants, tricyclic and other antidepressants, sedatives, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. The Suicide Surveillance report doesn’t specify what “other prescription medications” make up an additional 22 percent of medication overdoses and may have also originated at IHS.

Despite what IHS may say, there’s no evidence to suggest that psychiatric medication reduces either suicide or what it prefers to call depression. However, there’s solid evidence the agency’s expansion of its biomedical model and the drugs it promotes may be increasing the Native youth suicide rate—these drugs are being favored as a means of taking one’s life.

What’s truly remarkable is that this is not the first time the mental health movement in Indian Country has helped to destroy Native people. Today’s making of a Mentally Ill Indian to “treat” is just a variation on an old idea, a fitting example of George Santayana’s overused adage: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Native mental health system has been a tool of cultural genocide for over 175 years—seven generations. Long before there was this Mentally Ill Indian to treat, this movement was busy creating and perpetuating the Crazy Indian, the Dumb Indian, and the Drunken Indian.

We need to expose what has been made invisible and forgotten. We need to revisit the displaced and poverty-stricken ancestors subjected to Indian Lunacy Determinations and sent away from their homes and families. We need to learn more about the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, where people were kept shackled until the cuffs of their chains meshed with their skin.

We need to open the skeleton’s closet through which mental health first entered the boarding schools, determined stilted curricula for generations of children, and used its methods to sterilize those it deemed inferior. We must make peace with the fabled Firewater Myth, a false tale of heightened susceptibility to alcoholism and substances that even Native people sometimes tell themselves.

There are forgotten heroes to know, ancestors of those currently trapped by the Native mental health system—a Lakota diagnosed with “horse-stealing mania,” a Cherokee laying claim to the land of Sweden, and a Mohawk, the first Indian psychologist, stepping up to challenge the white man’s labeling of his community’s children as feebleminded.

English will necessarily be the shared language of inquiry, but let’s use it to be accurate about these seven generations of harm.

Because it’s oppression, plain and simple.

Portions of this story appeared in Dr. Walker’s blog postings at Mad In America. His award-winning Medicine Valley novels and some scholarly papers can be perused at www.tessasdance.com.

 

 

 

 

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part II

The Art of Annihilation

May 7, 2014

An investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

[This report references both REDD[1] and the REDD+[2] mechanism. REDD refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation while REDD+ was updated to reflect: “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries; and the role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks.”] For the sake of continuity, the authors of this investigative series will use the original acronym REDD in this series unless REDD+ appears in references or quotes.]

 

No-REDD+-in-Rio+20

Image: No REDD in Rio

REDDy for Hypocrisy

“[REDD is] a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred…. It is time to defend Mother Earth and Father Sky. Your future depends on it.” — Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, October 22, 2013

Industrial capitalists, employing those in the non-profit industrial complex as their personal soft-power sycophants, have every intention of controlling what remain of Indigenous People’s natural resources. Adding to centuries of colonialism, slavery, and genocide, native peoples now face a 21st century corporatocracy that seeks full privatization and commodification of the Earth’s remaining commons. As an example, the creation of ecological reserves on Indigenous land is rampant yet proceeds relatively unnoticed. The theft of biological wealth under the guise of conservation is stealth and must be acknowledged as such – nothing less than a brilliant coup.

In the final frontier of Earth’s last remaining natural resources, with capitalism on its knees with nowhere else to go, a silent war has begun that few yet notice. It can be summarized in two words: environmental markets.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is one such key market. [“REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that many initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, are currently developing and supporting. Other multilateral REDD+ initiatives include the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), hosted by The World Bank. Source] This scheme (creating / obtaining permits to pollute via corporate capture of Earth’s last remaining forests) will not mitigate the escalating climate and ecological crises in any way. Rather, it simply allows polluters to continue polluting. REDD allows, and even encourages, our multiple ecological crises to further accelerate while ensuring the seizure / commodification and further exploitation of Earth’s remaining natural resources. Tina Vahenen, from the UN REDD Secretariat, addressed an auditorium of timber executives and foresters at the World Forestry Congress in 2009 and stated, “REDD would be very beneficial for forestry.” Not forests – forestry. Ms Vahenen explained to the room that REDD would be worth $45 billion for the timber industry and insisted that “the forestry sector cannot afford to lose this opportunity.” [Key Arguments Against REDD, 2011- Source]

At first glance it appears that Pachamama Alliance (and Pachamama Foundation by extension) are “more legitimate” than most big greens – and they may very well be, to some extent. Their progressive language is demonstrated in the positions put forward on REDD by Pachamama Foundation that appear on their website and in the mainstream.

August 8, 2011: Pachamama Foundation Website (translated from the Spanish by Google Translate):

“Aware of the urgent need to reduce deforestation in the country, Fundación Pachamama’s participation at international level in the Accra Caucus and national level in the monitoring group UN-REDD and the National Standards Committee Socio-environmental REDD +, aims to participate in advocacy spaces to ensure the inclusion of human and collective rights, self-determination, land rights, and full and effective participation of the subjects of law, and monitoring the construction of political national government for the conservation and the importance of forests. In domestic spaces acts as delegate CEDENMA, representing a sector of environmental civil society organizations to advocate for getting the highest standards of conservation and the guarantee of human and collective rights and the rights of nature. Pachamama Foundation disagrees with any attempt of the Government of Ecuador to participate in carbon markets, is in a stage of preparation and implementation stages. Markets do not do more than consider nature as a commodity and encourage perverse and inequitable business that promotes a model of capitalist development and unsustainable. Pachamama Foundation does not promote any REDD mechanism. Rather, it maintains a very critical position, this being insufficient and incomplete to combat climate change mechanism, whose origin is in a biased account of the forest that does not include the Indigenous world, does not recognize rights for nature and the commodification and intended to be inserted into the woods in the perverse world market.”

This sounds like an honourable, even radical, position. And it is. But consider the following text exactly three months later on November 8, 2011, also from the Pachamama Foundation website:

María Belén Páez, director of Pachamama Foundation, spoke about the REDD mechanism during the plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). In her speech, she addressed the following topics [translated from the Spanish]:

Financing: The REDD finance mechanism should be transparent, reliable, and accessible.

Additionality: The reductions under the REDD mechanism must be in addition to emission reductions required under the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries, ie, [REDD credits providing carbon offsets] should not replace these reductions.

Integrity: It is important that the parties agree that funding for REDD ensures social and environmental integrity, in addition to sustainable development and good governance.

Innovation: Funding for REDD should focus on a variety of innovative sources.

Carbon markets: Carbon trading has been declared as merchandise with the worst performance in the world. Its growth has stagnated and declined. Forests are not within this market due to concerns about leakage and impermanence of the forest.

Offset credits: It has been shown that these loans are prone to fraud and market manipulation. They should not be part of any package of funding for REDD.

Multi-functionality: It is important to recognize that forests have multiple functions in addition to their ability to store carbon. Payments resulting from REDD have to compensate more than the amount of reduced tonnes of carbon, for example, their spiritual and other environmental services. [Emphasis added to the word spiritual.]

Effectiveness: To improve the effectiveness of REDD and the ultimate goal of reducing pressures on deforestation and forest degradation, countries should be compensated not only for reducing emissions, but also for the implementation of measures to improve governance, respect for human and collective rights, and conservation of biodiversity.

Although Páez, executive director of Pachamama Foundation, publicly voices opposition to both carbon markets and offsets, she speaks as though financing/payments for REDD, from sources outside of environmental markets, are a realistic option. The intent of REDD by capitalists is to turn the services provided by Earth’s forests into globally tradable commodities. Sources of REDD finance are intentionally presented as hazy and vague while simultaneously espousing half promises that non-market finance will miraculously materialize from nowhere. The simplistic notion that altruistic REDD finance funds from “innovative sources” will come raining down from the sky is a sugar-coated Venus flytrap that easily lures those that are greedy, extraordinarily naïve or cloaked in denial,particularly those dependent upon the non-profit industrial complex.

Note the phrase “spiritual services” as cited by Páez. One must ask how “payments results in REDD” would/could compensate for the loss of spiritual services. Can an exemplary amount of money compensate for spiritual services? If you are a spiritual capitalist, the answer appears to be yes.

At COP17, Páez “represented civil society” (even though unelected to do so) and Accra Caucus (of which Pachamama Foundation is a member). [1] Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change is a network of southern and northern NGOs representing around 100 civil society and Indigenous Peoples organizations from 38 countries, formed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2008. The Caucus works to place the rights of Indigenous and forest communities at the centre of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation promote good governance and are not a substitute for emission reductions in industrialized countries. [“A full list of members of the Accra Caucus is available on request.” Source. Note that requests were made to acquire this full list, with no success.] Incidentally, Accra Caucus is also partner to the UN REDD Desk. [2] For further information it provides a link to the partner, Rainforest Foundation. At this link we find that Pachamama Alliance is also an “actor” within the UN for implementing REDD, as is Fundación Pachamama. [3]

As mentioned prior, Pachamama Foundation is also partner with the Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Defensa de la Naturaleza y el Ambiente (CEDENMA) (Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment). At COP17, Natalia Greene, program coordinator of “Political Plurinationality and Rights of Nature” at Pachamama Foundation was also responsible for chairing CEDENMA, of which she is president.

“Nationally we have participated as a representative of the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) in building REDD spaces and policies with a MAE (Ministerio del Ambiente) mechanism to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples. — Pachamama Foundation [Source]

The Spanish website of CEDENMA (an “Agency Partnership and political representation of Ecuadorian civil nonprofit organizations”), which represents the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, “a network of organizations and individuals committed to the adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce the rights of nature individuals” (to be discussed further in this report) is registered to an address in West Jacksonville, Florida, US. Under the link “I am Nature,” the website redirects you to Pachamama Foundation’s YouTube channel. The vast majority of the members are of US/foreign origin with masses of tentacles to hegemony. In one instance, the “collaborators” cited are World Bank, USAID, US Fish and Wildlife Service, WWF, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and many other hegemonic institutions.

Theatre

 “Political rhetoric and sophistries do not exist, after all, in order that they be believed; rather, they have to serve as a common and agreed upon alibi.” Milan Kundera

The matrix of alliances and the repertoire of concerned/attentive language as briefly touched upon above is a brief overview and screenplay of exquisite theatre – theatre also performed for the benefit of the actors and extras themselves, carefully ensuring that all involved can bear to face themselves each morning when they must wake and look in the mirror. As defined by Kundera, it’s an “agreed upon alibi” to alleviate the conscience.

It is a spectacular feat to continually walk the fence wearing Prada heels. The script dictates that corporations, foundations, governments, organizations/NGOs (hierarchal/top down) must unequivocally demonstrate that “civil” society and Indigenous peoples, in particular, have been absolutely involved in the entire process of decision-making. Again, language is instrumental: safeguards; Free, Prior and Informed Consent; transparency; social and environmental integrity; self-determination; sustainable development; cultural integrity; good governance; respect for human and collective rights; rights-based forestry;and conservation of biodiversity, etc. etc. The list of ethical, beautiful and soothing turns of phrase that both ease and suppress well-founded anxieties flows like the River Nile. The i’s will be dotted and the t’s must be crossed. There will be nothing left undone that allows for litigation, that allows for any groups to claim they were not consulted. The capitalists will claim that civil society was not only consulted, they were invited to come to the table, with a heavy emphasis on outreach to Indigenous peoples. It’s all theatre, ladies and gentleman. And everyone in the production knows how the show ends. The ending was written long before anyone was assigned to their roles or studied their lines.

This is not activism. This is corporatized environmentalism – the ultimate oxymoron. A thriving industry for hegemony cloaked under the thin guise of ethics and human rights.

No big greens intend to actually stop REDD. In fact, many NGOs are planning to profit from the scheme just as they have from forestry, for example, Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF: “Probus is retained by the Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF, to advise on non-conflict of interest global funding mechanisms for environmental stewardship councils and NGO development of global sustainable timber and aquaculture standards. In tandem with the financial aspects of environmental stewardship, Probus develops corporate structuring to enable large NGOs to gain independent revenues via ‘for-profit’ sister companies without impinging upon the impartiality and not-for-profit or charitable status of the NGO.” In the end, “important concessions” will have been made to “protect the Indigenous” and these special considerations will be celebrated as “win win!” victories. Yet, the considerations for concessions were also written into the script with many undoubtedly pre-determined from inception. The predacious capitalist gives nothing he does not wish to give. [Further reading on WWF’s certificationschemes and green washing can be found here, here, and here.]

Via the financial institutions, the media and the non-profit industrial complex, the capitalists perform the most malevolent activities that inflict further pain and destruction onto Earth’s most vulnerable societies, sentient beings and living ecosystems. Yet as long as they appear to be polite, conciliatory, and attentively listening to grievances, feigning concern for the associated plight and risks, alongside the pie in the sky “benefits,” of course, the majority of people will acquiesce to the predetermined, “politically feasible” reformist “solution.” Behind closed doors, the ménage of human drones defending capital do not waver. Tenacious as hell, they quietly shuffle forward – impassive, undeterred, absolutely focused on their strategic objectives. This may take years. It may take decades. It matters little. Time is of no essence. The end justifies the means. Call it Machiavellian. Or call it what it is: steady state pathology.

One simply has to look at The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to see how such conventions are essentially worthless. Our children today are unlikely to live to old age due to cataclysmic ecological collapse, yet each waking day, the global economic system that ensures our annihilation continues unabated. Which begs the question: Why would anyone in sound mind believe that Indigenous Rights will be respected in the final scramble for the Earth’s last remaining natural resources?

Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions. — Aristotle, Poetics, VI 1449b 2–3

“[A]nd through pity and fear it effects relief to such [and similar] emotions.”

The embracing of deception (deception that must be swallowed whole, and willingly, if one is to protect their privilege) is warm and consoling. Not unlike a tightly spun cocoon. A metamorphosis into the same pathology we claimed to oppose.

Lying to oneself is easy for those within the non-profit industrial complex. They profess to oppose it – knowing full well that their funding (meaning their privilege and very identities) is fully dependent on what they claim to contest coming to fruition. In many cases, concern and voiced opposition are sincere. It makes no difference. Everyone understands the rules of the game. They understand from the onset that what they object to (at least publicly), which almost always falls under the expansion of capital, is going to be realized. They will voice their distrust and unease and demonstrate just how incredibly noble and ethical they are (with great concern for the natives, of course – natives in faraway exotic places, that is) prior to the proposed policy/scheme being realized. It’s theatre for the audience. Theatre for our conscience. Theatre for the absurd.

Feeding at the REDD Trough

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Image: Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

It’s easy to talk smack against REDD when one (in this case, Pachamama Foundation) is partnered with UN REDD Desk and funded by Norway Rainforest Foundation (RFN), et al. All it takes is a heightened level of hypocrisy and superiority.[“RFN’s finances are to a significant degree based on multiyear contracts with Norwegian public authorities regarding long-term financial assistance. The organization derives additional funding from individuals and bequests (including from regular private donors designated ‘Rainforest Guardians’); contributions from members of the business community such as Nordic Choice Hotels; and international funds and foundations such as the Ford Foundation and the Rainforest Foundation Fund…. In Indonesia, RFN and its partners have made use of the opportunity presented by the international attention which followed the country becoming a target of many REDD initiatives, including a USD 1 billion bilateral agreement between Norway and Indonesia, in order to provide advice, criticism and input in dialogue with the government and in the media…. As stated by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), ‘the Rainforest Foundation Norway support to the Civil Society National Climate and REDD working group in DRC has brought full Congolese civil society participation and involvement in developing the national REDD+ strategy and all of its components.'”] Norad is a key funder promoting REDD. [4]

“Norway continues to be UN-REDD’s first and largest donor, committing US$52.2million for 2008-2009, US$31 million for 2010, and at least US$40 million for 2011-2012.” [Source: June, 2011]

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Image: The WWF, REDD and Tanzania

The current/previous Board of Directors on the Rainforest Foundation (US division) include representatives of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AMG Wealth Partners, George Soros Open Society Foundations, Kingdon Capital Managementamong others. After the billion dollar deal was announced between Norway and Indonesia, it was revealed that Norway’s Government Pension Fund – Global had millions invested in many of the predatory corporations circling in on vulnerable Indigenous land owners in Papua and West Papua. This included a corporation that forced a four year old boy to sign land release contracts (PT Henrison Inti Persada, a subsidiary of the Noble Group, which it purchased from Kayu Lapis Indonesia Group, and Medco International and LG International – which sought 1 million hectares of Papua for industrial timber plantations).

Pachamama Alliance and Foundation may (and do) go far further in their criticisms against REDD and other market mechanisms, but at the end of the day they will fulfill the needs/interests of the foundations (fed by corporate profits). Just like every other NGO whose entire existence is dependent upon those profits.

The necessity for healthy dissent is critical. No one understands this more than the foundation. The oligarchy acknowledges there must be space for dissent and venting. To not ensure these needs are met is to invite elements that could lead to economic sabotage and revolutionary revolt. To have a handful of groups publicly objecting to the implementation of policies/schemes when one funds hundreds/thousands of groups to ensure their success is not threatening to the oligarchy whatsoever – rather, it ensures the populace will continue to believe (the falsehood) that they remain part of a true and healthy democracy. Who cares if a handful of groups highlight dangers of REDD – when the cat is already in the bag and the so-called “opposition” is addicted to and reliant on the foundation dole?

If the UN had a program called UN Climate Colonialism Desk (and that is what the UN REDD Desk essentially is), would we all join as “partners” to ensure we had “our say”? It is common knowledge that partners are sought after to 1) increase credibility, legitimacy and brand, and 2) accelerate the original intent/purpose. [5] Some organizations may attempt to justify such partnerships, but at the end of the day, they have lent much needed credibility and legitimacy to yet another instrument of colonialism that should have been isolated, exposed and scorned.

One can be absolutely certain that a key goal of the oligarchy, which has finally overcome most all obstacles in the indefatigable goal to implement REDD (two decades in the making, sought by Rockefeller, Ford, etc. [6], is to now expand REDD throughout Ecuador, Latin America and the rest of the world now that REDD+ framework has been achieved at COP19/Warsaw. [December 13, 2013: “WWF has worked towards realizing REDD+ for many years, engaging both on the ground in the key tropical forest nations of Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Colombia, the Guyanas and Brazil, as well as at the global policy and finance levels.”]

It is essential to note that none of the NGOs (over 100 at this point) participating in the Pachamama “solidarity” campaign disclose the fact that the Pachamama Foundation is financed by US interests. As an example, on December 5, 2013, The REDD-Monitor, demonstrating solidarity with Pachamama Foundation, voices its criticisms of the Ecuador Government, writing:

“As in other countries, REDD in Ecuador takes place in parallel to business as usual, including the suppression of the right to dissent. On its website, the UN-REDD programme reports that, ‘In order to reverse forest loss, Ecuador is implementing a series of initiatives to reduce deforestation in the country as part of good governance of forest resources and to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing GHG emissions related to this activity.'”

The REDD Monitor goes further, correctly spelling out why REDD is a false solution to climate change. Yet the REDD Monitor never mentions that both Pachamama Alliance and Pachamama Foundation are UN REDD “actors,” and financed by the very oligarchs (via foundations) that are heavily invested in REDD. For a poverty stricken state such as Ecuador, the support and pursuance of REDD is, without doubt, misguided and regrettable. For multi-million dollar NGOs (which, although unelected, claim to represent civil society) to support and pursue REDD is without doubt inexcusable. Yet, as far as support for REDD is concerned, the government of Ecuador alone will be the egregious villain while Pachamama Alliance and Foundation will be the virtuous victims. (It must be noted that the REDD Monitor is also a beneficiary of funding from Rainforest Foundation Norway.)

At this juncture it is critical to note two items of great significance.

“According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007.” — Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate, November 20, 2013 [7] [“Since 2007, USD 2.72 billion has been pledged to five multilateral climate funds and two bilateral initiatives that support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+).”]

The $2.72 billion that has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 is approximately the same monetary amount (with a similar timeline) that Ecuador required for the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative was the proposal by the government of Ecuador to refrain indefinitely from exploiting the oil reserves of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field within the Yasuni National Park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion over 13 years from the international community. During the six-year history of the initiative, only $336 million had been pledged, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered. [Source] Hence, the project, however flawed, has failed, opening President Correa up to yet another attack by “the left.” [“It is worth remembering that the first trust set up to receive donations was designed, among others, by Yolanda Kakabadse, president of the World Wide Fund for Nature and trustee of the Ford Foundation, and businessman-environmentalist Roque Sevilla, both well connected in the NGO conservation world.” [Source]

This represents the greatest case of victim blaming, which has been the hallmark identifier of the Western response to the non-Anglo plight the world over. Correa and the state have little choice but to exploit these resources (in the case of Yasuni-ITT, 200 hectares (the actual size to be affected contested by some) directly impacted within the million-hectare National Park). This is due to the fact that the global economic system dictates that Ecuador MUST provide these raw materials for financial capital and everyday goods and services – or face the consequences of the West taking what Ecuador will not give willingly. The weak-willed left will point the finger at the leaders in the Global South who must acquiesce for the lives of their people rather than point the finger at the torturers of the Global North, who turn the screws while continuing to inflict the centuries-long pain of this parasitic relationship. Reparations be damned.

Yet a sister campaign, the international outcry regarding the projected tar sands mining/strip-mining designated to destroy 300,000 hectares of the Canadian Boreal Forest, is nowhere to be heard. [“The projected strip-mining of 740,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of forests and wetlands in the tar sands will result in the loss of breeding habitat for between 480,000 and 3.6 million adult birds. The corresponding impact on breeding will mean a loss of 4.8 million to 36 million young birds over a 20-year period, and 9.6 million to 72 million birds over a 40-year period.” [Source] Rather, we hear only cries against a single pipeline (the Keystone or KXL) – a campaign in large part funded by Buffett moneythat has allowed oil, gas and a 21st century oil-by-rail industrial revolution to expand and flourish. Production stopped at the source (on American soil) is of no focus. International cries for production to be crushed prior to drilling are only directed/applied to resource-rich states and their “dictators” (a phrase only applied to the uncooperative) who refuse to get down on all fours and lick the feet of imperialism. Once imperial states take control of foreign soil and natural resource wealth (via occupation, coercion or puppet presidencies), we never hear of campaigns to “keep the oil in the soil” again. A case in point would be the oil-rich state of Nigeria or recently illegally invaded and now occupied Libya where foreign interests pump and steal the oil as fast as modern day technology allows.

There is valid point to be made that defending the rights of nature cannot be based on the promise of compensation, yet the reality is that we, civil society, have a “movement” that refuses to make anti-capitalism the very foundation of all dialogue. A movement financed in full by the very interests we claim to oppose.

The fact of the matter is, if NGOs had campaigned for Yasuni (with no allowances for carbon offsetting / markets), rather than working behind the scenes with corporate interests and leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting Annex 1 statesto sanction / advance REDD, perhaps our situation today would be far different. But of course, this is not why the non-profit industrial complex exists. Instead, these NGOs and their foot soldiers, financed by the oligarchs, attacked the Ecuadorian Government, framing the failure as Correa’s alone, strategically pardoning the leading GHG-obstructionist states from their failed obligation and reparations while simultaneously ignoring the nature of the capitalist beast. [Opinion: Yasuní: Entre el eco-fundamentalismo y el Socialismo del Buen Vivir]

“It is becoming more apparent every day that there is no radical Left in this period, just a bunch of middle class intellectuals, politicians, preachers, businesspeople, and academics, many of whom are seeking or receiving government jobs, grants, contracts, or elevation to high political office from the very corporations or the capitalist state they claim to be fighting. They just want us to replace one group of masters for another, while the system itself keeps humming along.” Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

And while NGOs such as Pachamama Alliance/Foundation, Avaaz (partner of Rockefellers Pro-REDD Climate Group), Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, etc. assist in the corporate capture of our commons, consider this:

“The work of environmental scientists supporting the UN’s GEP [green economy program] will give scientific authority to the project, but the important decisions will have already been made…. The project is a deepening commitment to neoliberal free markets…. Meanwhile, scientific institutions, environmental NGOs and government agencies are working to build institutional infrastructure to give scientific authority to the UN’s GEP.… The historical critique of capitalism presented by John Bellamy Foster (2002) and others describes that the appropriation of the commons is an integral aspect of capitalism. Capitalism is always looking for new means of producing profit from activities that were otherwise not managed through commodity relationships.” Dr. Joanna Boehnert, Re-imaging the Commons as “The Green Economy”

The second item of significance is the State of Bolivia’s “Proposal for the Development of the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests,” which was presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)in August of 2012. Although in appearances many organizations have voiced opposition to REDD and carbon markets, it appears that absolutely none have seized the opportunity to campaign on the alternative proposal presented by the State of Bolivia.

Consider this: As the Bolivia delegation stood alone (and continues to stand alone) on the world stage opposing carbon markets (which include REDD) while also developing and presenting alternatives, behind the marketing and branding veneer of the non-profit industrial complex, some realities are crystal clear. “In September 2011, the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference took place in Bonn, Germany. About 1,500 people from 70 countries turned up. On the third day of the meeting, a remarkable thing happened. Not a single participant at the conference put up their hand to disagree with a declaration which promotes REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.”

“No one raised their hand to object to a single word in the declaration text. In an email distributing the document, Dodd states that, ‘The Declaration was accepted unanimously by the 1500 NGOs and other stakeholders present.'” Manufacturing Consent on Carbon Trading, Chris Lang

The declaration ended with “the call for governments to support forest certification. The ‘gold standard’ of forest certification is the Forest Stewardship Council. Yet FSC has certified vast areas of monoculture tree plantations. FSC also certifies industrial logging in primary forests. But none of the 1,500 people in the meeting objected to any of this – or any of the other statements in the more than 9,000-word declaration.” [Source]

So-called “progressive” media (also financed by and dependent upon foundation funding) apparently have no interest in alternatives to carbon markets either. Bolivia continued to fight for Mother Earth during the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Doha, Qatar. The Bolivian delegation reaffirmed its rejection of the use and expansion of the carbon market as a tool to reduce emissions that cause climate change in the world and presented a proposal with alternative tools in carbon markets. But what use are such alternative tools in the growth of global capitalism? In the mind of the Western world, this is akin to a child handing a bow and arrow to a warrior who is accustomed to using an Uzi, when in fact the “civilized” is now dependent upon the “savage” for help in solving the problem of Earthly destruction. But it appears we would rather die a thousand deaths than actually take this under consideration. As the world hangs in the balance, there is no more time left for the Western world to hold such ideologies. Yet, this will more than likely be the mindset that the West, as a collective, takes to the grave – taking all of the world with it.

Like Bolivia’s alternative proposal for carbon markets, the essential People’s Agreement (April 2010, Cochabamba), has been also been vigilantly marginalized and buried by the non-profit industrial complex. There has been almost zero support for any of these ground-breaking proposals/declarations. When climate justice groups on an international climate justice listserv were asked openly if there were flaws in these alternative proposals, the response was silence. Rather, the environmental “movement,” dominated by the privileged left while residing in the leading GHG-obstructionist NATO states, prefers to condemn leaders of ALBA states as phony “extractivists.”

“I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.” Teju Cole

Imperialism and enslavement is a narrative as old as time. The transformation of Western influence over sovereign states of the world can be traced back to what transpired after the overthrow of French colonizers by Haitian slaves in 1804.

As a result of their audacious desire to be free – a basic human right co-opted mainly by global white male supremacy – the Haitian slaves traded physical oppression, which had been the norm to that juncture, for an economic domination that they were unable to resist. Since then, this has been the blueprint imposed by the West over all the nation states that have attempted to overthrow physical domination.The forms of subjugation have changed over these past 200 years, yet subjugation remains.

Reddy to Manipulate

Consider the following:

In the February 21, 2013 article (Growing Coalition Joins Indigenous Leaders in Houston) featured on the Pachamama Alliance website, the following information is reported, demonstrating the close relationship between Pachamama Alliance and The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). [8]

… [O]ther citizen groups also turned out and spoke up to show their solidarity and support Vargas and Narcisa Mashienta, a Shuar leader and coordinator of Fundación Pachamama’s Jungle Mamas program who also traveled to Houston.

The leaders brought with them an open letter from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador’s Amazon (CONFENIAE), which called for solidarity from the national and international community to resist oil exploitation in Ecuador’s remaining Amazon rainforest, among the most biodiverse in the world….

The petition has also garnered positive media coverage in Ecuador and internationally, ensuring that the issue of oil exploitation in what’s left of Ecuador’s Amazon would become part of the popular discourse and debate around Ecuador’s recent presidential election. (That election was held on February 17th and Rafael Correa was re-elected for a third term as President.)

Fundación Pachamama, Amazon Watch, and other allied NGOs have joined forces with Avaaz.org …. [Further Reading: AVAAZ: IMPERIALIST PIMPS OF MILITARISM, PROTECTORS OF THE OLIGARCHY, TRUSTED FACILITATORS OF WAR]

It is clear and reasonable that the Indigenous populations would oppose the drilling of oil on their ancestral land and that they have every right to defend it. Yet, there is another grave threat to the forests and their ancestral lands. And this very real threat is REDD. Pachamama Foundation is certainly “lending a hand” in ensuring that the devastating impacts of drilling oil are understood in the Indigenous populations, yet when it comes to REDD, the market incentive is discussed as though it can somehow be “made to behave” and evolve into an ethical, non-threatening market mechanism. This is a clear example of how foundation dollars and Western interests come into play. Drilling for oil is an obvious threat to forests. However, REDD, although equally threatening, does not “look” like oil. Workers don’t show up in coveralls, work boots and dirty rigs. REDD arrives in a shiny new Land Rover, full of designer suits, new Italian shoes and shiny white faces. Like CO2, the commodification of the forests is invisible.

Video (Running time: 9:26). Chief Aritana Yawalapiti explains how his people and his region are aggressively targeted by NGOs (ISA) to agree on REDD+ projects. [Published August 22, 2010 by documentary filmmaker Rebecca Sommer.]

On August 3, 2009, CONFENIAE (the logo and letterhead list of members includes organizations of the Shuar, Kichwa, Achuar, Waorani, Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Zapara, Shiwiar and Andoa Peoples) demonstrated that they were vehemently opposed to REDD:

 “We reject the negotiations on our forests, such as REDD projects, because they try to take away our freedom to manage our resources and also because they are not a real solution to the climate change problem, on the contrary, they only make it worse.

“We inform COICA, of which we are a part, that, as Ecuadorian Amazonian representatives with the right to voice and vote, that no person, entity, NGO, etc., is authorized to speak on our behalf in favor or against any issue without our knowledge and participation.”

Yet, in a paper titled “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center published about a year later (December 2009), both CONFENIAE and COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Amazon region) are now identified as REDD partners with Pachamama Foundation, the World Bank, WWF, etc. on page 5. The Woods Hole Research Center’s work on REDD is financed by USAID, The World Bank, Goldman Sachs, WWF and many others (page 2).

[“The WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Woods Hole Research Center, CIFOR, Wildlife Conservation Society and other ‘conservationist’ NGOs are among those who stand to make billions of dollars from REDD+.” Source]

“In recognition of the vital role of Indigenous Peoples in the REDD process, the Forum, in collaboration with COICA and the national Indigenous network in each country, convened three national-level workshops on REDD for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Partners in these workshops include EDF, IPAM and the Pachamama Foundation.” — “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center [Source]

The “forum” referred to in the above quote is the Forum on Readiness for REDD. EDF refers to Environmental Defence Fund USA and IPAM refers to the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (Brazil).

Demonstrating further disrespect for the State of Bolivia, which has been ardently opposed to REDD and carbon markets, “The Forum” conducted REDD workshops with Indigenous communities in Bolivia via FAN-Bolívia (Fundacion Amigos de la Natureza) [Funders and Donors] with REDD partner CIDOB (The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia). [“… various social sectors have been infiltrated by USAID, which openly funded CIDOB, by the NED, and by the army of NGOs, which unfortunately has become another mechanism for hegemony to evade responsibilities.” Source]

[CONAIE was formed out of the union of two already existing organizations, ECUARUNARI and CONFENIAIE. ECUARUNARI, the regional organization of the Sierra that has been functioning for over 20 years, and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), formed in 1980, created that same year the National Coordinating Council of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONACNIE).]

As mentioned prior, documents demonstrate that Pachamama Foundation has also partnered with USAID-WCS.

Attorney and writer, Eva Golinger(winner of the International Award for Journalism in Mexico, 2009), speaking in reference to USAID/NED:

“This type of funding/aid/advice is very complex and effective because it enables US agencies to infiltrate groups of all spectrums. I am not alleging all of these groups and their members are US agents or receive US funding, but the evidence is quite clear that certain factions within them have close relations w/ US agencies and receive their funding. And, they share a common agenda, against President Rafael Correa. That is undeniable.

“I have never said all of CONAIE or Pachakutik receives funding from US agencies, I have always said sectors, individuals and elements connected to them do receive such funding and training.

“Anyone who dismisses receiving funding or training from NED/USAID and related agencies as having no impact on politics has no understanding of the complex workings of these US agencies. They attempt to recruit, infiltrate and capture influential groups, parties and people who then promote US agenda. This is fact. Unfortunately, they are quite successful.”

The emphasis on local participation, encouraged and even mandated by the foundations and financiers, laid the pivotal groundwork for Indigenous participation regarding REDD. In the 2007 report led by Ricken Patel, founder of Avaaz, for the Gates foundation (“Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South”), this is referred to as “cultivating the fringe”: “If possible, fund the fringe, but if this is perceived as too high a risk then invite them to the table by including them in conferences and convenings.” [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South: A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

It is difficult to place any blame on the Indigenous communities/groups who have entered (or been coerced) into REDD partnerships. The manipulation by the elite foot soldiers within the complex is as smooth as fresh-churned butter. It is important to note that although many Indigenous Peoples are traditional, there are also those “selected” by the World Bank et al that have been completely assimilated by the Western culture and do fully understand that REDD, along with every organization and institution advancing/implementing it, is compromised or fraudulent, or both.

On December 14, 2013, it was reported that “At odds with Ecuador, USAID moves to leave. USAID expects to close its doors in Ecuador by September 2014 due to an increasingly acrimonious relationship with President Rafael Correa. This comes six months after it was kicked out of Bolivia.” The article quoted Steve Striffler, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of New Orleans who studies Ecuador, who stated “[T]hese countries are able to carve out independence from the US in a way they weren’t in the past. The idea they would have kicked out USAID 10 or 15 years ago is unimaginable…. In some ways these actions, and the [USAID decision] can be put in there too, are intended to say that we are an independent sovereign nation…. In the perspective of many in Latin America, and with good reason, USAID is seen as an agent of US imperialism.”

 

 

End Notes:

[1] “Since 2008, we are a member of Accra Caucus, a coalition of civil society in countries with tropical forests, seeking recognition and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands, territories and resources, and traditional uses of forest policies in fighting climate change.” [Source]

[2] “The UN-REDD Programme was launched in September 2008 to prepare and implement national REDD+ strategies in developing countries and was formed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UN-REDD currently has 29 partner countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, of which 13 are receiving support for national programme activities, worth US$55.4 million.” [Source, June, 2011]

[3] The Pachamama Foundation is listed as an “actor” on the UN REDD Desk website, which states: “The Pachamama Foundation was created in 1997 in Ecuador as the sister organization of the Pachamama Alliance that was itself born in Ecuador following the visit of a group of tourists from California, USA, to the Achuar territory, home of an indigenous group that maintains its traditional lifestyle within the tropical rainforest in a remote region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.” [Source: http://theredddesk.org/countries/actors/pachamama-foundation]

[4] “Furthermore, through its ongoing REDD project, which got under way in May 2009, RFN and its local partners have sought to influence the REDD process in the DRC by disseminating information at the grassroots level on the opportunities and challenges of REDD – to local communities, small NGOs, and members of government and research institutions. RFN has also strengthened the capacity of a large number of Congolese civil society organisations to influence the REDD agenda of the DRC, both at the national and at the international level and has, alongside its partners, succeeded in securing civil society participation in the DRC’s National Steering Committee for REDD.” [Source] “There are many more layers that are pushing for legitimizing and expanding REDD+. For example, key funders that are promoting REDD+ are the Climate and Land Use Alliance (Ford Foundation, Packard Foundation, Climate Works, Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation), the Clinton Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, Germany), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to name a few.” [Source: Some Key REDD+ Players]

[5] “This multi-donor trust fund states that “the final phase of REDD+ involves developed countries paying developing countries carbon offsets for their standing forests,” making it clear that they see REDD+ as a carbon trading scheme. [Source: June 2011]

[6] The following text appears March 8, 2010 in an article titled Getting REDDy to Cross the Finish Line, Two Decades in the Making: “It’s hard to imagine with all the progress REDD has achieved, that it all started less than 20 years ago with the Rio Summit in ’92, when the makings of a global sustainability architecture in the form of a climate treaty began to take shape. But a forestry treaty had yet to happen …. With over 20 years of experience in the forestry sector, Michael Northrup, Program Director of Sustainable Development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, was invited by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation to give a Distinguished Lecture, ‘After Copenhagen: Implications for U.S. Climate, Energy, and Forest Policy’ at the high brow, exclusive Cosmos Club. Northrup casually described to the 30 or so people in the room where we are with REDD today and how we got here. Plus he played the ‘name game’ as he knew most of the people in the room.”

[7] “Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate: Promises turn into ‘definite’ dollars. REDD+ finance, the money needed to set up and implement a system that pays countries to leave forests standing, has followed a long road since the 2007 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where nations pledged to take meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation. A 2008 study found it would cost between $17.2 billion and $28 billion per year to cut the global rate of deforestation in half. According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 through five multilateral funds and two bilateral funds, more than half of it to Indonesia and Brazil. About one-tenth of the pledges have been disbursed to projects on the ground.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rich-nations-agree-to-fund-forest-protection-for-climate&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20131120

[8] The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Spanish: La Confederación de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana) or CONFENIAE is the regional organization of indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon or Oriente region. Nine indigenous peoples present in the region – Quichua, Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, Siona, Secoya, Shiwiar, Záparo and Cofán – are represented politicalily by the Confederation. CONFENIAE is one of three major regional groupings that constitute the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). It is also part of the Amazon Basin indigenous organization, COICA. [Source: Wikipedia]

 

For All Those Who Were Indian In A Former Life

Manataka American Indian Council

by Andrea Smith

The New Age movement has sparked a new interest in Native American traditional spirituality among white women who claim to be feminists. Indian spirituality, with its respect for nature and the interconnectedness of all things, is often presented as the panacea for all individual and global problems. Not surprisingly, many white “feminists” see the opportunity to make a great profit from this new craze. They sell sweat lodges or sacred pipe ceremonies, which promise to bring individual and global healing. Or they sell books and records that supposedly describe Indian traditional practices so that you too, can be Indian.

On the surface, it may appear that this new craze is based on a respect for Indian spirituality. In fact, however, the New Age movement is part of a very old story of white racism and genocide against the Indian people. The “Indian” ways that the white, New Age “feminists” are practicing have little grounding in reality.

True spiritual leaders do not make a profit from their teachings, whether it’s through selling books, workshops, sweat lodges, or otherwise. Spiritual leaders teach the people because it is their responsibility to pass what they have learned from their elders to the youngest generations. They do not charge for their services.

Furthermore, the idea that an Indian medicine woman would instruct a white woman to preach the “true path” of Indian spirituality sounds more reminiscent of evangelical Christianity than traditional Indian spirituality. Indian religions are community-based, not proselytizing religions. For this reason, there is not ONE Indian religion, as many New Agers would have you believe. Indian spiritual practices reflect the needs of a particular community. Indians do not generally believe that their way is “the” way, and consequently, they have no desire to tell outsiders about their practices. Also, considering how many Indians there are who do not  know the traditions, why would a medicine woman spend so much time teaching a white woman? A medicine woman would be more likely to advise a white woman to look into her OWN culture and find what is liberating in it.

However, some white women seem determined NOT to look into their own cultures for sources of strength. This is puzzling, since pre-Christian European cultures are also earth-based and contain many of the same elements that white women are ostensibly looking for in Native American cultures. This phenomenon leads me to suspect that there is a more insidious motive for latching onto Indian spirituality.

When white “feminists” see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming very close to destroying the earth, they often want to disassociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to “become Indian.” In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.

Of course, white “feminists” want to become only partly Indian. They do not want to be part of our struggles for survival against genocide, and they do not want to fight for treaty rights or an end to substance abuse or sterilization abuse. They do not want to do anything that would tarnish their romanticized notions of what it means to be an Indian.

Moreover, they want to become Indian without holding themselves accountable to Indian communities. If they did they would have to listen to Indians telling them to stop carrying around sacred pipes, stop doing their own sweat lodges and stop appropriating our spiritual practices. Rather, these New Agers see Indians as romanticized gurus who exist only to meet their consumerist needs. Consequently, they do not understand our struggles for survival and thus they can have no genuine understanding of Indian spiritual practices.

While New Agers may think that they are escaping white racism by becoming “Indian,” they are in fact continuing the same genocidal practices of their forebears. The one thing that has maintained the survival of Indian people through 500 years of colonialism has been the spiritual bonds that keep us together. When the colonizers saw the strength of our spirituality, they tried to destroy Indian religion by making them illegal. They forced Indian children into white missionary schools and cut their tongues if they spoke their Native languages.

Sundances were made illegal, and Indian participation in the Ghost Dance precipitated the Wounded Knee massacre. The colonizers recognized that it was our spirituality that maintained our spirit of resistance and sense of community. Even today, Indians do not have religious freedom. In a recent ruling the Supreme Court has determined that American Indians do not have the right to sue under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. They have also determined that if Indian religious freedom conflicts with any “compelling” United States interest, the government always supersedes Indian peoples’ freedom of religion.

Many white New Agers continue this practice of destroying Indian spirituality. They trivialize Native American practices so that these practices lose their spiritual force, and they have the white privilege and power to make themselves heard at the expense of Native Americans. Our voices are silenced, and consequently the younger generation of Indians who are trying to find their way back to the Old Ways becomes hopelessly lost in this morass of consumerist spirituality.

These practices also promote the subordination of Indian women to white women. We are told that we are greedy if we do not choose to share our spirituality. Apparently, it is our burden to service white women’s needs rather than to spend time organizing within our own communities. Their perceived need for warm and fuzzy mysticism takes precedence over our need to survive.

The New Age movement completely trivializes the oppression we as Indian women face: Indian women are suddenly no longer the women who are forcibly sterilized and tested with unsafe drugs such as Depo Provera; we are no longer the women who have a life expectancy of 47 years; and we are no longer the women who generally live below the poverty level and face a 75 percent unemployment rate. No, we’re too busy being cool and spiritual.

This trivialization of our oppression is compounded by the fact that nowadays anyone can be Indian if s/he wants to. All that is required is that one be Indian in a former life, or take part in a sweat lodge, or be monitored by a “medicine woman,” or read a how-to book.

Since, according to this theory, anyone can now be “Indian,” then the term Indians no longer refers specifically to those people who have survived five hundred years of colonization and genocide. This furthers the goals of white supremacists to abrogate treaty rights and to take away what little we have left. When everyone becomes “Indian,” then it is easy to lose sight of the specificity of oppression faced by those who are REALLY Indian in THIS life. It is no wonder we have such a difficult time finding non-Indians to support our struggles when the New Age movement has completely disguised our oppression.

The most disturbing aspect about these racist practices is that they are promoted in the name of feminism. Sometimes it seems that I can’t open a feminist periodical without seeing ads promoting white “feminist” practices with little medicine wheel designs. I can’t seem to go to a feminist conference without the woman who begins the conference with a ceremony being the only Indian presenter. Participants then feel so “spiritual” after this opening that they fail to notice the absence of Indian women in the rest of the conference or Native American issues in the discussions. And I certainly can’t go to a feminist bookstore without seeing books by Lynn Andrews and other people who exploit Indian spirituality all over the place. It seems that, while feminism is supposed to signify the empowerment of all women, it obviously does not include Indian women.

If white feminists are going to act in solidarity with their Indian sisters, they must take a stand against Indian spiritual abuse. Feminist book and record stores should stop selling these products, and feminist periodicals should stop advertising these products. Women who call themselves feminists should denounce exploitative practices wherever they see them.

Many have claimed that Indians are not respecting “freedom of speech” when they demand that whites stop promoting and selling books that exploit Indian spirituality. But promotion of this material is destroying freedom of speech for Native Americans by ensuring that our voices will never be heard. Feminists have already made choices about what they will promote (I haven’t seen many books by right-wing, fundamentalist women sold in feminist bookstores, since feminists recognize that these books are oppressive to women.) The issue is not censorship; the issue is racism. Feminists must make a choice either to respect Indian political and spiritual autonomy, or to promote materials that are fundamentally racist under the guise of “freedom of speech.”

Respecting the integrity of Native people and their spirituality does not mean that there can never be cross-cultural sharing. However, such a sharing should take place in a way that is respectful to Indian people.

The way to be respectful is for non-Indians to become involved in our political struggles and to develop an on-going relation with Indian COMMUNITIES based on trust and mutual respect. When this happens, Indian  people may invite a non-Indian to take part in a ceremony, but it will be on Indian terms.

I hesitate to say this much about cross-cultural sharing however, because many white people take this to mean that they can join in our struggles solely for the purpose of being invited to ceremonies. If this does not occur, they feel that Indians have somehow unfairly withheld spiritual teachings from them. We are expected to pay the price in spiritual exploitation in order to gain allies in our political struggles.

When non-Indians say they will help us, but only on their terms, that is not help – that is blackmail. We are not obligated to teach anyone about our spirituality. It is our choice if we want to share with people who we think will be respectful. It is white people who owe it to us to fight for our survival, since they are living on the land for which our people were murdered.

It is also important for non-Indians to build relationships with Indian communities, rather than with specific individuals. Many non-Indians express their confusion about knowing who is and who is not a legitimate spiritual teacher. The only way for non-Indians to know who legitimate teachers are is to develop ongoing relationships with Indian COMMUNITIES. When they know the community, they will learn who the community respects as its spiritual leaders. This is a process that takes time.

Unfortunately, many white feminists do not want to take this time in their quest for instant spirituality. Profit-making often gets in the way of true sisterhood. However, white feminists should know that as long as they take part in Indian spiritual abuse, either by being consumers of it or by refusing to take a stand on it, Indian women will consider white “feminists” to be nothing more than agents in the genocide of their people.

OUR SPIRITUALITY IS NOT FOR SALE!

 

Editor’s Note:  The article above first appeared in the “Cultural Survival Quarterly”, Winter 1994 and was written by Andrea Smith, who is a member of “Women Of All Red Nations” in Chicago, and she is the Chairperson for Women of Color for the “National Coalition Against Sexual Assault”.  While branded by right-wing Catholics as controversial, pro-gay, pro-abortion and a radical feminist, her opinions bear a strong resemblance to truth that some people find offensive.  We do not.

 

Human Rights vs. Right Based Fishing: The Ideological Battleground in Siem Reap

World Forum of Fishers People

April 28, 2015

By the international secretariat of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples – 26 April 2015

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(2014) Photo courtesy of Masifundise 

On 23-27 March 2014, six representatives from the global fisher movements, the WFFP and WFF, supported by ICSF and a couple of researchers, participated in the UserRights2015 Conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Few in numbers, these delegates represents millions of people from indigenous and small-scale fishing communities. The additional 130 participants were from government, inter-governmental organisations, academia, big business, and international conservation organisations.

Even after the five days in Cambodia, it remains somehow unclear what the conference aimed at achieving. Bringing together 140 people from across the world – of whom only about 45 were women – should clearly aim at something more concrete than providing “… guidance on how to support appropriate rights-based systems in fisheries and thereby contribute to a sustainable future:”1

During the five days, it became clear that the dominant, hegemonic view brought to the fore by most speakers and delegates centred around ‘private property’ as a fundamental basis for user rights in fisheries. In fisheries governance this is also referred to as Rights Based Fishing, ITQs, Wealth Based Fishing or Catch Shares by various different players.

There is an irony in this almost fundamentalist belief in private property. On the one hand the FAO – the key host of the conference – and the World Bank aims at eliminating huger and reducing rural poverty. On the other hand, the World Bank – as one of the most powerful players in fisheries governance globally – admitted that the private property system is good for some and bad for many. If the very system aggressively promoted by the World Bank – and many other participants at the UserRights conference – is bad for many, how then can it contribute to eliminating hunger and reducing poverty?

For more examples on the devastating consequences of private property systems in fisheries – or Rights Based Fishing – see the Global Ocean Grab: A Primer.

The WFFP delegates repeatedly argued – from the floor, as panellists and in presentations – that small-scale fisheries must be governed by applying a Human Rights Based approach. The underpinning principles of such an approach include equality, indigenous peoples rights, food sovereignty, gender equity, poverty alleviation for all, customary and traditional rights, traditional low-impact fishing, and participation in governance. Yet, these arguments only gave rise to a minimal dialogue, and on numerous occasions the responses were degrading and unwarranted.

The form of the conference allowed for many short and long presentations but limited scope for real engagement and dialogue. As such, it took the shape of an ideological battleground, where the strongest voice may end up being the one that finds its way into a conference report. Considering that proponents of private property were stronger in numbers and were allocated the majority of slots – air time – at the conference, it is feared that the views of the WFFP will becomes oppressed in the outcomes of the conference. While we do not know what to expect in terms of concrete outcomes, it is speculated that the conference will produce a report that will be used by the FAO with respect to its future work on fisheries governance, including the International Guidelines on the responsible Governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests (Tenure Guidelines) and the International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines).

Considering that the FAO recently endorsed the SSF Guidelines (2014) and the Tenure Guidelines (2012), it was expected that the FAO would use the guidelines to set the scene and inform the contents of the programme. Yet, aside from a couple of references on the official conference website and the mentioning of the guidelines in an opening speech, it was only the WFFP, WFF and ICSF who consistently made use of the guidelines to inform presentations and dialogue. Many participants seemed unaware of the guidelines – or outright ignored their existence – and the FAO officials showed disappointingly little interest in picking up on the linkages between the main theme of the conference – ‘user rights’ – and the Tenure and SSF Guidelines.

Considering that the FAO has invested huge amounts of human and financial resources in the development of the guidelines, this almost ignorant position is even more controversial.

The strategic use of language in Siem Reap

While many of the ‘usual suspects’ spoke openly about the need for private property, ITQs and similar terms in relation to fisheries governance, some adapted the language and thereby masked their underlying belief in private property as the one and only solution. This way of adapting the language is used to strategically persuade others – including fisher movements across the world – about their ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’ support and not only in Siem Reap but more generally so. At face value, it can be difficult to distinguish the good from the bad, but by looking just a bit deeper it’s not that difficult at all. One approach is to look where the funding comes from, and another is to do a bit of research on the political positions of the various actors and to find out who is serving on their boards. Too often, and in particular with international conservation organisations, we see a very close tie with multinational agri-businesses, super-market chains or other financial giants, and some are even governed by top-business people from the same funding corporations.

In the light of the above, it should come as no surprise that the overall impression of the WFFP is that the conference failed in ‘providing guidance’ – which was the only concrete objective of the conference mentioned on the website. Yet, the participation in the conference was crucial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, without the interventions of the WFFP and friends from WFF, ICSF and a couple of researchers, the conference would have been an assembly of neo-liberal thinkers and institutions who would have had an unhindered opportunity to develop their own plans for fisheries governance on the basis of private property regimes. Secondly, the knowledge and information about some of the key actors and their agendas, which we have gained by participating in the conference, is critical for developing and refining strategies on how to push for a Human Rights Based approach and the implementation of the FAO Guidelines.

A couple of facts about UserRights2015

Donors/partners: Environmental Defence Fund (EDF), Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) Norad and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Participants: 95 men and 45 women

1 The only concrete reference to the objectives of the conference on the official website: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/user-rights-2015/en/