The earth has no price.
June 24, 2009 5:33 PM   Subscribe

A fight for the Amazon that should inspire the world. "Army helicopters opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition and stun-grenades. More than a dozen were killed. But the indigenous peoples did not run away. Even though they were risking their lives, they stood their ground. One of their leaders, Davi Yanomami, said simply: "The earth has no price. It cannot be bought, or sold or exchanged. It is very important that white people, black people and indigenous peoples fight together to save the life of the forest and the earth. If we don't fight together, what will our future be?" And then something extraordinary happened. The indigenous peoples won." Via A Tiny Revolution: Latin America, World's Moral Political Leader.
posted by shetterly (26 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Inspiring people, those indigenous forest dwellers. When I read about them and their struggles, I always picture the forest people in Apocalypto, struggling valiantly against the Mayans. Sadly, we have allowed ourselves to become the Mayans and screw these people all over again. Hopefully their plight will help convince the powers that be not to allow the further rape of the rain forests. I'm not exactly optimistic about that though.
posted by jamstigator at 5:58 PM on June 24, 2009

Garcia considers the native people "lazy" because they aren't actively chopping down their own habitats. Maybe he should call them "responsible" instead.
posted by shii at 6:27 PM on June 24, 2009

Let's hear it for Corporations!
posted by atmosphere at 6:38 PM on June 24, 2009

"Lazy" is when people who have resources you want aren't working for you, "Financially independent" is when you don't have to work for anyone else (and happen not to be indigenous or brown).
posted by yeloson at 6:40 PM on June 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

Inspiring people, those indigenous forest dwellers. When I read about them and their struggles, I always picture the forest people in Apocalypto, struggling valiantly against the Mayans.

Holy crap, maudlin romanticizing based on Hollywood tripe, much?
This is real life, these are real people, not noble savage.
posted by signal at 6:51 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Whatever man. Lucas just came up with these guys cuz he knew he'd sell more toys.
Rocks and sticks against AT-STs? Yeah right.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:58 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

signal, film creates romantic images for just about everyone's politics, I suspect, whether it's the Battleship Potemkin, The Triumph of the Will, or High Noon. A little romanticizing of real people being heroic is fine, I think.

Note to self: You really should see Salt of the Earth.
posted by shetterly at 7:08 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

"That would send gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere – making the world even more inhabitable."

posted by crazylegs at 7:08 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Beautiful. Good for them. Fuck all you snarkfuckers, you didn't do shit except post on a website (myself included).
posted by RajahKing at 7:37 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

The original article is way better.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 7:50 PM on June 24, 2009

PDF of the report made by two Belgian reporters. It's in the articles, a couple of links deep, I just put it here for easier access to Mefites who may overlook the links. There are more pics in the PDF.

This kind of story is both heartening and heartbreaking, but I am not optimistic about the future in Latin America. I think the previous Administration did little to change the momentum of the 20th century, and of course Bush et al. were saddled with ties and responsibilities to the oil industry. Nevertheless, I don't think they really made things worse, as they could have.

I hope the current administration sits up and takes notice.
posted by Xoebe at 7:58 PM on June 24, 2009

This was an amazing article. Thank you for posting it. This:

"We will fight together with our parents and children to take care of the forest, to save the life of the equator and the entire world."

gave me chills.
posted by spacewaitress at 8:06 PM on June 24, 2009

The struggle in Peru has indeed been inspiring, and heralds (I hope) a period of greater respect for both the environment and indigenous peoples on part of the governments of Latin America. But what point is the author of the second link making?

While the US has been busy transforming the Middle East from hell to absolute hell, all over Latin America a quiet revolution has been taking place. In a few months, for example, Colombia will be the only country south of the border left with a US military presence. Eat your heart out, Europe, Asia, and Africa!

Yes, eat your heart out world! We may owe the US billions in aid (and we're hoping for a few billion more!) and may be largely at the mercy of international companies but we no longer have to deal with those goose-stepping Americans! We've replaced US solders with our own Schools of the America soldiers whose loyalty to the people and the law lasts only so long as it's profitable. In light of this, it's not surprising the US has largely withdrawn from Latin America - it's getting the same results with minimal effort. The region is just stable enough not to present a serious security threat and not stable enough to survive without the US, so we continue as we have for the last sixty years. Yea, Chavez is making a go at thumbing his nose at Bush/Obama but he's quickly heading towards a coup or economic collapse - LA is good at doing both.

But I'm getting away from my point. Whatever the US may/may not have done in Latin America, what is happening now is the responsibility, maybe even the fault, of the citizens of this region. With the exception of Cuba, these countries are democracies; we aren't talking about dictators but about elected officials My home country has very serious corruption issues but that doesn't mean that I or my fellow citizens can wash my hands of the actions of my government. We have an opportunity to vote but many say, "Why bother, they're all corrupt" or "I'll vote for X because he's the least corrupt". President Garcia was voted into his office which means he either has the support of the majority of the people or enough people didn't care to keep him out of office. This wasn't about "the poorest people on the earth taking on the richest people of the earth", they were also protesting the decision/apathy of all Peruvians.

And that is why Mr. Chazelle's comments are so frustrating. Latin America is his noble savage - a place on which he can project all his romantic ideals of the struggle between good and evil, the big and the small. It reduces us to caricatures, and makes it easy for Latin Americans to look everywhere but among themselves for the source of the problem.
posted by Partario at 8:08 PM on June 24, 2009 [6 favorites]

Mod note: 5000+ word cut/paste considered harmful to community, please just use the links the way the web intended you to, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:31 PM on June 24, 2009

Thanks for posting this. I particularly liked the last paragraph of the first link - these people were prepared to risk everything, to go against the military, in order to stop the oil companies from destroying their home. But isn't that what we all have to do on a larger scale?
posted by harriet vane at 9:54 PM on June 24, 2009

And then we get in our cars and drive to work tomorrow morning. And the next day. And the day after that.

No, I don't suspect we (those who drive cars that run on gasoline or diesel) will be doing anything to fight the oil companies.

Of course, they know that already.

Where is our solar powered.. everything?
posted by Malice at 12:46 AM on June 25, 2009

More exposure to nature generates more respect for it, usually.
posted by asok at 1:18 AM on June 25, 2009

What I've been hearing from my relatives back there is that there is a fair bit of worry on the street that the Shining Path was using this conflict to re-mobilize and recruit. Apparently, the killing of 22 soldiers by spear brought back a lot of memories for those who were around during the worst part of the Shining Path period, and now there's concern that those days may be returning again.

Myself, I'm hoping (against all probability, alas) that the Sentero Luminoso isn't re-mobilizing—both for the sake of the indigenous populations as well as for the broader Peruvian populace; they were certainly very effective at killing and causing terror among Peru's non-indigenous populations at the time, but they were even more efficient at "purging" their own people. Furthermore, the spectre of the Shining Path will certainly be exploited by the government to justify violent measures of repression.
posted by LMGM at 1:48 AM on June 25, 2009

More exposure to nature generates more respect for it, usually.

Well, it's not just any old bit of nature to them, it's their home too. If oil companies bulldozed our suburbs and the government sent the military in if we protested, I guess we'd get more worked up about it. I'm sure Exxon would be happy to test that theory anywhere they thought they could get away with it.
posted by harriet vane at 2:52 AM on June 25, 2009

Am I alone in thinking that the reporting seems to be very slanted towards the idea of noble savages? That their leaders prefer to preserve the status quo is hardly surprising, since they are the ones who are the most likely to be adversely affected by change. For the rest of them, shunning economic progress, in an environment where the effects of poverty are very much felt, out of some Romanization of their collective past, seems misplaced.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 6:23 AM on June 25, 2009

When I was a (white, middleclass) boy I wanted to be Tarzan when I grew up. As a young adult I worked for The National Outdoor Leadership School, which taught basic wilderness skills (mostly to rich white Americans). I watched as the school veered away from its founder's original vision toward a more profitable "outdoor recreation" (rock-climbing, fly-fishing, sea-kayaking, whitewater rafting) model. George H.W. Bush was president, I went from Communist Party USA meetings to Green Party meetings, where mostly white folks like me would talk a lot about Justice, and shit . . .
Maybe it's a conceit of white culture, we take the blame and the credit for the state of the biosphere, and we must remain actively engaged in world affairs because gosh darnit it's the responsible thing to do. But the epoch of white imperialism is approaching an end, and I'm going to spend the rest of my days, not playing at Tarzan, not standing shoulder-to-shoulder with self-styled revolutionaries, but I'm going to try to mind my own business and stay out of everyone's way.

Just step aside and keep my mouth shut.
posted by Restless Day at 6:50 AM on June 25, 2009

JeNeSaisQuoi, from homunculus's link: "Ninety percent of Peruvians say Garcia should have tried to win the tribes' support before passing controversial laws to open up ancestral lands to mining and petroleum companies."

Restless Day, I share your frustration with rich people's solutions, but Davi Yanomami isn't asking you to step aside and shut up. He's asking you to fight beside him for the earth. (Apologies if I'm misinterpreting your meaning, because those are excellent links, and it's certainly true that learning and reflection are an important part of working effectively and making allies.)
posted by shetterly at 8:12 AM on June 25, 2009

out of some Romanization of their collective past, seems misplaced.

Forget helicopters, send in the legions!

Sorry, couldn't resist.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:04 AM on June 25, 2009

Which color should we change our social networking icons to to show our support for the Amazonian natives? We should do green!

Oh wait.
posted by daHIFI at 11:33 AM on June 25, 2009

I just got back from three weeks in Peru this morning. I got there just about the time Bagua was starting to hit the news, and I asked everyone I met about what was going on. People wanted to talk, because the newspapers are run by the rich and the poor don't feel that their side is getting out.

Everyone I talked to - rich and poor, Spanish and Quechua, town and village - they all hate Garcia. They all love Fujimori because he made schools and health centers in rural villages.

We saw protesting in the Plaza Armas in Arequipa. People were hanging their hand-written messages on the church gate. The poster that stuck out to me was, "Paint your face in solidarity with the Natives." This isn't a Jungle guys versus the Politicians fight. This is a rich against poor fight.

There are actually two or three or four protests going on right now, which only some newspapers distinguish between. The big one was with the Amazon natives and the laws that got rescinded, but the one that's going on around Puno and Cusco today and the past few days is actually about privatization and mining rights.

I kept asking people why they voted Garcia in. They all believe that the election was stolen. They said the popular favorite was Fujimori's daughter and that in the runoffs, despite having the majority of the popular vote, she was knocked out. That left Garcia and a leftwing guy, and Peru doesn't want to go left wing. The people I talked to are outright scornful of Chavez.

Of the people I talked to - and I'm no fool, I stayed far away from Bagua, so I can't say what they say - they said that they're fine with mining and cutting down trees. The problem is that the big corporations don't provide jobs and income to the locals. They actually want the businesses to come in, but they want them to come in in a way that benefits the poor.

Finally, from the point of view of the Peruvians I met, this problem is not about America. The people I talked to, who didn't always know what country I was from, were careful to distinguish that it's not America they blame - they blame China slightly more, they blame Europe a little less, but what they blame are "Garcia and the multinational corporations."
posted by arabelladragon at 6:57 PM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

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