« We are inhabitants of the forest, and we do not want our people to die. The white people probably think that their God will manage to make the epidemic smoke from their factories disappear from the sky? They are wrong. The sky … is getting as sick as we do! … What the white people call the whole world is being tainted because of the factories that make all their merchandise, their machines, and their motors. » -Yanomami spokesman and shaman Davi Kopenawa from Roraima, Brazil, The Falling Sky
Intruders invading indigenous lands in order to extract or misuse resources has been an ongoing nightmare for indigenous peoples for generations.
1500 – the colonization of the Americas began when European empires, Spain, Portugal, England and France « discovered » ancestral indigenous lands and claimed their « Divine Right » to natural resources and human capital.
In the 18th Century a wave of non-indigenous outsiders in Amazonia, motivated by economic interests, arrived in search of slave laborers among indigenous peoples.
Another wave, beginning in the 19th Century, was propelled by gold fever and has never stopped.
The earliest rubber boom began in the late 19th century and lasted until 1920. Following World War II, there was another rubber boom that accompanied the frenzy for mineral extraction, particularly gold. Burning rainforests on indigenous lands for logging and cattle ranches is also rampant and the exotic wood and cheap beef are sold world-wide.
Research published in Science, found that 2% of properties in the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado grasslands are responsible for an enormous 62% of all potentially illegal deforestation and that an estimated 20% of soya and beef exports to the EU may be linked to illegal deforestation.
This exploitation provokes deadly conflicts with indigenous peoples trying to protect their forest home. Thousands of indigenous peoples had their lands invaded and died in clashes with the intruders and from epidemics of measles, malaria and influenza.
Now indigenous communities are being infected and are dying from Covid-19 propagated by gold miners. Gold mining also contaminates rivers with mercury used in the mining process.
Most social structures; political boundaries, religion and « official national languages » that predominate in the western hemisphere now in the 21st century are the structures established during the period of colonization.
When President Bolsonaro disregarded indigenous peoples’ issues by remarking « they don’t even speak our language » he was overlooking the fact that Portuguese was not among the original ancestral languages of what is now called Brazil.
A colonial mentality is the internalized attitude of ethnic or cultural superiority and this colonial mentality persists…
It was disheartening but unsurprising to read the recent BBC investigation: https://bbc.com/news/technology-56168844 detailing that areas of indigenous territories are being sold by brokers on Facebook Marketplace. « Many of the sellers openly admit they do not have a land title, the only document which proves ownership of land under Brazilian law. One man was trying to sell a plot inside the Uru Eu Wau Wau indigenous reserve for about £16,400 in local currency. It is the home to a community of more than 200 Uru Eu Wau Wau people. And at least five further groups that have had no contact with the outside world also live there, according to the Brazilian government.
Facebook said it was ‘ready to work with local authorities’, but indicated it would not take independent action of its own to halt the trade. ‘Our commerce policies require buyers and sellers to comply with laws and regulations,’ the Californian tech firm added. The leader of one of the indigenous communities affected has urged the tech firm to do more. And campaigners have claimed the country’s government is unwilling to halt the sales.
A common strategy is to deforest the land and then plead with politicians to abolish its protected status, on the basis it no longer serves its original purpose. The land grabbers can then officially buy the plots from the government, thereby legalising their claims.‘The land invaders feel very empowered to the point that they are not ashamed of going on Facebook to make illegal land deals,’ said Ivaneide Bandeira, head of environmental NGO Kanindé.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is at a 10-year high, and Facebook’s Marketplace has become a go-to site for sellers like Fabricio Guimarães, who was filmed by a hidden camera. “There’s no risk of an inspection by state agents here,” he said as he walked through a patch of rainforest he had burnt to the ground. With the land illegally cleared and ready for farming, he had tripled his initial asking price to $35,000 (£25,000). Fabricio is not a farmer. He has a steady middle-class job in a city, and views the rainforest as being an investment opportunity.
The BBC showed the Facebook ad to community leader Bitaté Uru Eu Wau Wau. He said the lot was in an area used by his community to hunt, fish and collect fruits. ‘This is a lack of respect,’ he said. ‘I don’t know these people. I think their objective is to deforest the indigenous land, to deforest what is standing. To deforest our lives, you could say.’»
Yes, there’s a problem with Facebook Marketplace. But, what about the problem of our own consumerism?
Are we eating soy products or meat and dairy products from animals fed on soy grown on deforested land in Brazil or feeding those products to our pets? Since the soya is mainly fed to livestock, shoppers can’t be sure whether the products they buy are « deforestation-free » without researching the issue. In order to stop importing habitat destruction, we need to pay attention to what we purchase.
And there’s the problem with gold. The absurdity of uprooting tens of thousands of rainforest trees, of hundreds of tons of soil mixed with tens of tons of toxic environmental pollutants that contaminate native lands and water sources in order to extract 1 1/2 grams of gold per ton of polluted soil for that special gold ring, gold jewelry, gold watch or gold accessory. We must find a better way to adorn and decorate ourselves!
We need to ask ourselves « What are the consequences of our shopping choices »? And « How much is enough »? « Are we able to consider the needs of other people, the future of the planet and the nature of true contentment » ?
« When you think that it would be enough for people not to buy a thing anymore for it not to be sold! » – Coluche Misère
Or to paraphrase Noam Chomsky: « The only way we can put a permanent end to rampant consumerism is to stop participating in it. »
and: « Capitalism’s growth imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. These two imperatives can no longer co-exist with each other. Either we establish an ecological society, or society will go under for everyone. » – Ursula le Guin
PLEASE LISTEN TO THE YANOMAMI SHAMAN’S MESSAGE: