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"The Last Great Land Grab" threatens forest dwellers and indigenous peoples
This posting summarizes an opinion piece that appeared in the April 1st, 2008 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
According to Dennis Martinez, founder and co-chairman of the Indigenous Peoples' Restoration Network of the Society for Ecological Restoration International, the fallacy that was used to justify “manifest destiny” during the nineteenth century has survived into the twenty-first, where its harmful effects are reaching a crescendo. In centuries past, European settlers and American pioneers colonized lands already occupied by native peoples, dispossessing the latter on the grounds that they were not utilizing their lands productively, when in fact the indigenous peoples had been careful stewards of the lands since time immemorial. Now, as vigorous efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change are underway, economic and political forces from the developed North are dramatically increasing demand for land in the developing South that can be used to cultivate agrofuel inputs or establish conservation reserves.
Martinez writes that this scramble for land has been devastating for indigenous peoples, despite the good intentions of climate change mitigation. “As demand increases the value of indigenous lands—already poorly protected—the rate of loss of indigenous assets and livelihood options becomes more rapid,” Martinez explains.
Evicting indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for environmental sanctuaries or agrofuel plantations effectively severs these peoples’ ties with the resources that support their livelihoods. Perpetual poverty and untold human suffering are often the result.
Yet the negative consequences of “the last global land grab” reach far beyond the world’s indigenous peoples. As Martinez notes, all of the world’s inhabitants are losing out on the collective knowledge of indigenous peoples, whose sustainable approaches to land and resource management explain why some cultures “have survived intact for millennia while “great” civilizations have repeatedly collapsed.” Ironically, the North’s efforts to mitigate climate change by appropriating land from indigenous peoples in the South may actually result in the loss of the most effective tool for coping with this environmental phenomenon: indigenous land practices. Considering that insecure indigenous land rights also jeopardize native contributions to a bevy of fields including medicine and food production, it is hard to dispute that indigenous losses have become losses for the whole of humanity.
In light of the serious effects that the North’s climate change mitigation strategies are beginning to have on indigenous peoples, Martinez demands a measure of accountability. Although the responsibility for climate change rests predominantly with the developed world, it is the developing world that is shouldering most of the burden, while gaining little in terms of economic benefit. This must change, according to Martinez. After all, the survival of humanity’s heritage, and indeed the survival of humanity itself, are at stake.
Read Dennis Martinez's opinion article in its entirety here.
Posted By Colby Clabaugh at 9:56am on April 11, 2008
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