The Guardian’s John Vidal recently wrote a welcome piece – ‘We are fighting for our lives and our dignity’ - that connect some of the dots in the current end game for the Earth’s natural resources most of which are on indigenous land inhabited for thousands of years by people who care for it, worship and respect it. Transnational corporations drilling for oil, mining for minerals or cutting down all the trees and polluting the rivers – and so on – are competing to grab hold of the Earth’s last resources – and there really is not much left! (See also: UN expert puts forward measures to regulate ‘land grabbing’).
“An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories,” says Victoria Tauli-Corpus, an indigenous Filipino and chair of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. “There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses.
“This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people,” says Tauli-Corpus.
What until quite recently were isolated incidents of indigenous peoples in conflict with states and corporations are now becoming common as government-backed companies move deeper on to lands long ignored as unproductive or wild. As countries and the World Bank increase spending on major infrastructural projects to counter the economic crisis, the conflicts are expected to grow.
It is a pretty good article – constituting a very important step to bring together these issues in a coherent analytical manner and to the attention of mainstream readers – but one could really have wished for something more to the point with regard to the Ecuadorian context – it is widely known and well documented that the Chevron pits are still there, even mainstream U.S television have shown such images.
“In Ecuador, Chevron may be fined billions of dollars in the next few months if an epic court case goes against them. The company is accused of dumping, in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 19bn gallons of toxic waste and millions of gallons of crude oil into waste pits in the forests, leading to more than 1,400 cancer deaths and devastation of indigenous communities. The pits are said to be still there, mixing chemicals with groundwater and killing fish and wildlife.”
To use the expression “are said to be still there” is really not appropriate, when anyone having spend five seconds googling the issue will have seen horrible, terrifying images: