A reason to celebrate.
A (very) quick summary of our work
Letter to Earth
The reason to celebrate is not because the government has wised up and abandoned it’s greedy plans to exploit the copper lying under some of the world’s most biodiverse place here in Intag. That truly would be a reason to celebrate. The celebration has more to do with the fact that after seventeen and a half years of being threatened by mining development, Intag is still free of the nightmare- thanks to all of you that have supported out work. However, we are not yet clear of this threat. The “Barbarians” are still at the gate and ready to resume the destruction of our ecosystem and communities. This time it’s Chilean owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer. And, just because they come wearing suit and ties and hard hats doesn’t make them any less Barbarians. Just the opposite in fact.
I was going to summarize our seventeen and a half years of work, but it was a bit overwhelming. One of these days. However, I think some of the most important elements are contained in the Dear Earth letter below. There are many more. Briefly they include: helping declare our County an Ecological County (the first in Latin America); creating the AACRI Coffee Association; opening a Fair Trade Store in Otavalo (going very well thank you); helping found and support the Junin Ecological Tourism; producing a wealth of printed, radio environmental material for schools and communities, distributing thousands of films on mining and the environment, and promoting environmentally sustainable farming……..
I did want to mention that soon DECOIN will be publishing the Water-quality study done on Intag’s rivers and streams, many of them belonging to communities that were purchased, reforested and/or protected as part of one of DECOIN’s conservation projects. The slender book, authored by Karen Knee, will be published in May. In short, it found that Intag’s water- especially its drinking water- is very good quality and similar in quality to water originating in protected forests. Most of the reason, undoubtedly, is due to DECOIN’s community watershed reserves initiative, which, along the Parish government conservation action plan, I consider to be the most successful conservation project in Intag. Because of it, thousands of Inteños are drinking safe water, and biodiversity is actively being protected by communities. As soon as I can figure out how to upload the study to the page, Ill do so- in both English and Spanish. Until then, try to download it here (Spanish version for now):
Earth Economic Study.
In May we should be getting the copies of Earth Economics groundbreaking Intag Ecosystems Evaluation Study to distribute to decision makers, such as Assembly members, academics, local governments and key NGO’s. The report proves, with a wealth of economic data, that Intag’s ecosystem services are worth far more than mining development. We knew that of course, but it’s great to have a prestigious economic organization based in the U.S. confirm it.. You can download the English version here:
A Letter to Earth
First of all my most sincere and deepest apologies. After decades of knowing how much damage we’ve done to You and all Your ecosystems, we are still happily carrying along as if nothing is wrong. More and more of our species are being born every day and will be inculcated with the same premises and values that has brought so much ecological havoc to You, and so much grief to so many of Your human and non-human inhabitants. The premises include: more is better, newer is cool, humans are the crown of creation, forests are just cubic meters of lumber, Your oceans are for dumping garbage and the fish are there for mankind to eat.
The dysfunctional paradigm dictates that economic growth trumps human and environmental health, places profit above everything else, and the only way to measure poverty and wealth is by measuring the growth in Gross National Product. One of the more dangerous premises of this paradigm that refuses to die is that Your elements are nothing more than resources to be turned into goods for the exclusive benefit of one single species: Homo sapiens. Who, by the way, still believes his species is blessed by unique, special privileges conferred onto it by a supposedly supra natural entity who put all of Your living and non-living elements at its disposal. Yes, I know the term Homo sapiens is laughably absurd. I often wish I wasn’t associated with it or the species; but the misnomer has stuck and changing species is pretty damn difficult as far as I can tell.
In the land of forests and clouds where I live, and which politicians and geographers call Ecuador, the situation is no better than anywhere else on Your surface. For example, here a current head of State is ardently pushing large-scale mining development in this land; one of the most culturally and biologically diverse in the world, and exceptionally rich in water. You may not believe this, but this Homo supposedly-sapien wants to mine in the middle of primary cloud forests, lowland rainforests, and paramos!! And he would even mine on the sea floor if he had the techology!! This individual, who is supposed to be smart by human standards, is actually- and are you ready for this- pushing mining in areas so rich in rivers and streams that the mining companies don’t know what to do with all the water! The streams and rivers as well as underground aquifers will be contaminated by this activity with such acidity and toxic metals, that it will render the rivers dead in perpetuity. Yes, in perpetuity! And, if that wasn’t bad enough, many of these rivers and streams are used by thousands of his own kind for drinking, irrigation, fishing and for recreation. These are all facts. I promise I’m not making any of it up!!
Do they know what they are doing? Yes; no doubt. Why, You wonder? The answer is not so complex; it’s called greed-induced Stupidity. Wrong Life Premises. They like the quick, easy money mining can bring to the government coffers. They are drunk, still, and after centuries, with the belief that development is the same as material well-being; nice roads, exuberant consumption, car ownership, building of clinics, high-paying jobs, and computers in every home. And bigger homes to fill them with more and newer stuff. This individual, called president here in Ecuador, actually believes he can eradicate poverty by allowing dozens and perhaps hundreds of large-scale mines up and down the water and biologically rich Andes Mountains- one of the more majestic places on Your surface. What poverty is he talking about you might ask? Exclusively economic! Never mind that mining in these countries actually increase overall poverty.
In this scheme of things, in order to grow the economy You lose. And lose big time. Humans like this individual see no problem with destroying whole Cordilleras to process a few pounds of gold, or so many tons of copper or coal that feed industries- in other parts of Your sphere, I should mention- for a few days or weeks. Unique, biodiverse cloud forests are thus easily turned into open-pit nightmares, hemorrhaging heavy metals for thousands of years. The people whose points of view he represents- and tragically they still are legion- would call the health impacts and cultural, social and environmental devastation accompanying mining and other kind of extractive development, ‘the inevitable price of progress’. People and species who live on the ground have another name for it: utter devastation.
This is just here in this place called Ecuador, but It’s pretty much the same all over. So, for what little it’s worth, I apologize. At the same time, I want You to know that not all is doom and gloom. There are many, many humans working hard to overturn this way of relating to You. Today, for example, perhaps as much as a billion humans will be celebrating Your Day: Earth Day. There will be celebrations, tree plantings, clean-up of rivers, music, puppets, film festivals, and many other ways in which people will be celebrating Your Birthday. To express their gratitude; to manifest their angst for the way things are, and the way things ought to be. To clamor for change.
And, there’s no doubt things are changing, even if the pace appears to be much too slow. Specifically, in our corner of You, the small, very small, organization I work for has helped plant tens of thousands of trees; most of them native species. We are working with communities and local governments to protect as many rivers, streams and forests as possible, along with the thousands of species that make these systems of life their home. I can’t recall exactly how many thousands of hectares of forests we’ve helped protect, but it’s not less than 12,000. I realize it’s not much in comparison to what is lost every day; but it’s what we can do with what we have. We are also working hard against mining projects that would destroy many more thousands of hectares of primary forests, rivers and communities in a beautiful and biodiverse Cordillera known as Toisan. DECOIN is working very hard to expose the lies that governments and industries, like Chile’s Codelo, tell communities and local governments about the impacts and costs of mining in such water-rich and biodiverse environments. And, since there are so many lies, the work is very hard and time consuming.
We’ve also recently taken up again the work with schools, so we can educate the young people about their true place in Nature, and what they can do to be part of the solution to the environmental nightmare afflicting You, and a part of the problem.
More than anything, our work is oriented at changing people’s attitude towards You. To make it a reality what a very important piece of paper here in this place called Ecuador, in theory, values: the Right to Sumak Kawsay, which translates into Living in Harmony. In harmony with oneself, with one’s neighbors and social and biological community and, most importantly, in harmony with You. Incredibly, the same legal document also gives You rights; the first country in the world to recognize that Nature has rights! If it wasn’t for the fact that very few, and least of all government officials, takes this right seriously, it would be reason for major celebrations.
As You might have guessed, it’s hard work to go against the raging river that is the dominant model of development and confront the interests behind it. It’s difficult work because the economic system is very, very powerful, and the politicians submissive to economic interests, and extremely short-sighted. Plus, companies spend millions to make sure people consume their goods, and green-wash their image. But, in spite of the overwhelming odds, more and more people are getting the message and changing their lives. And, like us, there are many groups and individuals really trying to make a difference; and succeeding.
As little as these actions are, I sincerely hope they are a source of encouraging news to You.
Oh, I almost forgot! I thought you might like to know that my partner and I named our recently born and beautiful daughter after you: Mares Gaia!!
Earth Day 2012