From the frontier

Reclaiming our place in the planet’s ecology

food sov farmers-market-local-produce-520It is a standing joke in my home that when dinner appears, whether it’s a curry or a quiche, someone has to ask “whose is it?”

The quip is an affectionate lampoon of my step-father, who for as long as I’ve known him has never eyed a piece of meat on the Sunday lunch table without asking precisely that question.


Power to the people (or: what’s it take to get active?)

Seems we need the very basis of our livelihoods to be threatened before we do something about the world outside. For most of us, our livelihood is represented by money, food in the shops, and transport to get us to the places that issue money or food. Which is why we only strike, protest or riot in numbers when one of those is under immediate threat (but not before).

But of course, the basis of our livelihoods is really the land (and air, and water) — and (for those who haven’t noticed), it is under immediate threat. (more…)

Civilisation hasn’t stopped trampling on tribes….

Perenco arrives in the Peruvian rainforestIf you’re of the mind that our civilisation is more civilised than past civilisations, you’re probably right — especially if you consider the full definition of civilised (which includes the tendency to exterminate, exploit, oppress, imprison or immiserate everything that isn’t) proposed in the post after this. Not convinced? (more…)

News from the frontier (3)

Indigenous peoples: when will we learn from them?Business as usual must end, because business as usual is killing us,” the indigenous peoples of the world have stated, in a powerful and eloquent summing up of the five-day Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change, held in Anchorage, Alaska at the end of April.

Climate change brings into sharp relief the confrontation between industrial civilisation and indigenous peoples. Caused by the actions of the rich, polluting nations its effects are felt most keenly by those who live closest to nature and whose livelihoods most directly depend on their immediate environment. (Just 500 miles from the summit, in the village of Newtok, intensifying river flow and melting permafrost have forced 320 residents to relocate to higher ground; meanwhile stories like “Water people of the Amazon face extinction” are increasingly and depressingly familiar.) (more…)

News from the frontier (2)

“Newcomers to native societies … are there because they want things of great importance to them: land, trees, minerals, oil and gas and, as a means to getting these, administrative and ideological control. Hence you can see certain kinds of economic exploitation, aggressive greed, missionary zeal …”. From an Open Democracy interview with anthropologist Hugh Brody.

What are the latest developments where the financially rich clash with those outside our culture?
Hamlet in Niyamgiri

In India, the Dongria Kondh tribe is fighting for survival in the face of threats by British mining company Vedanta to bulldoze the side of their sacred mountain. Survival International describes how Vedanta plans to dig an open pit mine on the Dongria Kondh’s mountain in the Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa state, to extract bauxite, an aluminium ore. The mine would devastate the ecology of the region and bring an end to the Dongria Kondh’s independent and sustainable way of life, polluting the streams and destroying the forests they rely on. (more…)

News from the frontier

“On colonial frontiers, where different and often rival ways of living meet, the underlying elements of our society become more clearly visible …  you can see certain kinds of economic exploitation, aggressive greed, missionary zeal, and racism. All these are disclosed at the edge. What they disclose, of course, is not the edge but the nature of the centre.”

From the Open Democracy interview with anthropologist Hugh Brody.

RainforestWhat do the latest developments at the margins of our society reveal about the nature of its centre?

The UN climate summit in Poznan, Poland has ended with small signs of progress but little genuine ambition for serious change. Its delegates could learn a thing or two from cultures that have been plugged in to natural cycles for thousands of years, who are still so connected that they can tell us what’s changing as fast as the science can, and who, because of where they live, are suffering the worst effects the earliest. Yet our own culture remains determined to treat them with disdain. (more…)