by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action Los Angeles
Death squads in Honduras recently killed Berta Caceres and another woman leader of indigenous peoples struggle. These murders show the threat such struggles represent to big business interests that make money from looting the earth, and to the politicians that serve those interests. The killings make clear the ugly consequences of US intervention (approved by Obama and Clinton) on behalf of coups that rob people of their rights. Opposing those financial, military and political elites is a matter of life or death. We see this in Brazil, where as the Olympics approach, forces of oppression seek to wipe out groups like the Movimento Sem Terra, landless rural workers who defend the rain forest and oppose Monsanto’s GMO soy plantations.
In Canada, the US, Mexico and South America, and in Africa, Asia and Oceania, Native people are leading struggles to protect the environment and restore or create a way of life in harmony with the earth and its natural restorative processes. They demand clean water, soil and air, and that oil and uranium be left in the ground. They oppose corporations destroying forests and engineering the genes of seeds and crops.
The military and repressive forces aimed against them not only enforce the system, but directly damage the environment. US forces in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and elsewhere spew toxic waste. War in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere causes destruction, drought and dislocation. Launching a single military spy satellite dirties the atmosphere with as much carbon as many thousands of cars, as does a single mega-freighter for oil or imports from China.
As “Earth Day” approaches, any time left after political ads on TV and other media will be saturated with claims that energy firms and other polluters are friendly and “green.” Big-budget non-government organizations that the companies have bought and paid for will echo the message, to convince us this system can fix the problems it creates (and make money doing it). Don’t buy the lies.
The truth is, as the World Health Organization recently found, 20-25% of all deaths and disease in the world result from pollution (including in the workplace). The truth is colonialism is the issue inside the US itself, not just in the “third world.” As Nana Gyamfi reported on KPFK’s “Uprising,” life expectancy for Black and Brown people in Watts is 12 years shorter than for wealthy whites in Brentwood, because of toxic pollution and other stress. The truth is that February was the hottest month on record, and it broke the previous record (set in January) by the largest amount ever recorded. The truth is that the plastic in the ocean will outweigh all the marine life within a decade. The truth is that to get the coltan in mobile devices, the US promotes genocide by client states¬† in the Congo and its neighbors. The truth is carbon dioxide sinking into the sea is turning it acidic and killing the marine food chain. The truth is that these are outcomes of the system of capitalism and conquest, of colonialism in many forms, including settler colonialism and neo-colonialism.
How to avoid these consequences, and reverse the damage? Uproot and replace the system that causes them. To respect the earth, we must respect indigenous peoples who’ve been stewards of the earth. We must restore the commons. The air, the water and earth, the woodlands, wetlands and other living eco-systems they sustain (including human life), can’t survive under a regime of private ownership and exploitation. We must learn to defend ourselves and all the Berta Cacereses. We must decolonize.
Capitalism and colonialism are based on theft of labor and land by force. Instead of extracting finite fluids, gases and minerals, we must extract ourselves from that system, to replace our consent with resistance. By doing so, we weaken the forces the system uses to drive people from the land and into the factories, prisons and fields. Instead of hydraulic fracturing to squeeze out more gas and oil, exhausting and poisoning irreplaceable water in the process, we must fracture the mental and physical bonds that hold us captive within this death-dealing system. Those include the racism, white nationalism, settler colonialism and US exceptionalism that are being whipped up into a frenzy by the big-business media and their political front men (and women) during this election year.
In the 60s, radical ecologists said, “The Earth belongs to the people.” But that proved insufficient. Today, we need to act on the understanding expressed long before that by Chief Seattle of the Duwamish people,¬† that the people belong to the earth.

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