International Day of Mother Earth (April 22): A “global war” against indigenous peoples

The livelihoods of indigenous peoples are being destroyed (Press Release)

Economic enterprises and governments make efforts to gain access to coveted raw materials. Photo: Next Nature Network

On the occasion of the International Day of Mother Earth (April 22), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns about a systematic destruction of the livelihoods of the approximately 5,000 indigenous peoples of the world. “The Native Americans consider themselves to be guardians of Mother Earth, because they traditionally handle natural resources with particular care. However, there is a “global war” going on against the indigenous peoples. This war was not officially declared, but it arose from the efforts of economic enterprises and governments to gain access to coveted raw materials,” stated the STP on Friday. “It will not only destroy our natural surroundings and the environment, but also the world’s cultural diversity and the heritage of mankind.” Without a rethinking, there might only be half of the world’s indigenous peoples left in about 20 years, the human rights organization warned.

According to the STP, the struggle for control over the world’s raw materials has reached the most remote regions of India, Northern Sweden, Brazil, the USA, or the Philippines – the traditional settlement areas of indigenous peoples – a long while ago. “The indigenous communities are almost always the losers. In most cases, their interests are not taken into account, and the companies are granted access to the resources. Sometimes, access to the resources is bought with money, which causes disputes and dissatisfaction among the native inhabitants in the longer run.”

During the next five years, India is planning to invest 15 billion Euros so as to double its mining production. About 70 percent of the coal reserves and 80 percent of the iron ore reserves in India are located under the settlement areas of approximately 100 million Adivasi natives – in addition to about half of the 50 most important mines of the subcontinent.

In the south of the Philippines, the indigenous Lumad people have become victims of gold, nickel, copper, and silver mining on Mindanao Island. Militias are spreading terror among the indigenous peoples in order to drive them away from their settlement areas so that the mining companies can step up the mining projects. Since June 2016, at least 16 Lumad were murdered in order to intimidate the aborigines.

In the north of Sweden, the Sami reindeer keepers are threatened by the expansion of iron ore and copper mining projects, which are taking up more and more of the grazing areas. In neighboring Finland, the Sami are suffering from the deforestation of the forests, due to which there is not enough food for the reindeer. Climate changes pose another threat to the survival of the reindeer breeders because the animals don’t find enough food.

In Brazil, 80% of the electricity is generated by hydropower plants. More large-scale dams are being built for this purpose, destroying the natural environment and contaminating the air with toxic methane due to the rotting of organic material under water. Because of the dam projects, the water balance in the Amazon has been altered permanently – and the indigenous fishermen are losing their source of income because there are less fish in the rivers, due to the decreasing water level. For instance, 24 indigenous peoples are affected by the Belo Monte Dam, which was put into operation on the Xingu River (state of Para) in 2016. This third largest dam in the world was also built with the help of German companies.

The indigenous peoples in the US are threatened by pipelines that are being built through their settlement areas. The US government under President Donald Trump has resumed the expansion of the 1,890-kilometer-long Dakota Access Pipeline in the US state of North Dakota, which had been suspended by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, together with US environmentalists and many well-known supporters, is trying to offer peaceful resistance. The Native Americans are complaining that their land rights are being ignored, their traditional graveyards are being destroyed, and that leaks in the pipeline will cause serious environmental damages.

Based on a suggestion by the government of Bolivia, the 22nd of April (which had already been celebrated internationally) was declared the International Day of Mother Earth by the United Nations in 2009. The aim is to raise awareness for our natural environment.

Header Photo: Next Nature Network