Sunday, December 24, 2017

The extinction of humanity has begun

Some peoples are already going extinct. Their extinction is often a consequence of the structural violence of corporate globalization. Communities are under threat, especially those which sit on land coveted by big business. Some live near rivers polluted by dumping. Others rely on biodiversity wiped out by intensive agriculture. Their misery stems from the so-called "soft power" of corporate globalization and is bolstered by the "hard power" of militarism.

In 2014, the UK's Lord Alton commented on the UK-Colombia bilateral "free trade" agreement. Alton said: "According to the Colombian constitutional court, 34 groups of indigenous peoples are currently at risk of extinction. The court identified forced displacement as the major cause." Alton concluded that "the UK has created in this trade treaty something that will benefit British businesses but harm exploited and vulnerable people."

In 2014, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, Todd Howland, reported that over 60 percent of the country's Indigenous populations -- more than 750,000 individuals -- are in danger of extinction.

The Center for Autonomy and Rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia and IWGIA all attribute the extinction of Indigenous communities to resource-driven conflicts.

Colombia is a country of more than 49 million people. One percent of the population own 50 percent of the land. Indigenous Colombians constitute just 3.4 percent of the population, or 1.5 million individuals. They include lowlanders and highlanders and total approximately 100 different groups. Native Colombians speak 65 Indigenous languages, of which five are extinct and 19 are disappearing. Just three departments -- La Guajira, Cauca and Nariño -- host 80 percent of the country's Indigenous population. Furthermore, about one-third of Colombia is a "reservation," and many of these regions have "environmental conflicts due to extractive activities," according to the Indigenous rights group International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

In Brazil, wealthy white Portuguese descendants own much of the land.  According to Survival International, Brazil's Indigenous populations total 900,000 and are split into 240 groups. This equates to just 0.4 percent of the population. The largest Indigenous group is the Guaraní people, who number 51,000 and who are mainly crammed into reserves or live on the edges of highways. Levels of suicide are high, as opportunities to live off the land become scarce. Over the last three decades, more than 620 Guaraní have ended their own lives, making the suicide rate 19 times higher than the national average. Those under 30 constituted 85 percent of suicides. Ranchers hire militias to intimidate and "systemically target" them, according to Survival International. In the Amazon, the largest group is the Tikuna, who number 40,000. The Yanomami occupy 9.4 million hectares and number 19,000. The Awá consist of 450 individuals, and the Akuntsu, just five. So-called uncontacted peoples in Brazil -- people who have had no peaceful contact with dominant societies -- number several hundred and consist of around 80 groups. They include the Kawahiva, who flee loggers and ranchers and are said to be on the edge of extinction.  

In 2016, Euronews reported: "The Kawahiva are a group of hunter-gatherers ... forced to live on the run, fleeing violence from outsiders. Attacks and disease have killed relatives. And loggers are getting closer."

In 2013, of the Awá , Vanity Fair reported that loggers were "killing their trees and their animals and are now within a few miles ... and ... thousands of other invasores ... have illegally settled on [Awá] land and converted a third of their forest to pasture." This is significant because the Awá, like most Indigenous peoples, live off the forest's biodiversity, not farms.

 Al Jazeera found that "the country's economic crisis and growing pressure to exploit the rich resources on those reserves could lead to the extinction of many communities."

Where are the timber and profits ending up? According to a 2014 Greenpeace study, "Illegally logged timber in Brazil is being laundered on a massive and growing scale and then sold on to unwitting buyers in the UK, US, Europe and China." There is no indication that this has ceased.

In Uganda, one of the smallest and "near-extinct" groups is the Ik. Consisting of 14,000 individuals, the Ik live in the ranges of the Kidepo Valley National Park. In the 1960s, the central government imposed a Wildlife Reserve on the Ik's land, forcing them to migrate to Mount Morungole, along the Kenyan and South Sudan borders. The Ik have largely given up on cattle-rearing due to raids by rivals and farmers. They survive by goat breeding and beekeeping.  The Uganda Safari Guide offers expensive tours to meet "endangered tribes."
In Tanzania, the 1,300-strong Hadza group has lost 90 percent of its land in just 50 years. This is due to land privatization and exploitation from mining and logging. The group lives primarily on the edge of the Serengeti plains. Their increasingly limited diet includes porcupine and berries. Andrew Madsen's book The Hadzabe of Tanzania notes problems in supposedly protected villages, including "wood cutting, honey gathering, [and] increased mining activities" by Tanzanian migrants who work for local economies.
Indigenous people are not passive victims.  In Brazil, over 200 Indigenous organizations work for the survival of their respective peoples, hosting cultural events and clinics.
Abridged and adapted from here

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