The year 2015 promises to be important for sustainable development. In October, the nations of the world will meet in Paris to to agree on a vision to 2030; to adopt a set of sustainable development goals; to make sure that they are adequately financed; to address human-induced climate change; and to rigorously monitor and review progress. And in April the cities of the world will gather in Seoul for the World Congress of ICLEI, Sustainable Solutions for an Urban Future. Some 1,500 expected participants will exchange approaches to low-carbon development; resilience and adaptation; biodiversity; water; EcoMobility; green urban economy; smart urban infrastructure, and other topics.

Meanwhile, indigenous peoples are showing us how the environment can be protected.

In Brazil, tribes across the country recently secured a historic nationwide victory, preventing Congress from seizing control of the future of their lands. If passed, the proposed constitutional amendment, known as ‘PEC 215’, would have caused further delays and obstacles to the recognition and protection of the tribes’ ancestral land, on which they depend for their survival. The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB)  stated “We indigenous peoples have shown that we will never allow our lands to be recolonized, invaded or destroyed, even if that means sacrificing our own lives.”

In Guatemala, the Congress announced the immediate repeal of Decree 19-2014 or Monsanto Law in response to a mass mobilization by the indigenous people of Sololá. The law would have required all farmers who cultivate corn to purchase their seeds from Monsanto. Anyone caught cultivating corn from their own seeds could be fined and could even face jail time. These new seeds are genetically modified to produce only once and every year farmers would have to buy new seeds in order to produce corn. Congress and its members made a public apology to the people of Guatemala for having made a poor decision.

Also in Guatemala, the indigenous communities have increasingly returned to the consulta to express their disapproval of mining and extractive projects in their territories. The consulta process comes from the Kiche Mayan holy book the “Popol Vuh.” . .


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. . . In a consulta, every resident within a community over the age of seven has a vote and a part in the decision making process for the community. The large consultas can take months to plan to ensure that everyone is equally informed about what the vote is on. In the end, the results represent the consensus of the community. The recent consulta held in Santa Maria Chiquimula is the 73rd consultation held since 2005 within the Mayan communities of Guatemala. In each case, the communities have voted overwhelming against the mega-projects in their territories."

Last year, representatives of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, Colombia, toured Europe with the aim of strengthening alliances. They explained ""We live in a strategic, resource-rich area, abundant with moorland, lakes and snowy areas. There is great mineral wealth, and for this they want us to get off the ridge so they can strip us of our ancestral territories.  . . [but] sooner or later indigenous peoples will be recognized as the true guardians of nature.

In Canada, the Tseil-Waututh, Musqueam, Sto:lo and Squamish Nations have won a legal challenge to stop the construction of a new pipeline on Burnaby Mountain which would have laid waste to part of their traditional territory. Sut-Lut, a Squamish Nation elder who kept a fire burning throughout the protests, told a local paper, “This isn’t a First Nations issue, it’s not a Burnaby resident problem only, it’s a people problem, and it’s about our survival. We have one Earth, and unless this government is hiding another healthy Earth somewhere, we need to take care of the one we’ve got, and it’s now, it’s now we have to step up.”

Let us hope that the cities and nations of the world will have the foresight and courage of these indigenous peoples to preserve our planet!


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Peace, through struggle,

The CPNN Team