Tag Archives: conservation

Decolonizing ecology

By Jade Delisle, Briarpatch

Around the time wildfires were blanketing Calgary in smoke last year, I attended a local leftist reading group. They were discussing the impacts of capitalism on natural disasters, agreeing that the wildfires were exacerbated by both global warming and by neoliberal austerity. But when I put forward that invasive, non-indigenous plant species including trees and industrially farmed crops added degrees of severity to the crisis, and that traditional Indigenous systems of land stewardship could help mitigate or prevent natural disasters, I was taken aback by the group’s dismissive response. I was told by the main organizer that my approach to ecology was backwards-looking and idealized pre-capitalist societies, and that without an orientation to the future I risked venerating the stereotype of a “noble savage” in a “lost world.” 

At a time when Indigenous land defenders are fighting for cultural resurgence and the application of traditional knowledge to combat the climate crisis, they are often cast as the monolithic, mystical, degrowth opposition to the secular modernity of white leftists and their fully automated socialist future. In reality, solutions to ecological and social problems that were historically or are presently used by non-European cultures are compatible with modern technology, often in consensus with cutting-edge scientific findings, and more necessary than ever. 

Indigenous Peoples now make up less than five per cent of the world’s population, but the lands they maintain hold 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. Protecting and restoring Indigenous Peoples’ lands is the fastest and most readily available way to sequester carbon and mitigate the impacts of climate change, a result of the optimally efficient relationships between fungi, plants, animals, and people in a given bioregion, which Indigenous cultures have coded into their knowledge systems over millennia of human-environmental interactions. 

Still, those lands are being stolen and mismanaged by colonists who believe that their environmental and clean energy projects – eco-tourism, national parks, and hydroelectric dams  – will be more effective than millennia of land stewardship by Indigenous Peoples. Even when they haven’t yet been invented or scaled-up, theoretical solutions like machines that suck carbon dioxide directly out of the air (which would, themselves, require absurd amounts of energy) are emphasized over habitat restoration. 

Click here to read the full article…

‘The Only Way to Save the Land is to Give It Back’: A Critique of Settler Conservationism

By Majerle Lister, The Red Nation

The narrative that conservationism is an ally of Indigenous people and Indigenous land serves the opportunistic purpose of unifying Indigenous people and pro-conservationist to fight for the land. At the center of the US conservation movement is Theodore Roosevelt, a notable racist and violent imperialist. Any act or criticism against conservation is painted as an insult to the president — or the innocence of a settler nation. Settler conservation, however, has provided great victories for Indigenous people in the form of protecting sacred lands from capitalist development, such as, most recently, the protection of Bears Ears National Monument. Settler conservation plays a dual role, it keeps land away from Indigenous control while conserving land for the settler public. Narratives like this usually flow from one person to another without evaluating the reality from which it was created, all the while ignoring the historical dispossession of Indigenous lands.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the US, is the soul of settler conservationism. Roosevelt, a “big stick” imperialist, supported the US military invasion of Cuba in 1898, the violent annexation of the Philippines in 1900, the blockade of Panama and annexation of the Panama Canal in 1903. His bloody foreign policy matched his Indian policy. As part of his famous conservation policies, Roosevelt worked to transfer 230 million acres of Indigenous land to public lands. Besides calling Indigenous people “squalid savages,” he firmly believed that the land belonged to the “white race” through conquest and superiority, a staple of imperialism by violently increasing the land mass of the invading settler nation. Roosevelt also defended the Dawes Act of 1887, which opened 90 million acres of Indigenous land for white settlement. He praised the Act because it “pulverized” the tribal land mass and encouraged private ownership and the dissolution of collective tribal lands.

The history of the US conservation movement is a history settler colonialism.

Settler colonialism operates on certain myths so that it can reproduce itself. One of those myths is that Indigenous people of the U.S. were unproductive with the land therefore white settlers were entitled to the land. There are two main points in this myth, the capitalistic characteristic of productivity and the notion of white supremacy. When settlers came over, they deemed the land unproductive despite the complex use of the land by Indigenous people. Following this, they believed they were entitled to the land because they thought themselves superior to manage land and labor. This white supremacy ideology initiated the Indigenous genocide, Indigenous land dispossession, and the enslavement of the African people. Settler land management operates on this notion that indigenous people cannot management their lands themselves despite the romanticism of the “ecological” Indian. If Indigenous people cannot manage the land, who should be in charge? The discussion of control of stolen land shifts to a discussion of the public vs the private.

Indigenous people are quick to recognize the land grabs by the Federal government, or any other government, as the continuation of colonial land accumulation. Yet on the other end, conservationists see it as consolidating lands for the public. The conservationists rally around the term “Public lands” harkening to the spirit of Wood Guthrie’s, “This Land is Your Land.” This shifts the narrative away from Indigenous land claims and dispossession towards a discussion of the public good. Indigenous lands become the public’s land and “the public” — which excludes the original owners of the land — should be the ones who manage and control the land. Examples demonstrating the shift away from Indigenous land control are seen by corporations and non-profits, such as Sierra Club and Patagonia.

Click here to read the full article from The Red Nation

The Red Nation is dedicated to the liberation of Native peoples from capitalism and colonialism. They center Native political agendas and struggles through direct action, advocacy, mobilization, and education. Click here to read more.

Toward Decolonizing Conservation

humpback-whale-breaching-final

By Phil Levin, SNAP.is / Cool Green Science

Six hundred miles northwest of my Seattle home lies British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii archipelago, nearly 100 miles off the mainland. It’s a seemingly pristine and timeless  place — old-growth forests and breaching humpback whales, endless rocky shores enveloped in pea-soup fog and the penetrating smell of decaying seaweed, and a silence broken only by the drumming of ocean waves and the occasional cry of a bald eagle.

After a visit here in 2010, as I flew back to Seattle, I snapped a picture from my airplane window and posted it on Facebook with the caption: “Haida Gwaii is a magical land devoid of people.”

I couldn’t have been more ignorant.

Continue reading