Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions, SU 190 – KA1
Presented by The Center for Earth Ethics & Karenna Gore Friday, February 2, 1:00 – 6:00 pm; Saturday, February 3, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Course Description: This class will focus on the flaws of current economic measurements such as Gross Domestic Product and the ways in which Indigenous cultures — along with voices from faith communities— are contributing to alternative ways of measuring the success and well-being of a society. Topics to be covered include the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, the impact of colonization on the bio-cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples, the conflict at Standing Rock, the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, and the role of religion in development policy.
I don’t believe that there is a single person on this planet who isn’t aware of the climate system’s change. I fully include so called climate deniers in this as well because even they have to go outside and wonder why they can leave their homes, on many a winter day, in nothing more that a light jacket. Most are aware that something is just not right, that the coming days will bring forth even more uncertainty in weather patterns. For a majority of the world, however, this uncertainty is something they are already living with every day-this is the reality of the most vulnerable in our society: the poor For it is the capitalist project which has brought us to this crisis, and it is through its exploitative and violent nature human suffering has increased alongside Mother Earth’s ecological degradation.
The course went by the name, Beyond GDP: Lessons from Indigenous Cultures and Faith Traditions. Prior to attending the class, participants were sent a short reading list which included excerpts from “Laudato Si”, an article from the acclaimed scholar and activist Vandana Shiva, and a beautiful collection of articles and testimonials written from the perspective of Indigenous people advocating for their rights, as well as sharing the great Original Wisdom which still guides them today.
With around 30 participants, the class was a great mixture of students, religious leaders, professors, activists, farmers and herbalists, and lawyers. We were also blessed and honored by the presence of members from the Ramapough Lenape Nation- Chief Dwaine Perry and Owl Smith. Upon opening the class with a ritual presenting the four elements, C.E.E. Director, Karenna Gore, invited us all to introduce ourselves and ask that we share our names, a product which we depend on most, as well as, something within greater creation which we feel most connected to. It was incredibly powerful to witness the palpable feelings of joy and wonder we all associated with our non-human family.
Just as powerful, were the presentations. Karenna started the discussion by bringing forth the idea that capitalism and our globalized obsession with the gross national product index is greatly failing us all. The next presenter was economist and professor Bipasha Chatterjee who was able to pass on to us a great deal of information about how our global economic system works. For me, however, the most inspiring part of her presentation had to do with introducing us to the many alternatives uses of measuring value. My favorite definitely had to be the Gross Happiness Index used in Bhutan. Dr. Chatterjee explained that with this new system, Bhutan may be one of the poorer nations of the world monetarily, but it was also the happiest country in the world.
Ken Kitatani gave the following presentation, in which he introduced the UN Sustainable Development Goals emphasizing how the global community is coming together to create a better future. We were asked to take into consideration the people who might feel excluded by such an agenda-particularly indigenous communities who have no interest in developing within the capitalistic confines which very much inform the SDGs.
Dr. Geraldine Patrick Encina offered the final presentation of the day, bringing to the forefront Indigenous People of the Americas and the wisdom of original peoples, highlighting their cosmology, traditional way of life, and deeply rooted connection with all of creation. It was moving to hear her reflecting on the to groups of people she is connected to, the Mapuche of Chile, and the Otomi of Mexico. It was wonderful to hear about these tribes both maintaining their traditions, as well as, the challenge they have had in having to reclaim and relearn customs and practices which had been lost upon the “first contact”.
On day two, Roberto “Mukaro” Borrero was the first to present, and spoke about Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Being a member of the Taino Tribal Nation, Dr. Borrero brought forth the perspective of Indigenous people who continue to resist settler colonialism, and its predatory ways. One highlight of this presentation, I believe, was the time taken to talk about the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the struggles they endured against the Dakota Access Pipeline. That moment, Dr. Borrero argued, could serve as the perfect reason Indigenous people are so in need of their rights. What happened at Standing Rock was not only about a building a pipeline, it was about protecting the water and land which, to the Standing Rock Sioux, was sacred and worth protecting at all costs. To add, Standing Rock was a moment in which, twenty-first century Americans had to grapple with the reality of what it means to disregard and dehumanize Indigenous Peoples. Granting rights to indigenous people is not only a matter of symbolism, it is necessary in order to save lives.
Next, Catherine Flowers gave a presentation on what was happening in her community in Lowndes County, Alabama. She talked about the terrible sewage conditions so many residents are dealing with in addition to other ecological crises affecting the health of residents there. Into this conversation, Catherine also challenged the participants to think about what other factors, beyond capitalism, might have caused this reality for the people of Lowndes County. Racism was also an incredibly powerful force in this oppression which allowed politicians and public servants to ignore the demands for help by the people of Lowndes County, and other similar communities dealing with public health crises. The G.D.P. index does not help these people, and worse, it requires, and only benefits from, their continued suffering.
The last presentation was given by Adam and Shaily Gupta Barnes. Sharing reflections about their time in the Peace Corps, the two talked about the rural farming community they worked with in Niger, West Africa, and the sustainable farming being practiced despite such vicinity to the desert. Additionally, the two presented on the work they are engaged with in the Poor People’s Campaign. Led by Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the movement was highlighted as a moral revival for America. An opportunity to this nation to reflect upon ourselves, especially after the 2016 election, and commit ourselves to a way of being less focused on greed and power, and more focused on the Revolutionary Love Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was so passionate about.
It was a jam packed two days, with so much to take away and reflect upon. For myself, the biggest take away was the realization that we must divorce ourselves from capitalism as well as the greed and over consumption that comes with it. We must be willing to recognize the rights of Indigenous people, and more importantly, we must be willing to learn their earth centered practices we have forgotten as we have attempted to perfect civilization. With scientists constantly reminding us of how dire everything is, I am very appreciative of this class for making me be self reflective on the ways in which I am complacent within this system. The urgency is very real, and I am so very grateful for the space this class opened up for us to become aware of solutions which have already been working on a small scale, and must be adopted – for the fate of all of creation.
Original Caretakers Program – Center for Earth Ethics participation at the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum. Kuala Lumpur, 7-13 February 2018
Mindahi Bastida-Munoz participated in the Stakeholders’ Roundtable – Indigenous Peoples Session, which focused on the problems that indigenous peoples face as migrants and as citizens in the cities. Discrimination and lack of political representation are the main problematics that Indigenous Peoples are facing. Issues about land tenure, particularly for women, were also addressed. As most of the roundtable was composed of women (see picture below), their concerns for women’s rights were amply exposed. Indigenous youth were also present and they talked about the importance of including indigenous peoples’ representatives in decision making processes. Mindahi’s presentation is in Spanish. Watch it here:
My speech in the Indigenous Peoples Roundtable. Feb 11, 2018.
Mindahi Bastida-Munoz spoke at the Indigenous Peoples Round Table at the WUF9.
The following are the recommendations given by Mindahi Bastida-Munoz for an effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda resulting from the discussions, to inform the WUF9 Declaration:
To include youth, children, elders and women in the capacity building and the decision taking processes.
To impulse new curriculum around ancestral wisdom and spiritual values of Indigenous Peoples
To acknowledge Indigenous Peoples wisdom around the relationship humans-nature. Cities cannot live without nature and rural areas.
To work and pull together with local, national and international stakeholders and governments in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
Indigenous peoples need sustainable development financial support specially for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda among indigenous peoples territories and those who live or interact with the cities.
There was also a Special Session of Civil Engagement and Participation of the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum, where Mindahi Bastida-Munoz delivered a message about the importance of indigenous peoples’ participation in the public agenda of UN-Habitat. He asked the leaders of the world, in reference to the New Urban Agenda, to acknowledge indigenous peoples’ participation in the decision-making processes. Additionally, he noted that a new relationship between the urban and rural is needed. Modern cities cannot live without the rural areas, from where water, oxygen, food, materials come from. Also, rural areas are sinks for carbon dioxide and liquid and solid wastes.
Civic engagement and participation from all actors is key: governments cannot achieve the New Urban Agenda on their own. We need all, and we need that no one is left behind in this inclusive process when talking about cities.
As was stressed in the Special Session, “Civil engagement has been emphasized in the New Urban Agenda as part of the vision for cities and human settlements as the participation of urban dwellers fosters social cohesion, inclusion and safety in peaceful and pluralistic societies.”
During the forum, we distributed the Indigenous Peoples and the City Declaration in the Civic Engagement Session, the Indigenous Peoples’ Round Table and the Children and Youth Round Sessions.
The Indigenous Peoples and the City Declaration was produced last year by indigenous representatives from different peoples, including Mapuche, Kichua and Otomi, most of whom were young. We were invited to explore means to emphasize the importance of the recognition of indigenous peoples and communities in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the New Urban Agenda, adopted in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016 during the UN Forum Habitat III.
Mindahi Bastida-Munoz had previously participated in two side events on Indigenous Cities organized by UN-Habitat Youth during the regional meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development Habitat III held in the city of Toluca, Mexico, on April 19, 2016 and during the 15th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held in New York City on May 13, 2016. He was the coordinator of this declaration. For more information, click here: Indigenous Peoples and the City.
Traveling through Asia this Dec – Jan, visiting Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan, traversing throughout city and mountain terrain, observing climate conditions of rain and drought through floral growth in Nature, opened dialogue with park rangers, farmers, students and Buddhist monks on the effects of Climate Change in their lives and work. Global Warming.
Thailand is a mountain forest land with lush valleys and water ways in a central basin continuing to beaches and Islands. My travels took me from Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthalon, 2,500 meters or 8,400 ft, south to the coastal region, an area named Trat, a peninsula in Thailand’s farthest land south west bordering Cambodia.
The fertile and tropical monsoon climate, ideally suited to wet rice cultivation attracted farmers to the central part of the country, for hundreds of years, where the mountains drained streams into rivers, rivers passing through wide open flat lands and valleys, emptying into the gulf of Thailand. Thailand’s rice farmers have had to adapt to climate change, and its Critical Global Warming effects.
Rice has been Thailand’s traditional food crop and its main export product. Rice is grown on 50% of its arable land and 80% is exported abroad. Mountain villages depend on a sustainable healthy abundant harvest. Many countries depend on the 10 million tons of exported rice from Thailand, including the United States. Thailand’s losses due to floods, and droughts, which come spontaneously, as well as the natural order of its seasons, now being unpredictable, has their crop losses in the billions of dollars.
I’ve had dialogue with central river rice farmers, on large farms, as well as, mountain village farmers in northern regions who are sustainable growers. They all are telling me the same thing, that Global Warming effects are getting more intense over the past few years. The government has provided Genetically Modified varieties of rice to grow in the times of excess water due to flooding and odd storms, and has programs producing drought resistant varieties. These are more expensive rice strains that would have to be purchased each season as they do not reproduce. Rural mountain farmers spoke of being unable to afford these strains of GMO rice and some have awareness to stay away from modified genetic rice strains.
The larger commercial farms are using these Genetically Modified strains of Rice as a direct result of the Global Warming Crisis.
New farming systems in the mountainous regions I observed are constructed with natural technology: using large sized bamboo poles along the rice paddies to act as emergency drainage when sudden storms or unusual monsoon type rains flood the area. Heavy rain storms come in unusual patterns and directions not associated with the normal patterns of the seasons.
New to the terrain are water catches for sudden droughts that can happen anytime; at times of the year when the rains are supposed to come, extreme drought conditions may happen usually followed by heavy rain which turns into flooding. The large corporate and government rice farms have added costly water release systems and elaborate watering systems.
Throughout the north west region I experienced a consistent four day rain storm in December, the dry part of the year. I was told by several people this was unusual weather on top of unusual weather. Thailand’s government has pledged 7 billion over the next 3 years to alleviate damages and losses. Global warming is a costly affair of life and monetary-ism.
Thailand’s other crops, such as rubber and fruit plantations in the southern region are also adversely effected by global warming climate change. Heavy rains for two years were followed by drought, with heavy losses in fruit and rubber production and rotting tree roots from excess water or dying from drought. Farmers and plantation workers from northern Thailand through to the southern peninsula have expressed that fruit trees flowering and harvesting are as much as two months off their normal growth cycle, which effects the insects`s cycle of life which effects the bird life’s cycle, not good at all. Thailand is currently the worlds largest natural rubber producer. High emissions of greenhouse gases, caused by the production of raw latex for rubber production, their factories and mills also contribute raw material waste. The loss of natural hard wood forest being cut and cleared for rubber tree plantations. In this case the emissions are much higher because of carbon loss from land conversion. Farmers and plantation workers have voiced their thoughts: the cause of Global Warming is a combination of factors. One of the main contributors towards Climate Change is the use of Fossil Fuels, along with Mass Deforestation, pollution of the air, lands and waters, the change of oxygen in our oceans and lakes due to toxic heavy metals from the worlds chemical factories, as well as electrical pollution.
Farmers, city dwellers and mountain villagers believe that to relieve the environment of toxic stress would be to stop using them and allow other technologies to be used. I spoke of the use of plastic and again was told, corporate companies “stop producing these harmful things, there has to be other ways.” I was shown various ways of using the soy bean and the wing bean, can be made into biodegradable materials such as paper, clothing, soy bean fibers are sustainable and don’t need chemicals to grow, cups and containers, baskets and much more. We must replace the Plastic industry with an eco-friendly source. Most Thai people are not too far removed from ancestral ways and have a strong belief in their way of prayer, Buddism. Temples large and small are all over the country, and in the homes. Their overstanding of mindfulness of nature and life spirit are in
their mantra, they make awareness of thee Omni presence with in nature and ancestral spirits. Thai peoples’s way of greeting and departing is with Buddha hands and a slight bow. They let me know they are smothered in the plastics, the motorized life style, bills and debts. Values need to change, people need to be allowed to change the life style from being pressed into a monetary system supporting the production of harmful things, besides the income in this system was spoke of as being insufficient for basic survival. Change to a sustainable was so we may all sustain, and that I should know this, coming form a country that is a main contributor of fossil fuel and greenhouse gases.
Awareness of source of food and from farm to table.
Food is abundantly pouring into the streets of Thailand through street vendors selling their fresh seafood, vegetables and meats, cooking on charcoal grills and carts with mini kitchens boiling delicious noodle dishes. Many markets abundant with fresh fruit, veggies, specialty foods, treats and coconuts on ice -Thai people like to eat real food. Fast food chains that are there look out of place surrounded with rows of street food and colorful fruit stands and fresh juice. I walked into a “super” market, very odd experience, a few people wandering around, everything in plastic, quietly suffocating, I looked through the glass widow and across the street, the outdoor market was thriving with fresh everything, people,color, laughter and energy. I wandered out not buying anything, the only time I was in a “regular” store while visiting Thailand. The markets are amazing arrays of tropical vegetables and fruits, some familiar foods with different variations. Food stands cooking different types of Thai food from northern, north east or west, southern style cuisine. Live turtles, fish and frogs, lobster, dried fish and snakes, bugs, grubs of all kinds. I observed their closeness to their food source, their overstanding of where their foods are coming from, how many hands has it gone through and how many miles to market. Very close relationship with their food, which can give one a direct insight on the daily impact of Global Warming.
Chaing Mai is a city in northern Thailand. Established by 1226 and was the capital of the Lanna kingdom until 1558. Population is around a million people with a inner city population of twenty thousand. For me It felt like a very large town, not bombarded with sky scrapers or huge concreted metropolitan area`s . The Thai people point out the new tall buildings and malls that have been built over the past seven years and feel Chaing Mai will change over the next ten years and become more like Bangkok. They showed I the new roads and Huge neon sighns that were not around a few years ago.The increase in cars over the past ten years has trippled or more where as the streets would have much more scooters and bicycles, adding more Fossil Fuel thats thick in the air of this valley.
Bamboo and Hemp are two of many natural fast growing plants that would be a major contributor in stopping the destruction of the worlds forests. This knowledge has been presented as an alternative to deforestation , as well as adding a thriving economic boost to countries who’s climates are suitable to growing these crops.Over the pas 30 years since I was involved with the green push to implement bamboo and hemp as sustainable building materials, Corporation controlled lobbyist of the timber industry and its building products have a strong voting and bureaucracy to not allow this change of ethics to happen. Bamboo and Hemp are a renewable crop, grows well with little or no fertilizer or water, ph balance of 7, no strain on the environment . From rooting to harvest bamboo has a much faster to mature growth to usable product than any tree species ,and can be processed into various types of building material. The trees that are being harvested in the US are very young, due to depletion of old growth forests, and do not have the tensil building strength of older mature trees. Teragren, the worlds largest bamboo building products manufacturer, has engineered a new structural joint made of moso, a strain of bamboo with the tensil strength of steel. America’s southern states would be ideal for growing bamboo and hemp. Meetings of engineer, bureaucrats, farmers an manufacturers in Greenville, Miss, gathered to discuss how land formerly cultivated for cotton might be converted to produce bamboo on a massive scale, creating a new profitable industry through out the southern states of America.
Hemp is very versatile in the many building materials it can be organically processed into. Hemp can be made into any building material, including fiberboard, roofing, flooring, paint, particle board, plaster,caulking, plywood, insulation, insulation panels or spray-on insulation, concrete, concrete pipes, bricks and biodegradable plastics. Concrete made from Hemp is referred to as Hempcrete. A product that is stronger than concrete and breathes, allowing dust particles to settle and be cleaned, as dust molecules and particles do not settle on concrete creating allergies and a static energy with blocks the natural flow of nature. Also harsh on the structure of the human body. Hemp Crete is three times more resistant than regular concrete. Fire proof, water proof and earth quake proof. to manufacture concrete places more carbon in our atmosphere. Building a home with Hempcrete can save about 20,000 lbs of carbon being released into the atmosphere per home. Hempcrete continues to harden through out its life until it completely petrifies, becoming rock like lasting thousands of years. Besides all the other products that could be made from hemp, hopefully we can re evaluate these wonderful plant gifts. The technologies are here, to eliminate fossil fuel and clean the environment must be allowed to flourish. Free Energy.
Our time is now, to become more active in creating a healthy harmonious existence while we are here, our duty do the better for the whole.
About the Author
Poppy Jones is the Herbalist in Residence at the Center for Earth Ethics. He facilitates forest walks and teaches identification, properties, and preparations of herbs and food for health. Some of his favorite plants, include the Pearly Everlasting pictured below.
On January 10th, CEE’s Director, Karenna Gore, participated in a panel discussion regarding one of NY’s most important issues: the closing of Indian Point. Long considered a public health risk due to leaking radioactive water, the aging power plant has experienced recurring emergency shutdowns and is shown to be vulnerable to both human and natural disasters, such as an earthquake. An accident at Indian Point could bring destruction and contamination as far south as New York City. Now that the state has reached an agreement to close the plant, the conversation must turn to how, and what happens in it’s stead. The easy answer may seem like natural gas, but, the science of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees doesn’t support that claim. “I want to emphasize that fracked gas is not the answer,” Karenna reminded. “It is not a bridge fuel.”
Facebook Live video from our “Closing Indian Point” forum:
Facebook Live video from our "Closing Indian Point" forum. Our panel: Karenna Gore, Director of the Center for Earth Ethics; Cecil Corbin-Mark: Deputy Director, WE ACT; and Karl R. Rábago of the Pace Energy and Climate Center. The moderator was Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper.
Paul Gallay, President and Riverkeeper explains, “Once Indian Point is closed, we won’t need to rely on fossil fuels to make up for its energy. Peak demand in the region will have declined by more than the 2,000 megawatts the plant generates, and the replacement power will be carbon neutral as the State further increases its clean energy investments,” said Gallay. “There will be little impact on electricity bills — between $1 and $2 dollars a month — which is a small price to pay for minimizing the risk that this plant poses. Going forward, new efficiency and renewable energy projects will drive still greater savings for consumers, thanks to aggressive energy investments by the state. It’s a new day for New York and the Metro region.”
Cecil Corbin-Mark talked about the great work WeAct is doing on energy efficiency in NYC and how that is part of the picture of meeting our energy needs.
Karenna spoke during the panel on faith, ethics and climate, “This conversation is about more than economics and science. It’s about morals and ethics and our responsibilities to humans across the world and here, as well as non-human life, and future generations.”
For more information on the Closure Agreement and Riverkeeper’s promise to ‘compel full compliance’ click here: Riverkeeper.org.