Yanomami Fighting Gold Miners

It's all about the gold.
There has been another invasion of Yanomami lands in the Brazilian Amazon, and this one is looking the same as the last. In the 1980s, there was a similar gold-rush to the Yanomami lands, and they took up arms to fight it. That fight was less than successful as upwards of 4000 Yanomami perished due to a combination of the violence and disease from the gold prospectors. Today, the Yanomami are prepared to fight again.

An article in the New Internationalist details this new gold rush through the eyes of a Yanomami shaman who has traveled to Europe in efforts to gain international support. The article claims that about 3000 miners are now working illegally on Yanomami lands, and their work not only threatens the Yanomami, but also the environment. According to the shaman:
‘They come on illegal runways and bring food and material for mining,’ Davi explains. ‘They cut the trees and make holes about three or four metres deep. All the dirt that comes out fills the river, and the mercury they use is dangerous. The fish get ill and die and the animals that drink the water also die. The huge puddles of dirty water they leave behind spread malaria because they attract mosquitoes. We get ill from bathing and drinking. This is why I have come to Europe – I’m going to try talking to politicians to see if they can put pressure on the Brazilian Government to stop this.’
The story doesn't end there however, as the miners are not the only threat to the vitality of the Yanomami and the land on which they live:
"Gold mining is not the only threat faced by this community. Davi tells me that three military barracks have already been built on Yanomami land by order of the Brazilian Government, and that more are planned for the border with Venezuela. The barracks are allegedly to bolster national security, but they are more likely to please the US, which is anxious to support any policy that threatens Venezuelan President Hugo Ch├ívez. At best, the Yanomami people will have their way of life disrupted by more illness and intrusion; at worst, they’ll be caught in a crossfire beyond their control."
The story of the Yanomami brings to light the plight faced by indigenous peoples around the globe. When granted land-use rights at all, indigenous peoples have historically been forced to live on parcels of land that have been marginal to the dominant society. Unfortunately, it is on these very lands that new pockets of wealth are being found - gold in the Amazon, oil in Belize, timber in Asia. In the end, indigenous peoples can not seem to find any respite.

And check out this short video about gold mining in the Amazon:

To Bee or Not to Bee: The Buzz on the Pollination Crisis

If you're like us, you have probably listened with trepidation about the collapse of honeybee colonies -- a sad and mysterious tale with real consequences. Without bees, pollination gets out of whack, and so do crops and the rest of the ecosystem. The trajectory of the story is not unlike that of global warming's -- doom and gloom or natural cycle -- especially when you add a recent study published on New Scientist. It turns out that the plight of the honeybee isn't that bad after all.

The researchers in the article took the three main tenets of the "pollination crisis" and debunked their gravity. First, the claim that pollination by bees sustains a large percent of food crops is untrue, they contend. The majority of food crops either depend on animal pollination or pollinate themselves. Second, they point out that the claim that pollinators are experiencing a catastrophic decline is based on extreme regional examples. They say that any decreases have been offset by increases elsewhere. Third, they question the claim that a small number of pollinators would affect agricultural productivity at all, pointing out that crop yields have steadily increased the past few decades.

So, is there a world-wide bee crisis, or not? The authors of the article make mention of how the crisis "is a great story that taps into the anxieties of our age." Is all the hype, then, merely a yarn spun with baseless fears and anxieties? Or, is this a case of global warming v. climate change?

Here is a video from two years ago put out by PBS called "Silence of the Bees." It talks about honeybees as a "keystone species" and the mindset shift needed to reverse their decline.

Freedom can be Free: "The Economics of Indigenous Freedom"

A short article appearing on Guerrilla News Network caught my eye with its title, "The Economics of Indigenous Freedom," and, although it's over a month old, I decided to post it here to open up the conversation to our readers as well.

In the article, author David Sugar lays out the possibility that the indigenous of the U.S. could find "freedom" in open-source technology. He argues many economic endeavors undertaken by American Indians fail to sustain families and communities, while maintaining a cultural bankruptcy as well -- forcing participation in what Sugar terms "a culturally foreign social-economic model." This foreign model encourages competition, coercion, and deception in pursuit of wealth -- concepts that intrinsically clash with American Indian lifeways.

Sugar's kind-of curious, but certainly practical, solution is investing in and developing free software:
As I noted there are basic cultural questioned tied to economics. This was best explained to me once by Russell Means. While at the time we were talking about the social and cultural consequence of western styles education, what he said that most stuck with me was, and to roughly paraphrase his words, “Indians do not compete”. Clearly then, the logical way forward is to look at sustainable models based on voluntary cooperative economics, and there are a number examples found practiced today which do not require high levels of (presumably external) investment to get started and which have already been demonstratively effective. One example of this is found in the economics of free (as in freedom) software.
He goes on to explain how the relationship between the creator of free software and the user is one that fosters cooperation and freedom of use, neither of which contradict "core social and cultural principles."

Whether Sugar's argument is completely fleshed out, I'm not sure. But it's certainly a fresh and interesting approach to thinking about technology and indigenous issues.

You can read the entire article for yourself by clicking here.
Image credit: gnn.tv

The Simpsons and Stephen Hawking Take on the G20

We know the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh have already passed, but we just came across this video now, and we feel that it still holds an important message. Namely, as people who desire change, we must realize that change from the top rarely, if ever, works, and until we change the institutions under which we operate, we are not likely to see an end to the injustices that exist around the globe. In this short video, we see a call for a more grassroots and participatory action to bring about a change that will benefit everyone.

Check it out and tell us what you think!

Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

Check out this talk by Carolyn Steel, an architect, author and food urbanist, given a few months ago at the TEDGlobal Conference at Oxford. Steel talks about the ideas from her book, Hungry City, which follows food from its origins, to the table, to its not-so-final resting place in the sewer. In the process, she explores how this journey impacts daily life and the environment.

Here is an overview of the last chapter of her book, taken from her website, www.hungrycitybook.co.uk:

Chapter Seven is about the future, and asks how we can use food as a tool for re-thinking cities and the way we live in them. The chapter’s title – sitopia – is a made-up word, from the Greek sitos, meaning food, and topos, place. So it means ‘food-place’, as opposed to utopia (‘good place’, or ‘no place’) a term used since Plato to describe an ideal – and therefore unattainable – community. Utopianism is the nearest thing we have to a cross-disciplinary tradition of thought about the problem of dwelling. The trouble is that it’s not a realistic approach, because it aims at perfection. That’s why I’m proposing sitopia as a practical alternative. The world is already shaped by food, so we may as well start using food to shape the world more positively.

Garden City

If you look back at urban history, you realise that the dilemmas we face today are nothing new. Their scale may be unprecedented, but people have been puzzling over the question of how to build equable, workable, sustainable communities for about as long as cities have existed. I believe food is the key to thinking about these issues – the obvious answer that has been staring at us all along, only it was too big to see.

Food is what connects us all to each other and to the natural world, which makes it an incredibly powerful medium for thinking and acting collaboratively. It encompasses all of life – not just what is necessary, but also what makes live worth living. I can’t think of a more powerful or positive global revolution than one in which we all learned to see the world through food, and I hope that reading Hungry City will help you start doing just that.

And here is a video of her talk from TED:

"The Walls Talk When the Media Lies"

Hondurans critical of the coup regime are taking their censored messages to the streets after several constitutional rights were suspended -- including the right to free thought, the right to free movement, freedom of the press and many more. Writers Kara Newhouse and Laura Taylor have posted pictures of the graffiti that is popping up around Honduras, bold statements that give voice to a silenced dialogue.

As Newhouse and Taylor explain,
"...the literal writing on the walls deny the state of calm that the coup leaders claim exists and expose the state of exception that they impose. These photos capture the ongoing conversations in a shrinking space for expression."

You can read their entire piece on Upside Down World.

Image: Kara Newhouse and Laura Taylor

Maya Day Celebration

Photo credit Destination360 Tikal
We've decided to switch gears here, and offer something a little different to our readers. I (dooglas) have recently taken a position as project manager in the NGO, Remedia, wherein I will be able to work on a whole slew of interesting projects, many of which will be related to content we often blog about here on Recycled Minds. These projects will help the start of a new-ish aspect of completely original content. We will keep bringing you news and connections as we always have, but we'll be adding a post here and there based on our own work, and hope to make this a significant part of what Recycled Minds does. So with that...

Remedia is an organization that has grown out of about 4 years of work in southern Belize by our friend Jillian DeGezelle. An ethnobotanist in training, Jillian has been working with Maya and Garifuna healers exploring traditional medicinal approaches to women's health issues. Over the years, different ideas for projects have come up, so Jillian formed Remedia to try to raise funds for such. Having worked with Jill in the past, and having conducted my MA and MPH thesis work in southern Belize, Remedia seemed like a good fit for me, and there was a spot to step in and help get the organization rolling. We're still in our infancy, but there are a bunch of things already happening.

One such project is a trip to the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala for the annual Maya Day Celebration. Maya Day is a new aspect of a growing pan-Maya movement in which Maya from throughout the region converge at Tikal for a reclaiming of Columbus Day - a signal that over 500 years of oppression and exploitation is coming to an end. A small group of Q'eqchi' Maya healers requested that we (Remedia) accompany them to the celebration, and film the journey. Jillian is currently in Belize, and I will be headed down shortly to join her and the healers for the trip to Tikal. We'll be twittering about the project as often as possible, and will have blog posts and pictures and video on the Remedia site as soon as we can. I will also post occasional updates about the happenings at Remedia here on Recycled Minds. Thanks for your interest!

Hondurans Stripped of Constitutional Rights

From RealNews: Now under martial law, the people of Honduras are experiencing a radical loss of freedoms as the widely condemned interim coup government continues to try to control protests and the flow of information. According to Dr Luther Castillo:
Honduras is under martial law as executive decree PCM-M-016-2009 has suspended numerous constitutional freedoms including: personal freedom, the right to free thought, the right to organize and meet, the right to free movement, freedom of the press, rights to privacy in one's own home, and protection against arbitrary detentions. The coup regime has routinely infringed these rights throughout the past three months, but it used the current decree to mobilize the military to shut down all anti-coup media outlets, thus eliminating any news of the resistance from the media. As filmmaker and resistance member Oscar Estrada writes, "it's like we never existed."
U.S. officials continue to blame President Zelaya and his decision to return to the country last weekend for these new crackdowns, calling Zelaya "irresponsible". This, while the military continues violent crackdowns enforcing curfews. Interestingly, if you watch the video below for the footage of Honduran soldiers marching toward protesters, they look alarmingly like the police lines breaking up protests at the G20 protests in Pittsburgh last week.