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Columbus Day 2015: Time to Protect Indigenous Peoples: See Amazing Videos.

October 12, 2015

The local tribes people greet Columbus and crew with fruits and gifts. (Public Domain Image).

What are we celebrating? Most of us Euro types wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the heroic journeys (4 of them) that brought him (with Spanish crews and ships)  to the Americas. But for Americans already here before Columbus, there isn’t much to celebrate.  What can only be called genocide started early on as Columbus and the Spanish began to colonize indigenous peoples of  Hispanola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and other islands. Here are excerpts from the late (great) HowarZinn’s A Peoples History of the United States based on historical documents.   

  • “They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. Columbus later wrote: ‘Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.’ “
  • “Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.”
  • The remaining Arawaks were…enslaved to work on plantations.. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants were left on the island.”

Forward in Time:  In the U.S. colonists and settlers backed by government troops carried out ruthless repression resulting in the displacement and deaths of millions of Native Americans. We needn’t look very hard to find genocide in our own history.

But what about now? The evidence indicates that multi-national corporations–with the backing or and complicity from governments–are trampling  indigenous people, their rights and their territories in  develop mines, plantations, logging operations, oil and gas, and hydroelectric power for profit–maybe not in the name of “the Holy Trinity” but certainly in the name of economic growth. This is happening all over the world, and especially in the Amazon rain forests of South America.

Videos tell the story: To get an idea of the struggles of indigenous peoples in the Amazon region, we invite you to take a look these videos.

The Awa of Brazil: Survival International’s successful International’s efforts to save “The Earth’s Most Threatened Tribe” from illegal logging.

Indigenous peoples stake on Big Oil. See video from Amazon Watch.

Chevron and its Secret Videos: A whistle blower provided NGOs with a videos that Chevron’s reps took in Ecuador. There mission was to find evidence showing the place was clean and safe. They didn’t have much luck, hence the kept them in the closet. See it here.  In one sequence a poor farmer says that his children were exposed to oil and died.

Good News on the Legal Front (Bad for Chevron).  The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that 30,000 poor Ecuadoran farmers  can sue Chevron on trial in Toronto, in an effort to seize $9.5 billion from its Canadian subsidiary for damages from the pollution the company’s drilling caused in vast stretches of their territory. See news story here.

What you can do on Columbus Day Week. Go to websites of two fabulous groups working on behalf of indigenous tribes: Amazon Watch and Survival International. You will find a wealth of information and additional videos. Then take two steps: Sign critical petitions and donate. Let’s not allow history to repeat.

More than 30% of the Awa territory has been destroyed by illegal mining.

More than 30% of the Awa territory has been destroyed by illegal mining.

Chevron in Ecuador

Chevron in Ecuador

Chev tapes 2

Chevron agent interviews poor farmer. Explains why tapes were hidden.

Chevron agent interviews poor farmer. Explains why tapes were hidden.


October 4, 2015

 Campaign created by Congressman Raul Grijalva

Click to sign on> Please sign on the petition!  
168,927 of 200,000 signatures.


Oak Flat – a centuries-old sacred site for Native Americans – was handed over to an international mining conglomerate by Congressional Republicans earlier this year. Pass the bipartisan Save Oak Flat Act to repeal this shameful land trade immediately to protect this sacred Native American land.

Why is this important?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Arizona, United States                                                       Tell Congress To Give Native Americans Back Their Sacred Land                                    Last year, Republicans in Congress secretly gave away sacred Native American lands to a multinational mining conglomerate. If this deal is finalized, these sacred Native lands could be destroyed permanently.

It’s true: National Defense Authorization Act – a bill President Obama could not easily veto – included a non-germane and shameful provision mandating a land swap long favored by a mining firm called Resolution Copper. Congress gave this international mining conglomerate, which is co-owned by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and have “dismal human rights and environmental records,”(1) exactly what they wanted at the expense of sacred and religious sites connected to these public lands.

A bill to right the wrong: On June 17, I  (Congressman Grijalva) introduced the bipartisan Save Oak Flat Act to repeal the land trade while leaving the defense law intact. Congress should not be in the business of helping big corporations at the expense of others, and it certainly shouldn’t break faith with Native American communities.

For years, Resolution Copper has sought access to a copper deposit in eastern Arizona at a site called Oak Flat, which has been home to the San Carlos Apache Nation’s traditional acorn and medicinal herb collecting and religious ceremonies for centuries. Oak Flat itself is a significant cultural site for the San Carlos Apache. The mountain’s waters feed Gaan Canyon, a significant cultural and religious site. The location also includes Apache Leap, an escarpment of equal cultural importance. The San Carlos Apache fear their sacred lands will collapse or be damaged by the intensive block cave mining Resolution proposes.

However, their concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Last Congress, Republican House leaders had to cancel a vote on their bill forcing the Forest Service to trade the land to Resolution due to overwhelming opposition in congress. Undeterred, Arizona’s Republican Senators snuck a swap provision into the defense bill during conference, knowing it could not be removed by the House – or easy for President Obama to reject. Now the San Carlos Apache are facing the imminent prospect of permanent damage to their sacred sites.

The line on treating Indian Country(2) with disrespect must be drawn. It’s time for Congress to do the right thing and uphold its commitment to Native Americans and protect their sacred lands. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan fight, and I’m asking for your help to get the word out!

Sign the petition> HERE.


1. Dina Gilio-Whitaker, “Resolution Copper: 6 Egregious Examples of Parent Rio Tinto’s Rights Violations Worldwide,” Indian Country, July 23, 2015,

2. “Indian Country” defined at 18 U.S.C. § 1151,

Category: environment

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Recycling–a waste of time?

October 4, 2015
Recycling: Reaction to John Tierney’s NY Times broadside on recycling. He’s right about one thing; its not effective.

John Tierney (NYT Oct 3, 2015) writes: “You probably recycle. You probably feel good about it. Are you wasting your time? It’s still costly and inefficient. So why do we keep doing it?” He gives the following perspective to frame his argument:

“But how much difference does it make? Here’s some perspective: To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in business- or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000.”
I commented on Tierney’s Op-Ed (NYT Opinion Facebook). 
My response: Though, Mr. Tierney’s column is more than a bit biased, he raises an interesting issue about the efficacy of recycling. He’s right. It’s not efficient and its costly. But his solution? Landfills. Sorry don’t agree.
The real solution is a reformation of our approach to resources. 1. We consume far too much not to mention the monumental amounts of packaging. 2. What we consume doesn’t last very long. 3. Products are made without regard to efficiency of reuse or reconstruction or the environmental impact of their live cradle to grave life cycles. 
In love with landfills: Mr. Tierney advocates  landfills as the solution.  He ignores the environmental and nuisance problems common to landfills (talk to those living around landfills, they’ll tell you they stink. Try having a barbecue when you’re downwind of a big municipal waste landfill. And his statements about the tiny, tiny amount of crop land that would be consumed by landfills–well landfills tend to be located where people have little power to stop them, for example traditional small scale farmers whose lives and communities depend up the land. Mr. Tierney should take a second look at the issue.
Composting: Mr. Tierney’s attack on composting as smelly and verminous is totally unfounded. He is apparently oblivious to the advances that have been made even with the most challenging of materials, food wastes. Compost from food wastes is truly valuable and cost effective if done using modern systems.
The real solutions?  Recycling is a step in the path to protecting the environment and natural resources, but it is not the first; first there is reduction and second reuse. We need to design products that are truly useful, that are built to last, that are safe for the environment, and that can be reused and recycled readily. Of course all of this is tied to an economic system that has little to do with real human need, and much to do with profit.

Review of The Green Inferno by Amazon Watch and new Paul Krugman Column

September 25, 2015

Andrew Miller, Amazon Watch, Blasts The Green Inferno

I must confess I’ve not seen Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno (see Delete this Racist Movie). Just the trailers. Frankly I don’t think I could stomach watching it. It’s not just the gore but the total dissing of indigenous people as savage cannibals.  Fortunately, Andrew Miller the director of Amazon Watch’s Washington DC office, sat through the entire film.  And he didn’t even get get hazard. Hats off to Andrew. You can see his critique here.

Amazon Watch is one of the most effective organizations working to protect the rights and territories of indigenous peoples of the Amazon region of Central and South America.

Government regulation saves lives: Tired of hearing GOP Presidential Candidates calling for an end to government regulation? Take a look at Paul Krugman’s excellent in today’s NY Times, “Dewey, Cheatem & Howe.”                                  The op-ed, blasts the anti-regulators and starts off like this:


Paul Krugman, a man for all seasons. Picture from Village Voice.

.Krugman quote

But by some stroke of fate?, here is the banner add that sits atop the Editorial in the on-line version.

Blood and Oil

Reproduction of this advertisement in no way constitutes an endorsement or critique of “Blood & Oil.” Check it out, we’ll publish your review.

Delete this Racist Movie: New Eli Roth Horror Flick Depicts Indigenous People as Savage Cannibals

September 21, 2015

The Green Inferno: On September 25, this coming Friday–with Pope Francis still in the U.S.– Eli Roth’s new horror film, The Green Inferno will hit the theaters near you. The movie depicts a group of student activists who travel from New York City to the Amazon forest to “save” a tribe. When their plane crashes the tribe takes the group hostage. The members of the tribe then kill the youthful captives whom they roast, carve up and eat. All in gory detail. You can get a ?? good feel?? for the movie by viewing either the official trailer or the more lucid red version. SIGN PETITION–DELETE THIS MOVIE.

Happy students on route to a remote tribe in the rainforest.

Students on route to a remote tribe in the rainforest. (From Green Inferno trailer)

The group captures and awaits their fate.

The group is captured and awaits their fate. (From Green Inferno trailer.

The most horrible thing about the film is not the horror, but the film’s portrayal of indigenous peoples as brutal cannibals. The film is a betrayal of the truth. In reality today’s Amazon tribes could teach “the civilized world” a great deal about civility. While the corporate dominated global economy is busy usurping tribal land, destroying forests and playing roulette with the climate, indigenous peoples have sustained their communities and their biodiverse natural resources for thousands of years. For more, see the companion post. 

Critiques: Tara Houska is Ojibwe from Couchiching First Nation and a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C.. she has written a sharp critique of The Green Inferno. Here is a salient quote:

Quote from Houska T

Eli Roth: Makes $$$millions by putting out a blatantly racist film, that puts indigenous tribes at even greater risk.

Eli Roth: Thought he’d profit at the expense of indigenous peoples and their struggle to survive, but the movie is crashing at the box office. (Edit, Oct. 7, 2015)

In other words, no problem seizing lands from backward, evil savages.

Student screams for her life.

Student screams for her life. From trailer.

We also refer you to the statement by AIDESEP, The Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon, Peru’s largest indigenous coalition  composed of some 64 indigenous peoples. And this post by AMAZON WATCH.

Compare the images in Green Inferno with those from real life:

Awa’ Hunters: The Awá are one of the few remaining nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in Brazil. Their home is in the devastated forests of the eastern Amazon. Today they are hemmed in by massive agro-industrial projects, cattle ranches and colonist settlements. See Survival International Article on autonomous tribes. Photo: Fiona Watson.


Link to Petition /

Ekos-Squared Returns: New Focus: Indigenous Peoples, Guardians of Nature and Humanity

September 20, 2015

A Sarayaku village in the Amazon Rainforest region of Brazil. To get more info and see a great movie, “Children of the Jaguar, go to Chakana Chronicles.

In the coming weeks, Eko-squared will provide a series of posts on indigenous people and why their survival is of vital importance to the entire world. 

A struggle to survive: Indigenous peoples the world over are the earth’s most effective protectors of  nature; From tundra to rainforest these communities depend  on healthy ecosystems for their sustenance. They are also in a life and death struggle to survive the onslaught of development including mining, oil and gas extraction, monoculture agriculture, logging,  and hydroelectric projects. Rather than protect indigenous peoples, many governments either openly or covertly support the developers.  As a result cities large numbers of displaced tribespeople wind up living in the squalid slums in cities like Manaus in the Amazonas Province of Brazil. Many who resist have been killed. Contact with outsiders often infects indigenous peoples with diseases  with deadly consequences.

Smoke billows as an area of the Amazon rainforest is burned to clear land for agriculture near Novo Progresso, Para State. Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters. The article in the Guardian cites scientists who assert that the rainforest is losing its ability to regulate climate. Go to Guardian article.


An indigenous woman of Brazil’s Landless Movement holding her child while Amazonas state police expel them from privately owned land on the outskirts of Manaus, the heart of the Amazon, in March 2008. Social movements will become more vital as global power becomes consolidated in the hands of a few. Photograph: Reuters

A Range of  indigenous communities:  Recently there have been news reports on newly discovered tribes in remote regions of the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil’s Amazon is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere in the world. There are thought to be at least 77 isolated groups in this rainforest, according to the government’s Indian affairs department. FUNAI. See full article on Survival’s Website.

At the other end of the spectrum are indigenous peoples who have been dispossessed of their ancestral lands and forced to live in urban “favelas” or “barrios” often in poverty. In some cities (e.g. Brazil in the leadup to the World Soccer Cup (2014) have had to fight to for their homes once again.

The good news: Numerous indigenous groups are becoming technologically, politically and legally  astute, while preserving their language and traditions. A good example is the Sarayaku Kichwa people of Ecuador, who have had major successes in fending off oil companies in international courts. See Amazon Watch article on the Sarayaku. These tribes have formed inter-tribal and international  organizations such as Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA). Perhaps the most powerful and advanced indigenous peoples in Brazil are the Kayapo. Kayapo drew upon their warrior tradition to stave off loggers and miners.  See terrific article in National Geographic 

Brazilian indigenous people use computers inside a tent during the XII Games of the Indigenous People in Cuiaba November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Primitive? Although many people in the “civilized world” view indigenous societies as primitive, a closer look tells a very different story.  Indigenous peoples tend to foster cooperation within the community and a harmonious relationship with nature. Rather than being “consumed by consumption” indigenous communities hunt, gather, grow and build what they need. They don’t work for a boss, but for their families and communities. They keep their traditions including music, dance, stories, and art. What herbs are good for a sour stomach or headache? Ask the shaman.Kids with baby peccari

Awa children play with baby Peccaries.

Small scale farming. Yanomami tribesmen at work harvesting manioc.

Armenia: The oligarchs are eating the forest: SIGN THE PETITION!

May 1, 2012

Vast areas of Armenia formerly forested are now without trees. Source: Armenian Tree Project

Rampant deforestation: Armenia, located in the Caucuses Mountains Eurasia, has lost a large portion of its forests in recent decades.  In 1990, 30 percent of land was forested. Now forest covers less than 7 percent of Armenia. Logging, much of it illegal, is being carried out on a large scale — the wood being used for home heating (natural gas increasingly expensive) and export.

The Teghut mine: One of the best preserved areas of old growth trees, the Teghut forest, located in the nation’s north, is now threatened. The Armenian government has approved a major  copper and molybdenum mine in the Teghut region that will have a devastating and irreversible impact on thousands of acres of old forest, grassland, endangered plants and animals, and natural resources.  If your time is limited sign the petition here and now! If you want more info keep reading.

As shown in the photo of the logs below, clear cutting of the Teghut forest has already begun for the mine. Excavation will leave a massive open pit — 600 meters deep — with the overburden and tailings dumped into surrounding valleys (similar to mountain-top removal). The government has allocated nearly 5,000 acres to the mining company, of which about 4,000 are forested and the remaining nearly 2,000 acres are are community lands.

Economic and health impacts: The project will also have many adverse impacts on the two villages in the area, Teghut and Shnogh and traditional village economies. Toxic drainage from the mine, tailings and sediment ponds will likely contaminate ground and surface water critical for domestic use and irrigation. The deforestation is likely to result in massive soil erosion, landslides, the clogging of streams and loss of agricultural lands and a major step backwards with regard to sustainable development.

Benefits? According to project’s Environmental Impact Statement, the ore in the mine is worth more than $20 billion. Only a paltry 1 or 2 % of this wealth would benefit the public assets of the nation. (Footnote).  The big winners — the Armenian Copper Programme, part of a larger conglomerate, Vallex.

The mine company, Vallex, has promised about 1000 jobs to people in the area. Given, dire poverty and high unemployment rates, many village residents support the mine – even though the pay is low and the will last only until the ore runs out in 20 years or thereabouts. However, residents of the area are beginning to get a taste of their future with the mine. First development process is producing clouds of dust. Secondly, several people were beaten by Vallex security guards. As a result residents blocked the road to the mine area for several days until the company fired the culpable guards.

 Growing opposition to corruption and oligarchy: In Armenia an increasingly militant coalition–n has sprung up to fight the project. There is also a growing to the mine project in Armenian Diaspora – here and other in countries. Organizations in Armenia and Europe have also raised critical issues with regard to governance. In the case of Teghut, government officials were charged with embezzlement after selling massive volumes of wood and pocketing the equivalent of $12,000 (U.S).

But the issue is far bigger.  The government’s approval of the mining permit was granted without public involvement, without transparency and in violation of numerous laws and international agreements (e.g. protection of forests).  For more information go to the post on the Armenian Environmental Network (AEN) blog. For a good description of the government corruption and collusion on environmental issues see the excellent report by the Policy Forum of Armenia.   Ekos-Squared previously reported on similar rule of law issues  with regard to the commercial kiosks being built in  a Yerevan (capital of Armenia) public park. Nearly every Armenian, I’ve talked to has told of rampant corruption and the rule of a small number of oligarchical families that control major developments of natural resources.

Finally: It is essential to stop the growing trend for money to influence government decisions not only in Armenia but right here in America.


What’s at stake (left) and what Vallex and the Armenian Government plan (right).  

From the Teghut Defense Group: Pasture, and Forest

An existing open pit Sotk gold mine; mining may affect Lake Sevan.


The Armenia Connection: As readers may know, my wife Claudia and I spent two weeks (last Sep/Oct) in Armenia visiting my son Yevgeniy Cole who is serving as a Peace Corps volunteer there.   We saw quite a bit of the country, got to meet with many people in the Capital Yerevan including environmentalists, villagers, shop owners and more. Being an unabashed eco-hugger; I was immediately drawn into the issues including deforestation and waste disposal. I now serve as a member of the Advisory Board of the Armenian Environmental Network. Our trip included a visit to the Armenian Tree Project’s nursery in Karen.  ATP has planted nearly 4 million trees in rural areas, villages and cities since 1994.


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