Indigenous Leader: “We’re fighting NOT to have roads or electricity.”

Editors note: in her book Solar Storms, the Chickasaw writer Linda  Hogan describes the changes that come with electrification of a rural indigenous community:

In a split second, the world changed. Even the migratory animals, who flew or swam by light, grew confused… once seen, it could  easily have become a need or desire.

With the coming of this light, dark windowless corners inside human dwellings now showed a need for cleaning or paint. Floors fell open to scrutiny. Men and women scrubbed places that had always before been in shadow. Standing before mirrors, people looked at themselves as if for the first time, and were disappointed at the lines of age, the marks and scars they’d never noticed or seen clearly before. I, too, saw myself in the light, my scars speaking again their language of wounds. But it seemed the most impressive to those who had not long ago used caribou fat or fish oil to fuel their lamps…

…those who wanted to conquer the land, the water, the rivers that kept running away from them. It was their desire to guide the waters, narrow them down into the thin black electrical wires that traversed the world. They wanted to control water, the rise and fall of it, the direction of its ancient life. They wanted its power…

One smart village of Crees to the east of us rejected electricity. They wanted to keep bodies and souls whole, they said. Some of the Inuits said if they had electricity then they’d have indoor toilets and then the warm buildings would thaw the frozen world, the ground of permafrost, and everything would fall into it. They saw, ahead of time, what would happen, that their children would weaken and lose heart, that the people would find no reason to live.”

Many people, even leftists, still assume that so-called “development” is a positive thing. We at Deep Green Resistance, and many indigenous people and critics of modernity, disagree. Civilization and development are destroying the planet and impoverishing human culture. The costs of development far, far outweigh the benefits.

“UNITED NATIONS (AP) — To hear Ati Quigua tell it, New York City is a place where people who don’t know each other live stacked inside big buildings, gorging on the “foods of violence,” and where no one can any longer feel the Earth’s beating heart.

Quigua, an indigenous leader whose village in Colombia sits on an isolated mountain range rising 18,700 feet (5,700 meters) before plunging into the sea, is just one of over 1,000 delegates in town for the 15th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that ends Friday.

“On top of the temples of the goddess and Mother Earth, they are building castles, they are building cities and building churches, but our mother has the capacity to regenerate,” Quigua said. “We are fighting not to have roads or electricity — this vision of self-destruction that’s called development is what we’re trying to avoid.”

Read the full article on the Associated Press website.

Image by atiquigua, CC BY 4.0

5 thoughts on “Indigenous Leader: “We’re fighting NOT to have roads or electricity.””

  1. Great story, couldn’t agree more. Modern humans like us are so lost that it would take hundreds of years for the entire society to give up stuff like electricity, but it’s the direction we should be going.

  2. While I fully agree with the need to destroy industrial civilization, there are two factors that appear unlikely to permit it — even if industrial society itself were to be defeated: (1) Those who have only known civilization wouldn’t know how to put the genie of technology back into the bottle. We’d all want to keep something different — whether it be green electrical power, telephones, sterile surgery, eyeglasses, firearms, or bicycles. And (2), people who have not known civilization lack the means to teach their way of living to the world.
    One glimmer of light: Rather than trying to convince the masses to give up civilization for the good of the planet, we must teach them how to survive naturally, and to realize that indigenous living is not only possible — but essential and desirable, too.
    Though resources such as the U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook are useful guides to surviving in the wild until help arrives, the book that really made me feel I could survive off the land permanently was “Native American Survival Skills,” by Ben Hunt. (Another of similar quality is “Survival Skills of the Native Americans,” edited by Stephen Brennan.)
    The more people who become familiar with such resources, the more likely we are not only to show westernized tech junkies that there is a truly sustainable way of living, and to want it, learn it, and to return humans as a whole to living in a non-industrial world.
    In a word: Before people will accept the argument for blowing up dams, they must know how to produce light, heat, and water without dams.

  3. @Mark Behrend
    Why do you say that “people who have not known civilization lack the means to teach their way of living to the world”? I see no problem with traditional indigenous people teaching everyone else how to live properly on the planet.

    You failed to consider that with almost 8 billion people on Earth and with most natural land and wildlife now gone, the vast majority of us cannot live as hunter-gatherers at this time. That’s a very long-term goal that will take thousands of years to achieve, regardless of how badly some of us would like to see it immediately. We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and we’re not getting out of it overnight either. So despite how good some survival books or ideas might be, they simply won’t work if too many people try to use them (you couldn’t get many people to give up living in modern society immediately anyway).

    Regardless of what Deep Green Resistance or anyone else thinks, getting rid of industrial society will take 150-200 years and will need to include a great lowering of human population by birth control, and getting rid of civilization will take thousands of years. This must happen incrementally, because people are not going to make radical changes overnight.

    We can all dream of a world with far fewer humans and everyone living in balance with their ecosystems as hunter-gatherers, but in reality humans are so far from that scenario that there’s no chance of it happening in anything but the distant future. For now, we should be doing things like promoting education & empowerment of women and girls (at least a college education, preferably PhDs) and limiting families to one biological child, while advocating for walkable communities and getting people to organize their lives so that they don’t have to drive regularly and then give up their cars. These are doable things and are realistic, even though those of us advocating for them would be in a small minority. But going from this society to a natural hunter-gatherer one overnight is just not realistic.

  4. Unfortunately, we have neither a thousand, two hundred, nor even one hundred years to make the necessary transition back to sustainable, natural living. And the relative handful of indigenous people still living that lifestyle can’t teach us their ways because they’re off the grid.
    Techno-man, on the other hand, is in cities, destroying our few remaining resources as if the objective of capitalism were to use up the world as soon as possible.
    At the current rate of squander and global poisoning, the tech way of life on which most of us rely will grind to a halt in this century, due to some combination of resource depletion and toxicity.
    And yet, given the values society has inherited from thousands of years of human supremacist religious dogma, our “leaders” still demand perpetual growth (i.e., cancer of the world), when simple arithmetic tells us that radical, systematic contraction is our one chance of survival.
    Regretably, the only realistic hope for one-child families appears to be our plunging sperm count, brought on by some combination of microwave exposure, plastic ingestion, pesticides, herbicides, and the other marvels of modern civilization.
    We continue increasing our population and destroying topsoil, forests, rivers, and oceans as if this were a global decree, when an intelligent people would be demanding and doing the exact opposite.
    One of my few criticisms of DGR is that it downplays the fact that either business as usual OR rapidly bringing it to a halt will cause billions of deaths, as human numbers crash into the inevitable scarcity of resources. Such is the corner that industrial man has painted himself into.
    Given that we are, on balance, the most destructive species that ever lived, our extinction would be the best thing that could happen to Earth.
    Our only real asset is our moral sense, which rarely carries the day. The few who live by Chief Seattle’s philosophy of honorable subordination to Nature are the only humans who can justify their existence. And whether we survive or not, we owe it to them and the world they honor to devote our lives to THEIR survival.

  5. @Mark Behrend
    We basically agree. My point is that it doesn’t matter how long we have to fix things, it only matters what’s realistically doable. Many things that humans break can’t be fixed, starting with extinctions. All we can do is do our best and try to do the right things. If that doesn’t work, oh well, at least we tried. But we have to be strategic in what we do, and calling for everyone to give up industrial living and live as hunter-gatherers immediately is simply very bad strategy, because is has no chance of succeeding. We could do relatively immediate Band-Aid fixes, like putting solar panels on all roofs and switching to electric vehicles powered by solar panels, but as people like us know, changing to less harmful technologies will at best only buy us a little time.

    As to DGR downplaying the likely deaths of a lot of people, I don’t think that they do that. People like us just don’t care basically. I can be as sentimental as anyone, but when I think of what humans have done to the Earth and all that lives here, the deaths of billions of people caused by nature would be a cause for celebration if anything. Humans as a whole will eventually (in geological time) get what they deserve even if some don’t deserve it, and what they deserve is to be wiped out.

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