Editor’s note: THE FIRST LARGE SCALE NATURE CONSERVATION AGREEMENT (NCA) IN THE WORLD. You should be afraid, very afraid. (NCA) is a different acronym for (NGO). It is the new colonialism, green , clean and renewable. The market will not solve climate change or loss of biodiversity. The market can only cause those problems. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. Free and Informed Prior Consent and may I add control by keeping corporations out. Abolish all corporations and their money.
To the surprise of Indigenous and local communities, a huge forest carbon conservation agreement was recently signed in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
Granting rights to foreign entities on more than two million hectares of the state’s tropical forests for the next 100-200 years, civil society groups have called for more transparency.
“Is history repeating itself? Are we not yet free or healed from our colonial and wartime histories?” wonders a Sabahan civil society leader who authored this opinion piece calling for more information, more time, and a say.
This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.
“Bornean communities locked into 2-million-hectare carbon deal they don’t know about” – 9 Nov 2021, Mongabay
This was the headline Sabah woke up to on the morning of November 10th. Before the Mongabay story broke, I heard from Australian friends and allies as early as July that something was afoot. Forests, carbon, climate and communities are core to our collaborative work between civil society and government. I asked colleagues in government if they had any information but did not hear a clear response.
Over the weeks, I heard increasingly ominous whisperings. On 28 October, I received an email from international partners who had seen a Sabah deal – claimed to be signed in August – mentioned by external corporate entities in presentation materials. They were curious if I knew anything about it.
The materials were presented by Tierra Australia, Hoch Standard and Global Natural Capital (GNC) – seemingly Australian, Singaporean and Malaysian entities. Here are two slides from the 43 pages I received:
A month later, I’m still struggling to understand why and how this happened – and why we had to learn about it from outside Sabah.
Much has been revealed since then. We’ve now read numerous press articles, social media posts and reposts. We’ve seen online videos of the home offices of our new partners and footage of Hoch Standard’s Corporate Advisor Stan Golokin representing Sabah at COP26 in Glasgow, explaining carbon. We’ve read fact sheets and due diligence reports and realized that we don’t know who Sabah has signed this deal with. And some of us attended a briefing where Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan and team ‘mansplained‘ the deal to the public and civil society, after the deal was made.
But we have not heard the truth.
Read a November 24, 2021 update on this developing story here.
I identify as a community member of Sabah. I care about what happens to this tanahair (homeland) we belong to, over the next 100 years and then 100 years beyond that and onwards. I worry about whether our future communities can have food and water, and can be safe, self-determined, and sovereign. I aspire to be a good ancestor.
I, like many people in Sabah, yearn for true leadership that I can trust. I have zero tolerance for vague, unintelligible platitudes and half-truths disguised as leadership. It is an insult to our intelligence.
When will we finally stop with messiah/savior politics? With leaders who only have one tune in their repertoire – divide and rule with promises of wealth – and whose approach to fighting Federal Patriarchy, nationalism and ketuanan (patronage) involves using the exact same rhetoric? I urge us to get out of this delusional and dysfunctional trance before we lose everything and ourselves with it.
With the British North Borneo Chartered Company/Hoch Standard/Tierra Australia, is history repeating itself? Are we not yet free or healed from our colonial and wartime histories? Are we still riddled with illusions of inferiority and such self-doubt that we will step away from responsibility and sovereignty again? And hand our power, our rights, to those who have no idea who we are and what tanahair means?
Has patronage politics disempowered us and debilitated our agency? How can we stand back while discourse and democracy are replaced by silence and blind loyalty to the “lord” (Tuan, Datuk, Tan Sri, Bos, etc.)?
The more our doors are closed, the less transparent our processes become, and the wider the division between us. The more divided we are, the more future-altering decisions are made for the majority by a disconnected few. The more this is normalized, the smaller and less human we become, and more corruption breeds.
Two million hectares is more than a quarter of Sabah, two million hectares of forests is more than half our forests, 100 years is about four generations, 200 years is double that.
This is big. So big and so long that Sabahans deserve and need information and time – and a say. We do not want to be presented a gift of a done deal with bags of money (to perpetuate patronage politics); prior and open fact-sharing, communication and consultation is what we want and in fact demand from our leaders.
Many of us in the social and environmental justice and conservation fields have spent decades working on a range of issues with growing intersectionality. We have nurtured real and trusting relationships both on the ground in Sabah and out in the world. We sought and continue to seek political and societal will and ambition for an equitable, climate-resilient future for Sabah.
We collectively, and in collaboration with Sabah’s civil service, have the confidence, capacities, expertise and partnerships necessary to build a home-grown, bottom-up process: a Sabah process. We do not require the unknown services of a Tierra Australia or the benevolence of a Hoch Standard to tell us who we are, what we have and how we need to manage it.
Is it possible to salvage this moment for Sabah?
Clean up, repent, learn. Pick ourselves up and build a self-governing, sovereign carbon future for Sabah.
It’s been 10 months since I first arrived at Thacker Pass and began work to protect the land from a proposed open-pit lithium mine in earnest. Today I share this video reporting from the land and sharing reflections on where the movement to protect this place is at right now and where we are going. When we do fight, winning is not guaranteed. It takes a lot of people and a lot of hard work to even begin to have an impact.
But if we don’t fight, we will never win. We guarantee failure. Choosing to fight is important. So is fighting intelligently. Many battles are won or lost before there is any actual conflict. The preparation, planning, training, organization, logistics, and other behind-the-scenes work is where the magic happens.
I hope this video speaks to you and you find some inspiration. 🌎
Hello, everyone. For those who don’t know, I’m here at a place that’s known today as Thacker Pass. The original Paiute name for this place is Peehee Mu’huh. The history of this land has really come to light since we’ve been here.
It was January 15, that my friend Will Falk and I set up camp on this land. It was just two of us; we didn’t know if anyone would pay attention or if anything would come of it. And we still don’t know; we still don’t know if we’re going to win, we still don’t know if we’re going to protect this land, because a company called lithium Nevada plans to turn this entire landscape into an open pit lithium mine. They want to blow it up and turn it into a mine to extract the lithium and turn it into batteries.
There’s a huge booming demand for batteries–for everything from electric cars to grid energy storage to electric power tools and smartphones. Partly, this is a consequence of industry and forces that are beyond our control: powerful individuals and corporations like Tesla, Elon Musk, this company with him Nevada, and many others. And partly it’s a result of our consumer culture. Of course, these are inseparable. There’s a book called Manufacturing Consent that talks about the media, about advertising, and analyzes these systems and how they create demand.
So this entire place is under threat, and it has been under threat for a long time now. We’ve been fighting since January. We’ve been fighting in the realm of public opinion, talking to the media, making videos, writing articles, discussing the issues, educating people about the harms of this type of mining.
Mining is one of the most destructive industrial activities that humans have ever undertaken, and in fact, it goes back further than the Industrial Revolution. There are mines from the Roman Empire that are over 2000 years old, which are still toxic and poisoning the land around them. The air pollution that was released by Roman mines across Europe can still be measured in the ice in Greenland.
There’s no way around the base fact of mining: that you’re blowing up the land, destroying it, breaking into pieces, scooping it up, and taking it to turn it into products. To turn it into money ultimately.
This mine, according to the mine’s supporters, is a green mine, because this lithium will be used to build electric cars, and to build batteries to support so called green energy technologies like solar and wind. Now, I used to support these things. I used to think they were a great idea. I don’t anymore. It’s not because my values have changed. I still value the planet, I’m still very concerned about global warming, and the ecological crisis that we find ourselves in. And in fact, that’s the reason why I oppose mines like this.
Because those stories that tell us that mining a place like this will save the world are lies. They’re lies and they have been told to us in order to facilitate businesses taking land like this and destroying it and turning it into profit. This is a story that we have seen again and again, throughout the generations. The substance that’s being pulled out of the ground might be different, but for the creatures who live here, for the water, the air, the soil, the surrounding communities of humans, whether or not to oppose a mine like this is really a question of courage. Because the truth is, this is not a green mine. The Earth does not want this mine. The land, the water, the non-human species who live here–they don’t want this mine. Humans want it. And humans who are from a consumeristic, first world, wealthy nation want it, so that they can benefit from the consumer goods that would be produced.
A lot of people want to live in a fantasy and tell themselves that we can solve global warming and reverse the ecological crisis by producing millions of electric cars, and switching en masse from coal power to solar and wind and so on.
This is a lie.
And it’s the best kind of lie. Because it’s very convincing. It’s very convincing. It tells people that they can have their cake and eat it too, that they can still live this modern high energy lifestyle, that life can continue more or less as we have known it. And yet, we can fix everything, we can save the world. It’s not true, but it’s very convincing. It’s very comforting to many people.
So sometimes I feel like I’m out here just bursting people’s bubbles. A lot of people don’t want that bubble burst–they want to hang on to it. They want to hang on to it at all costs, and they will delude themselves, they will lie to themselves repeatedly. And they will lie to others to continue to have that fantasy. Because the truth is not so easy to face.
The truth is that over the last 200 years, and far longer, this culture has laid waste to the ecology of this planet. The natural world is crumbling, under the assaults of industrial culture, civilization, colonization, capitalism. Whatever terms you want to define the problem with, the issues are the same. The world is being destroyed for future generations, and nonhumans are living through an ecological nightmare right now. And it’s a nightmare of our own making. It’s a nightmare that this culture has created and perpetuates every day.
So we have to face this, like adults, like elders with wisdom, with the ability to not shy away from difficult situations. And that takes courage. It takes courage because you’re going up against not just the capitalists and the businesses, you’re going up against–in many cases–your own friends and family. You’re going up against the mainstream environmental movement. You’re going up against the Democratic Party and the progressives, and much of the socialist movement. You’re going up against a large portion of the culture. And of course you’re going up against the fossil fuel oligarchs and the old industrial elite as well.
You know, I’ve felt pretty lonely out here. It’s felt pretty lonely at times throughout this fight, when we’ve had trouble getting people to join us on the ground, when we’ve had trouble getting support. At other times that support has come and has been very strong, and people have joined us here. I hope more people will continue to join us not just here but start their own fights.
We’ve seen the fight against the lithium mine down in Hualapai territory in what’s now called Arizona ramping up after Ivan Bender came up here and visited this place and talk to us and we had some great conversations about how we’re doing it here and how we’re fighting. That’s what I want to see. That’s That means a lot to me to see that.
So it’s a beautiful night here, the sun setting, and I’m thinking about all the people who’ve worked on this campaign; the hundreds and thousands of hours that have been poured into trying to protect this land. Because if this mine goes in this place is ruined for generations. I don’t know how long but hundreds of years, at least, if it’ll ever come back, if it’ll ever be like it is now.
The Bureau of Land Management is the federal government agency that manages this land here. They’ve been lying throughout the process. They’ve been acting unethically. They’ve been harassing people, they’ve been misrepresenting the situation; misrepresenting the facts, and we think they’re violating multiple federal laws. Those laws aren’t that strong. The laws to protect this planet are not as strong as I wish they were. But they’re violating even those weak laws.
So we’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep fighting to protect this place. We’re going to keep fighting for this land. We’re going to keep fighting for what’s right. Because if you don’t, then what is your soul worth? Where’s your self respect?
You know, those are questions, we each have to ask ourselves. I can’t answer it for you. I don’t know what your life is; your situation. It’s so easy to defeat ourselves in our minds.
And the first step to any resistance; to any organizing; to any opposition like this–is to believe that we can do something about it. And the truth is we can. It’s the simple truth we can. We can change things. But if we don’t try then we’ll lose every time.
Editor’s note: This struggle continues and we will continue to cover it. Deep Green Resistance against civilization is the only way to prevail. It “will not go quietly into the night.” – William Shakespeare
The lands and livelihoods of tens of thousands of tribal people will be destroyed under Modi’s plan to open 55 new coal mines, expand 193 existing ones, and produce 1 billion tonnes of coal a year. Eighty per cent of the new mines will be on Adivasi land.
Vast areas of tribal forests are being sold off without the people’s consent. Corporations including Adani, Jindal and Vedanta are snapping up coalfields which are being auctioned as part of Modi’s coal rush.
One of the areas targeted is the priceless Hasdeo Forest in Chhattisgarh, home to twenty thousand Adivasis. Two mines are already operational there, and a third, Parsa, has just been approved. The Parsa mine will be operated by mining giant Adani, whose subsidiary was recently announced as a sponsor of London’s Science Museum.
Shakuntala, an Oraon leader from Hasdeo, said: “If the mine comes to Hasdeo forest, the entire region, including the Adivasi villages will be destroyed. The forest gives us everything we need – if the mine is opened there will be nothing left. Everything will be uprooted. The Earth is our Mother. We are the sons and daughters of the Earth. So how can we watch anyone destroy our Mother? We are ready to give our lives for Mother Earth.
“Whenever the government wants, it gives our land away for industries and coal mining. So we Adivasis are not free. We do not accept this slavery. We will give everything we have to resist this slavery: our bodies, our souls, our lives, but we will never accept it. We will not give our forests and lands away. If we do, the Adivasi existence will be lost forever.”
Phillip, an Oraon activist. His people’s land (behind him) has been sliced in two by a giant coal mine.
Phillip, an Oraon activist from Jharkhand, said: “We Adivasi people can save the Earth… but they see no value for this. They just want us to be dead… That waste dump you see behind me, that is how Modi sees us Adivasis. I want to say to Modi: You cannot sit in power long. To Adani and Ambani: big corporations like you people need to also pay attention. We Adivasi people will not just leave our lands to you. Because, if anything can save the world, it is the worldview of the Adivasi people. There is no other way. You are destroying the environment, which is Adivasi people’s life, by mining. Hear me straight: Change yourself, or nature will change you for the better.”
Athram, a Gond lawyer and leader from Andhra Pradesh, said: “Now, there is a world COP summit going on, and I want to warn the COP leaders attending the summit: You talk about environmental protection, but Adivasi people are the real protectors of the environment. The government is bringing in so many projects to destroy Adivasi people. The environment is getting destroyed. Our culture, our lifestyle and our forests are being destroyed by this government.
“The same leaders of the government go to these summits, to lie that ‘I save the environment’ and so on. How big a lie can they get away with? Destroying our communities and destroying environment by imposing destructive projects on our lands, is against the [Paris] agreement. Here you are destroying our people and there [Glasgow] you are speaking about environment protection as if you are protecting it on your own. Why are you lying like this? We Adivasis… can take care of our lands; we know how to protect it. We want our lands, our territory. Who are you? You sit somewhere in Delhi and then go to meetings like this and speak as if you are a “great environmental protector.” Don’t lie like this.”
And Mukesh, a Ho activist from Jharkhand, said: “I want to send this message to the COP leaders who are of the opinion that they can save our environment, while also continuing to push mining and industrialization. Because of mining, our forests will be deforested, our rivers silted up. If our forests and ecosystems, which are our schools, are destroyed, then our knowledge will also be destroyed. If our knowledge gets destroyed, the future of the planet will be in danger. So, that’s why, to save the planet, you have to save the Adivasi people living in their ecosystems.”
Survival recently launched, in collaboration with Adivasi representatives, its Adivasis Against Coal campaign, to press the Indian authorities to stop coal mining on Adivasi land without their consent.
Ending systems of domination: Reclaiming our bodies and politics from global trauma
By Eva Schonveld and Justin Kenrick
As the sun goes down on a system that cannot save us from itself, our only option is to bring that system to an end. But what is that system, and how do we replace it?
We begin from the understanding that systems of domination are, both, inside and between us, and that transforming social and political relations starts as much from our hearts and the personal as from the predicament of the earth, and all our societal relations. We begin from Scotland where we live, and where COP26 will yet again make grand promises but do nothing to stop us all hurtling off the climate cliff edge.
Colonization’s torment continues
Scotland has been both colonized and colonizer. Without the history of colonization of Scotland and England, there would have been no British Empire colonizing overseas. Without the vicious clearing of highland communities from their lands here, there would not have been the families desperate for food and a future, with no choice but to work for a pittance in the factories and furnaces of empire, or to fight its wars.
The mass murder wreaked by empire, the evisceration of others’ cultures and stealing of their lands, and the forced residential schooling of the youth, has viciously harmed indigenous peoples in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australasia, while being dressed up as a ‘civilizing mission’ or ‘progress’. The same is true of how this system treats the vast majority of those living precariously in the British Isles, who are told that they benefit from a system that blames them for the inequality they suffer. But do even the 1% who supposedly benefit, really benefit? Those whose empathy is broken through the boarding school system, and whose shallowness is groomed by a compliant fawning media perpetuating its life-destroying feudal, corporate and political world?
Finding a way through
It is not by chance that our system is stumbling us into extinction.
We need to find new ways to gather, to make decisions, to organize, and to take responsibility for each other, so that we can respect and nourish all life, since those tasked with this responsibility have so disastrously and inevitably failed, since the dominant system’s purpose is not to respect and nourish but to control, co-opt and exploit.
We also need to re-imagine how we rediscover, create and maintain the enduring or emergent alternatives. Too often they unintentionally include (or fail to challenge) assumptions based on our dominant lived experience of (mostly) patriarchal, racist, hierarchical cultures. The growing understanding of personal and cultural trauma – its ubiquity, its unconscious nature, its debilitating effects, and, most crucially, our ability to learn and heal from it, provide radical possibilities for uncovering and shifting those unconscious (traumatized) assumptions and for (re)discovering genuinely fresh and emancipatory ways of being and working together.
Trauma is a complex neurological process, but in brief it is the way our mind deals with events, which we experience as physically or emotionally overwhelming. These are not stored as memories, but are patterned into the nervous system: the unconscious: the body. These patterns can be ‘triggered’ when we are reminded of the initial experience. Because this triggering happens instantaneously and unconsciously, we rarely even notice that we have been plunged into an emotional state which now has little to do with what’s going on in the present.
We all accumulate some level of trauma during our childhood. This can show up in adulthood in disparate areas of life, for example public speaking, standing up for ourselves, managing our anger or coping with rejection, where we know we tend to act differently to how we would like. Dig a little into these uncomfortable feelings and the roots always lead back to childhood within a dominating system. Every one of us experiences our own versions of this, but the underlying reasons are rarely acknowledged. The socially condoned view is that because we largely forget them, these early experiences are over. In fact, unaddressed, they continue to shape our lives.
Imperialism, colonization, supremacy, stratification, capitalism… these are culture level traumas: legacies of past damage that continue to re-inflict it. They play out in the world in many forms: in the stratifications of class or caste, sexism and racism, in economic inequality, wars, biodiversity loss, climate change… and as with personal trauma, the root causes of our cultural traumas are obscured, making what are essentially breaks with reality seem absolutely normal and inevitable, at least to those experiencing it.
Power and society
This system of domination also lives inside of us, within our bodies, our emotions, our relationships, our attitudes, our social structures, the way we act towards those we see as different to ourselves, other species and the wider natural world. We can see it in the way we bring up our kids, in our family and work relationships, and also in our health, education, economic, and political systems.
The casualties of power by domination include those currently at its apex, many of whom have been through a traditional ruling class upbringing of distant or proxy parenting, separation, physical punishment and/or emotional denial combined with treats and rewards, sometimes with visibly crippling results, but intended to result in the smooth, controlled and controlling presentation of the elite. These child-rearing practices are designed to cauterize empathy in the next generation of the ruling class. This vicious cycle of unacknowledged intergenerational personal and cultural trauma, combined with a hereditary system of domination turbo charged by the neoliberal agenda over the past 40 years, is now running close to costing us everything.
Wherever any of us experience or perpetrate domination, it is traumatic and traumatizing. Our personhood, our capacity for loving connection, our innate health are defiled and traumatized by this system. The implications of this collective blind spot for our capacity to create collaborative, rather than dominating, cultures and social infrastructure is monumental: if we can’t name it, we can’t change it.
But at the same time as all this, that innate health (both personally and collectively) is still alive, active and accessible to us. And this is where hope lies. If we address the root cause of our problems – we may even yet be able to change some of our outcomes.
Changing the power dynamic
Given the rapid unraveling of the natural systems that all us living beings depend on to survive, only the deepest of change is enough. We don’t need system change, if that means some changes to this system. We need to turn the dominating system into compost that can nourish the living systems we are. Carbon emissions have never been the real problem; they are simply a consequence of the fact that our system leaves us too traumatized to act rationally, even in the face of possible extinction.
Personal and collective inner work is needed to unpick the systems of domination that play out in our bodies and psyches, in our personal and work relationships, in our organizations, our social systems, our relationships across cultures and with other species and ecosystems. Doing this difficult, often painful work is the only viable way out of this mess. Luckily, it is also the work of healing and liberation. It takes courage and determination to start, and it is not easy, but once we have begun it is a movement towards health and wholeness that brings with it increasing capacity for connection, pleasure, love and joy.
From shaming to learning
It is impossible to transform toxic power relations without venturing into the emotional realm. Without understanding and working to heal the unconscious drivers, which suppress our empathy, we inevitably end up disempowering others and ourselves, and often unintentionally replicate that which we are trying to change.
None of this is socially acceptable!
In dominating cultures we laugh at and judge harshly people who show their care too clearly – those who go to therapy (screw-ups), who show vulnerability (failures), who take care with language (politically correct) who work for the environment (tree huggers), who protest and get arrested (attention-seeking privileged, or dirty criminals), who dance (hippies), who cry (embarrassing), who try to make a difference (do-gooders).
Standing up to this can be tough, but we can support one another and know that the fact that we feel such social censure is a good indication that we’re successfully challenging the system. Transforming attempts to shame us into opportunities to learn more about the system we need to change is core to this work. We (collectively) need to be doing this work at every level: in ourselves and our relationships, in our families, in our workplaces, in our professions, in the way we do politics, education, healthcare, nature-care, but we also need to be sure that the changes we are making are genuinely coming from a different root and will give us different results.
Resisting, and trusting our guts
Much of the cultural genocide practiced during the (ongoing) colonial period was and is done by people convinced that they are acting well: freeing others from ignorance and ungodliness, bringing health, education and democracy, stimulating new markets.
So how can we tell what change is genuinely helpful?
There are no road maps, but there are processes and practices that can help guide us. Understanding how trauma works, and how to process and heal it is crucial. We know how to work with trauma in the personal mind-body. Working with trauma in our social and cultural systems is not all that different: what we know works in personal therapeutic processes we can apply out in the world.
We can bring curiosity, tenacity, compassion, generosity, sensitivity, honesty, courage, spaciousness and patience. We can look at the history and the painful triggers together. We can express and unwind our hurt, shame and loss together. We can open our hearts, practice mindfully, use our imaginations and our creativity to build new ways of doing things (pretty much everything), get comfortable with making mistakes (and learning from them), with not knowing, with showing our vulnerability, and also with showing the strength of our care.
We don’t have to shrink from hard truths. We can make a stand when we see domination in action, we can pay attention to and resist the old patterning, and we can pick ourselves up over and over again as we inevitably fail. We can apologize, make reparations. We can forgive, build relationship across all kinds of perceived differences, prioritize connection over performance, treasure the local, challenge the global, center the earth, and learn how to trust our collective guts.
We need to resist the cultural programming that says there’s nothing we can do, that those in power know best, that genuine social change is a myth. Let’s resist it by proving it wrong: facing our fears and doing it anyway. Let’s take whatever first small, wise steps we need to towards creating a world where we know and act on the truth that our well- being depends on ensuring the well-being of others, not on exploiting them.
We can’t now stop the reckoning that’s underway. We can only wake up, take responsibility, get over our egos and start working together for our collective, planetary healing. This is the ONLY work that matters now. We don’t necessarily need to change what we are doing. We simply need to do it with this in mind/ heart, in community/ society, in relationship with all.
The Sunset assembly
As the sun goes down on the 29th of October, a unique assembly will begin. It will continue for 24 hours, following the sunset around the world, passed from community to community.
Community members will speak and listen to one another from the heart. Each community will use different forms of meeting, as we collectively seek a path towards a politics of wholeness where our decisions are based on being deeply present to each other, rather than speaking at each other. Our common focus is on:
“How the system is impacting on me and my community, and how we are resisting, creating alternatives and maintaining connectedness in the face of it”
The timing is no coincidence: COP26 starts on 1st November and will be no different to the previous 25. The Climate COPs are mind-bogglingly successful at pretending they are tackling the climate crisis, while enabling the fossil fuel industry to receive billions in subsidies, emissions to rise exponentially, and corporate interests to perpetually delay real action.
Grassroots to Global, which has sparked this assembly, is working to build alternatives to our current collective decision making processes. Most of what democracy we have has been wrung from the hands of those with power who have given up only the absolute minimum amount of power they have had to in order to stay in power – most often followed by their rapidly retracting the real power to decide.
We need to rediscover enduring – and explore emerging – ways to gather, to deliberate and to decide together – developing a ‘relational democracy’ that can deepen and replace an easily captured ‘representational democracy’, and that can prevent democracies from sliding into outright authoritarianism.
Enabling the future
This is an ongoing area of exploration (you can read early thinking on that here and here) and will continue to develop as we learn through processes like Reworlding and the Sunset Assembly. Some essential elements of such relational decision-making processes include:
Building relationship: Ensuring all groups are included, specially those that are marginalized – ideally as partners in developing processes – to ensure the whole picture is addressed and that everyone is included. Given experiences of co-option and marginalization, people may start out skeptical, and the proof of inclusion will be in the practice not the promise.
Dealing with power: Having strategies for managing those who are conditioned to take, or give away, personal power, e.g. ensuring those used to speaking, to listen; and, those used to listening, to speak.
Centering empathy: Having strong input to support the development of relational skills e.g. listening, confidence, self-reflection and expression, emotional self-management, empathy.
Addressing trauma: Dealing early and well with conflict and trauma responses when they are triggered, and taking a transformative approach to trauma, reactivity and conflict (they are complex, nuanced and full of incredibly useful information) while also maintaining safety to ensure care for anyone re-experiencing trauma, and to limit triggering of others.
We have to become slow and deep enough to swiftly make the fundamental changes that are needed.
It is not our humanity that is the problem; it is an inhumane system of appropriation and exploitation that persuades us to rely on it for our survival and well being, while it devours both. Our wellbeing can only ever rely on ensuring, not exploiting, the well-being of others.
From few to many, we are everywhere
Groups who will join the Sunset Assembly include:
a diverse group of people from the Andes, the Amazon and the coast in Peru
a group in North Sulawesi, Indonesia who will be opening with a sunset ritual held by Minahasa elders
elders from West Papua reflecting on the devastation of palm oil and other colonial impacts
the Ogiek of Mount Elgon in Kenya, who are holding over part of a wider community meeting so that it can happen within this assembly
And more, including from Aotearoa, Scotland, Australia . . .
Alongside these assembly-holding groups, anyone from anywhere in the world is invited to join as witnesses at any point. Witnesses are invited to deeply experience and listen to the holding groups. We believe witnessing is an active process in which attention and intention make a real difference to the process.
In between each section, we will hold a “Sharing Circle’ which is open to all, taking turns to speak for a few minutes each, speaking from the heart without the need to prepare, bringing our own feelings and reflections, and hearing other Witnesses’ voices.
We hope this can be the beginning of a whole-globe check-in. If you would like to participate as a witness, please sign up here.
Beyond the sunset, we aim to hold a Sunrise Assembly after COP, hopefully joined by many new collaborators, focusing on how communities can gather locally and trans-locally to make heart-centered decisions, and so take responsibility for the future in a way that can replace a global decision-making system that is paralyzed by its own trauma.
These around-the-world assemblies are sparked by Grassroots to Global, building on the Reworlding gathering. Our river is joining with many others on different versions of the same journey, and we encourage everyone who is not already engaged to explore and develop their own streams of inspiration, so we can flow together towards a politics of wholeness, which confronts and overcomes the very real obstacles in our way.
Eva Schonveld is a climate activist, process designer and facilitator, supporting sociocratic system development, decision-making and facilitation. She co-founded Starter Culture and is currently working on Grassroots to Global, a project which asks: can we co-develop a more empathic, democratic, political system which could connect internationally in a global assembly to address the root causes of climate change?
Justin Kenrick co-founded Heartpolitics, is a Quaker, and trained in Buddhist psychotherapy. He is an anthropologist and a Senior Policy Advisor at Forest Peoples Programme where he works for community land rights in Kenya and Congo. He is a director of Life Mosaic, and also works on land reform in Scotland. He lives in Portobello, Edinburgh, where he chairs Action Porty which undertook the first successful urban community right to buy in Scotland. He writes in many contexts , and was on the Stewarding Group of the Scottish Government’s Climate Citizens Assembly which XR Scotland campaigned for but ultimately had to leave.
– that governments “fully respect, protect and uphold Indigenous peoples’ land and forest rights, respect collective customary land and forest use by local communities, to ensure protection of that land in accordance with their wishes” as the primary means of protecting the world’s biodiversity
– “Governments and conservation organisations must acknowledge the huge toll that strictly protected conservation areas have taken on the lands, livelihoods and rights of many communities worldwide; they must make concrete plans for reparations of past wrongs, including through transferring control back to the historical and local guardians”
– “High income countries… must cease funding conservation programmes which destroy local people and livelihoods, including by failures of FPIC, irrespective of whether this is intentional or not.”
The manifesto calls for “a conservation model that fights against the real causes of environmental destruction and is prepared to tackle those most responsible: overconsumption and exploitation of resources led by the Global North and its corporations.”
The demand for a radical change to the current model of conservation has grown louder in recent months. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment released a strongly-worded policy brief in August, arguing that achieving environmental goals “demands a dramatic departure from ‘conservation as usual’.” His brief calls instead for a radically different, rights-based approach.
Many organizations and institutions, however, claim to endorse these calls while simultaneously promoting aggressive “fortress conservation” projects. The European Commission, for example, talks in its Biodiversity Strategy of “strengthen[ing] the links between biodiversity protection and human rights … and the role of indigenous peoples and local communities” – but continues to fund conservation projects in Africa that exclude them.
Likewise, 150 NGOs recently published an open letter calling on world leaders to put human rights at the centre of environmental policy – but the group included WWF, whose “secret war” of funding “vicious paramilitary forces” has been the subject of multiple media exposés and human rights investigations.
Fiore Longo, head of Survival’s Decolonize Conservation campaign, said today: “Most governments and NGOs these days are good at producing nice-sounding rhetoric about respecting Indigenous rights. But the same people are promoting a massive drive to create new Protected Areas on Indigenous lands as part of the 30×30 plan that constitutes the biggest land grab in world history.
“We can see the same pretence in calls for Nature-Based Solutions to climate change. These are really just a new spin on what used to be called carbon offsets. They’ll allow Indigenous lands to be bought and sold, in order to permit the world’s most polluting companies to carry on polluting.
“Only the full recognition of Indigenous peoples’ land ownership rights will prevent them from continuing to be the sacrificial victims of fortress conservation and Nature-Based Solutions. It’s also a key step in addressing the biodiversity and climate change crises.”
‘Our Land, Our Nature’. The conservation industry has a dark side rooted in racism and colonialism that destroys nature and people.