As we celebrate Earth Day, we, the Indigenous Peoples, cry with the Earth’s groans as humanity continues to push her to the limits. We cry for our children who will inherit this Earth destroyed by the greed of those in power.
Recent occurrences have shaken again our country. The scorching heat now felt by many farmers, the successive earthquakes, and the unexpected flooding in other regions are indicators that instead of healing Nature, they have exacerbated its condition.
While scientists are still trying to disprove the relatedness of earthquakes and climate change, we who have relied for generations on the signs of Nature for our decisions know how everything is interrelated. The heating of the world, the extreme coldness of some places, all these irregularities brought on by climate change have agitated the natural processes that would have taken several years to happen but now occur almost daily.
Decision-makers in our society refuse to see these—they in their air-conditioned offices, their feet enveloped in thick layers of leather and rubber. They do not feel this so much in their closed cars as they zip through the dust and mud that are mere inconveniences for them.
Man manipulated Nature, disrupting cycles that are the life energies of the Earth. We, whose lives are connected to the earth, have protected nature with our simple lifestyles and traditions. And yet for this we have been persecuted.
We have been called illegal settlers in our own territories, our cyclic hunting and traditional farming following the slash-and-burn techniques deemed illegal and harmful to the environment by governments who know nothing of our ways. We have been called terrorists, state enemies when we barred companies from entering our domains, allegedly sabotaging development initiatives of the country.
This while they squander our resources by giving rights to companies to plunder our lands. Companies who do not feel the pulse of the Earth, who do not hear the yells for help as they drill holes into the core of Nature, as they denude its surface and expose it to the chemicals and waste their operations emit.
In Northern Mindanao, instead of allowing us to determine our own path of development, we have been evicted from our rich territories in favor of industrial monocrop plantations whose sediments have ruined our water systems and whose foliage are not enough to protect the earth from the extreme heat also worsened by factories that process these crops.
We challenge the people who are safely sheltered in their homes, convenient in their controlled environment, to go out and see for themselves what the activities of the plunderers of the environment have wrought on our planet. We may feel it more because of our bare lifestyles. Nature does not know social and economic boundaries.
Our fight for our lands and territories is a fight for Mother Earth, for our future generations.
Jomorito ‘Datu Imbanwag’ Goaynon
Chairperson, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization
[Photo taken from the Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies (www.miils.org) from the photo essay of Mae Lucille A. Bayron & Karlai F. Tabimina]