Italian Another Amazonian environmental activist was murdered last week. Eduardo Mendúa, a member of the A’i Cofan people of Ecuador, was shot in the chest twelve times by hooded gunmen in front of his wife while they were working in their garden. Rather than call him an environmental activist, I will call Eduardo Mendúa a forest protector. He was working to block the latest expansion of oil drilling in tribal land: an oil access road extension that would allow new drilling in the region’s last remaining intact rain forest.
Thanks for this. I am in your group and a longtime activist living in Ecuador since 2010, founder of a mostly latino, artist eco-community since 2012 (chambalabamba.org).
The indigenous have been kept in poverty, abused, and their lands contaminated for far too long. When is enough, enough? The problem is the corrupt government (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oilxI6Dgoy8&t=5s), and like you say, the huge debt. Horizontal governance must be radically transparent and it is virtually incorruptible. It is a strategy/solution. It puts the power back into the hands of the people.
Most people have never thought of this idea. But once the indigenous and campesinos unite with this demand, the public will begin to become informed and then perhaps a referendum could be held. It is an ambitious strategy, and we are in touch with all of the indigenous and the campesinos and awaiting their responses to this strategy to restructure the government from vertical to horizontal (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wywMhg604W8).
In addition, some activists from Vilcabamba helped the Shuar just recently to annul a terrible agreement their president (now x president) made with Amazon One, a company that Bill Gates is involved in, after the x-president was paid $100,000. Through the help of the Vilcabamba activists (I was one), the former president lost the election and the agreement was annulled. This was just a few weeks ago.
Now, the pres. of Ecuador is under impeachment, just recently. Some indig. nations are thinking of disassociating from Ecuador. But what would be the best solution would be the restructuring to horizontal, which could take place in one day. Nothing would initially be different. The main difference is that the people making the decisions will be the people involved and not some corrupt authority. And of course, extreme transparency is essential.
You could help Charles, by letting your extensive influential contacts to become aware of this as a way for humanity to begin escaping from the mortal grip of the controllers. What is your opinion?
It's interesting that what struck me the most is that it was ME that killed this forest protector because of MY lifestyle that depends heavily on petroleum to continue living the comfortable life that I live and for creating the demand for the resources that are stripped out of the forests that Eduardo was attempting to protect. The gunmen were only the ones that we sent to pull the trigger to clear the way to get what our flesh craves despite that our spirit and soul despise what happened.
I don't want to be pessimistic AND reality is that nobody is going to do anything about this tragedy because most people are just like you and me and people like you and me aren't going to stop driving cars to work or using Solvents, Diesel fuel, Motor Oil, Bearing Grease, Ink, Floor Wax, Ballpoint Pens, Football Cleats, Upholstery, Sweaters that explains the itchy sweater I have at home), Boats, Insecticides, Bicycle Tires, Sports Car Bodies, Nail Polish, Fishing lures, Dresses, Tires, Golf Bags, Perfumes, Cassettes, Dishwasher parts, Tool Boxes, Shoe Polish, Motorcycle Helmets, Caulking, Petroleum Jelly, Transparent Tape, CD Player (do people still have these?), Faucet Washers, Antiseptics, Clothesline, Curtains, Food Preservatives, Basketballs, Soap (that explains why soap doesn’t clean oil off your hands), Vitamin Capsules, Antihistamines, Purses, Shoes, Dashboards, Cortisone, Deodorant Footballs, Putty. Dyes, Panty Hose, Refrigerant, Percolators, Life Jackets, Rubbing Alcohol, Linings, Skis, TV Cabinets, Shag Rugs, Electrician’s Tape, Tool Racks, Car Battery Cases, Epoxy, Paint, Mops, Slacks, Insect Repellent, Oil Filters, Umbrellas, Yarn, Fertilizers, Hair Coloring, Roofing, Toilet Seats, Fishing Rods, Lipstick, Denture Adhesive, Linoleum, Ice Cube Trays, Synthetic Rubber, Speakers, Plastic Wood, Electric Blankets, Glycerin, Tennis Rackets, Rubber Cement, Fishing Boots, Dice, Nylon Rope, Candles, Trash Bags, House Paint, Water Pipes, Hand Lotion, Roller Skates, Surf Boards, Shampoo, Wheels, Paint Rollers, Shower Curtains, Guitar Strings, Luggage, Aspirin, Safety Glasses, Antifreeze, Football Helmets, Awnings, Eyeglasses (I thought they were made from glass), Clothes, Toothbrushes, Ice Chests, Footballs, Combs, CD’s & DVD’s, Paint Brushes, Detergents, Vaporizers, Balloons, Sun Glasses, Tents, Heart Valves, Crayons, Parachutes, Telephones, Enamel, Pillows, Dishes, Cameras, Anesthetics, Artificial Turf, Artificial limbs, Bandages, Dentures, Model Cars, Folding Doors, Hair Curlers, Cold cream, Movie film, Soft Contact lenses, Drinking Cups, Fan Belts, Car Enamel, Shaving Cream, Ammonia, Refrigerators, Golf Balls, Toothpaste (Yuck), and Gasoline just to name a few.
You see, Eduardo's murder, was a death of a thousand cuts. Unfortunately, we are left holding the knife.
Both of your posts this week challenged me to think differently about how to engage with the wider world. I tend to stay insulated from news of all kinds, despite a long-standing interest in indigenous rights, ancient cultures, and societal change. It's just too difficult to keep my own "spirits" in a good place when I focus on all that is so terribly wrong. Your invitation to view the pictures of men in the Ecuadorian prison without judgement for anybody, and your reporting on the murder of another forest protector actually give me a kind of hope. Hope that our collective consciousness IS shifting toward compassion for our fellow humans AND for the land. I still won't be looking at news, too much, but I will be planning my local cultural and agricultural activities despite the 4 feet of snow still covering my field and gardens and blizzards that cancel my music lessons weekly. And I'll hope to remain without judgement for all of us as we negotiate our way out of the mess that extractive attitudes impose on our way of living on the planet. Thank you for the perspective. It's essential to our current and future well-being. I read about a South-American Tribe, maybe the Tupinamba, maybe not, who say of their families "we are sick" when an individual is not well. May we all begin to recognize the sanity of this frame of mind and notice that if any of us are sick, then we are all sick, and put our minds, bodies, and spirits to the work of healing.
My heart breaks for the whole world when I think about how we convert everything innocent, natural, and beautiful into "capital." Capitalism as it is at this point in time is extractive and destructive. I don't care what its original intent may or may not have been. The fruits of capitalism are there for all to see. This story is just one more example of this system being rotten to the core. We definitely need creativity and imagination to tell a better story here.
Thank you deeply for taking the time to research and share the larger story around this. It feels much better to both understand the background and the possible resolution.
I also feel that while these are good and viable answers, they are probably impossible while the privileged world is still working from such a place of personal deficiency. Meaning- only feeling powerful (important, valuable et al) when taking power from another.
Forgiving debt to these countries is akin to giving them back their power. It would allow these fellow humans to begin to flourish in their potency and vibrancy. It would give them a position of power and stewardship which would threaten the underdeveloped consciousness of humans in current “power positions”.
My question is : how can we initiate the individual healing of people in decision making roles so that they feel personally safe, valuable and worthy regardless of their title, role, bank account, position?
No one is able to give if they are already in scarcity.
And if they end up doing it in one area, they will need to re-fill the hole from another areas.
How can we nurture humans back to their innate wholeness so that they don’t need outside circumstances to make them feel viable and valuable?
I don’t believe the root of the problem is really just money. I believe people are equating money and position with their personal value/worth.
I understand it is huge and maybe not fast enough. And we need fast results.
But then, given the tools and the understanding everyone can heal inside a lifetime… if if if they are willing.
Can we nurture willingness?
If we heal these individual holes, then we have a fullness from which the desire for balance and human connection becomes the natural outcome.
I have less answers than I would like around how this is done. I am taking personal responsibility for mine and hope it will free up space in my
mind and heart for answers and opportunities to flow in.
Like you, I don’t feel like filling those spaces with anger and blame - not because I’m not angry and not because I don’t see who is to blame- but because I don’t want to define myself in a polarized opinion that may blind me from open contemplation and new roads of opportunity and, hopefully, efficacy.
I’m going to hop on here, I’ve spent a lot of time in Ecuador, from my angle it sums up alot of the complexity we don’t often hear about including the ties to the IMF.
Secondly, I would LOVE to see a follow up Charles about FairyCreek on Vancouver Island. This is the (second) biggest “act of civil disobedience” in Canadian history, yet most Canadians have no idea about the protest or the old growth, the financing for the RCMP to dismantle on behalf of the private logging company, the violence, the unseeded territory much of it is on. Why, when there is so much second logging ready nee growth are they clearing lands of trees so large they end up as chip...maybe some insight on docile “socialized” Canadian culture.
This is playing out in different ways all over. Whether to extract resources or to make way for more easily (this is a hunch) monitored and commodified lands.
Thanks for this heartbreaking story of a man who gave his life in service to save the forest. More and more, Charles, I think that the ideas you write about so eloquently in Sacred Economics are what we all need to take up as seriously as we can, in our own places, at our own levels. I constantly think about the ideas in that book. I absolutely agree that the Scarcity/Slavery Based Economy is a huge driver of the destruction. In fact, it's so clear to me that I often feel like it has to be obvious to everyone (It's not) ! Wendell Berry is also writing about this in his new book, "The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice". It goes all the way up to big economic systems, and all the way down to, for example, Mr Berry's family history in Kentucky, and our own particular family histories. In the US, it absolutely involves the larger family history of understanding the (unfinished) Civil War, which brought about the dominance of industrialism and forced explicit racism underground (but preserved all the controlling elements of the slave economy). I'm also in favor of stopgap measures that will work to preserve what can be preserved. But I also agree with you that the mindshift and heartshift needed for true healing is complete and total. Every single one of us has to, in our own way, as we feel we can, let go of control and give in to service.
Thank you so much for writing this. The only time I’ve travelled outside of Canada except for going over the boarder close to where I live, was to Ecuador about five years ago. I went to do plant medicine with the Shaur but the Shaman didn’t speak English and I have zero Spanish but the whole thing was an incredible experience so much so I wanted to go home shortly after but I’d booked a month there because I’d never been to place like that before. So I travelled by myself for weeks in busses and staying in hostels and sometimes bus stations. The people and the way they share among themselves and the way people helped me over and over just by us noticing each other is not something I I’m used to in Canada. It’s a different world and I talked to people about the currency collapse situation in 2000 and how it effected them and I talked to American ex pats who have bought property and are living around Villacambamba. I can understand what you are talking about. And I believe the Shaur people understand also. But it was something to experience the power of the American dollar even if I would be considered a poor person in North America. Many people live like my grandparents lived when they came to Canada well before the age of of petrochemicals.
40 years of fighting the logging insanity here in western wa state has shown me at the end of the day it is not really about the money in regards to rampant resource 'extraction'. Or at least only peripherally. It is fundamentally about power, control and domination. Our tax dollars have subsidized unsustainable logging and other industries for generations, both at home and abroad. There are guys who run the logging industry who have a real hard on for cutting down old growth trees. I have witnessed this over and over, both at the top and at the bottom of the industry. They literally go to war with the forest. This is deep primal archetypal stuff . By destroying the forest they force any holdout communities to assimilate and be brought into the fold. They also feel empowered and righteous in conquering 'the wilderness' and thus overcome the fear so many have of the deep dark mysterious and unknowable wild. And no, an ordinary person forced to use fossil fuels to survive is not the problem. It they don't cut the forest down for oil, the PTB's will cut it down to burn the trees directly to fuel electric plants and call it renewable 'biofuels' , or they will destroy the forest to plant corn for ethanol, or they will build a dam that floods the forest or cut the trees to install hundreds of acres of wind turbines. etc etc. It is the forest itself they see as needing to be tamed. It is Mother Earth herself who must be conquered. And well the Mayans destroyed the rainforest around them 6,000 years ago to build their own empire. Those wonderful stone temples we ooh and ah over were built at a huge environmental and human rights expense. We think we are in a new story, but this is a very old one. Decentralized living close to nature that is sustainable for eons vs centralized empire building which eventually consumes it's own young and dies a horrible death.
Thank you for exposing this gaping wound in the body of our Mother Earth and in the soul of our modern civilization Charles.
As I outlined in this article https://gavinmounsey.substack.com/p/the-rise-of-anthropocentrism-bright
(and as you have repeatedly pointed out in your writings about the age of separation and the commodification of nature/relationships) what we are witnessing now all around us is just the leading edge of the sword in a war that humans began waging on nature centuries (in fact, in many cases millennia) ago. The faces and names of those wielding that sword may have changed slightly, but the mentality and momentum behind it have only increased in their intensity in recent decades. Instead of soldiers mass murdering villages and slaughtering millions of buffalo so they can steal land and then extract ‘resources’ from the land, we now have a corrupt judicial system and corporation/bankster captured governments, covert wet-work teams and corporate hitmen, the militarization of the police and unleashing their propaganda tools to pacify the resistance so the bulldozers and refineries can move in to turn the living Earth into dead products (which people will then throw in a big garbage heap a few years later).
Even in the early 90-s (before the internet) this method of perpetuating the pillaging and corporate profiteering was very effective. My grandparents (restaurant owners and artists that lived on a small island near Vancouver Island) did their part to stand up to corporate tyranny and anthropocentrism by laying down in front of heavy machinery and chaining themselves to 900 year old Douglas Fir trees in the rainforest of Vancouver island. They were not murdered like the man described in your essay above, here in the west the corporations try to avoid using such tactics. Rather the RCMP were weaponized by corporate lawyers and my grandparents were arrested several times (along with hundreds of others). Though their efforts managed to protect small patches of that ancient forest, 30 years later, when the armies of corporate lawyers using legal loopholes and corrupt police overwhelmed the current forest protectors, now this is happening https://thenarwhal.ca/bc-old-growth-forest-vancouver-island-caycuse/
Does this mean I suggest we should give up hope and that my grandparent's and Eduardo Mendúa's valiant efforts have not made a difference? No, for even given the extremely grim situation we are currently facing, that does not negate the value of using one’s free will and one’s moments on this Earth to defend life, to stand up and give a voice to those that cannot speak for themselves and to choose hope, courage, love and peace in the face of fear, hubris, anthropocentrism, apathy, violence and cowardice.
Each choice we make leaves a mark, not only in the lives of those we share this world with (as my grandparents did with their courageous and selfless actions, inspiring me to learn from nature, explore and protect wilderness places and to write a book about gardening and creating in the kitchen, and as Eduardo Mendúa's choices will inevitably inspire many) but perhaps more importantly, each choice we make leaves a mark on our soul. Regardless of what happens in this life on the Earth, each time we choose love and courage over fear and apathy, and each time we choose to plant seeds and do that which is life affirming, rather than capitulating to the pressures of our sick materialistic and anthropocentric modern mainstream culture, we are enriching a part of our selves that we will carry with us always, beyond this life, beyond space and time, to a place one might call ‘home’.
Perhaps we (with our limited human brains) cannot fathom the meaningful ways in which our efforts to protect the natural world and stand up for our fellow beings will be supported by forces beyond our comprehension and (as you suggested in your past writings) we will we will find that “A Path Will Rise To Meet Us”, or perhaps the tremendous momentum of the corporate plutocracy (and billions of humans that have adopted an anthropocentric worldview who are feeding into it) will overwhelm even the most courageous and most cunning forest protectors.
Either way, for me personally, with regards to standing up to protect the forests, creating intentional communities, community gardens, food forests and regenerative residential gardens, it all boils down to “how do I want to spend the remaining time I have on the Earth?”.
Thus, I choose to stand up for life, to speak truth when it is uncomfortable, to expose wounds so they can be fully healed and to take steps to withdraw my support from giving energy to the global corporate monstrosity that relentlessly works to transform the living world into dead products, money and more humans.
I feel that given the obvious atrocities and ecological devastation that is being caused by the Cobalt, Tantalum, Tungsten, and Lithium mining we who honor the sacredness of all life and the sacredness of the few remaining wilderness places are going to have to make some sacrifices in the comforts we have become accustomed to. Those that wish to walk a path guided by any kind of honest moral compass (including but not limited to the permaculture ethical imperative of People Care-Earth Care-Future Care) are going to have to make some hard choices in the coming years if we want our actions to continue to align with the principles we espouse and claim to live by.
I recommend Guardians of the Trees by Kinari Webb for the process she used and the solutions that resulted. Eye opening, surprising, and hopeful.
One more observation.. although I was only there for a month I didn’t see anything that compares to the mental illness and homelessness I see in my community in Canada. And people are young in Ecuador… there’s always a wild card in the deck.
heartbreaking. all the reasons this is happening and what needs to be done to stop it are valid. but as brian g mentioned it is ultimately the mindshift and the heartshift of every being that is necessary. for a profound change....perhaps we will reach the 100th monkey figure and sanity, love and peace will prevail. speaking of love and peace and sanity. marianne williamson will be running for president in 2024.
Excellent work, and thank you 🙏🏻 With but few exceptions, if any, this same story has played out, or is playing out, globally. Between the Civil War and 1890 the state of Michigan was literally clear cut of its forests; it was called the Northwest Territory then. Not long after governments came in and drained the land for better farming. Now the government protects the pothole in my driveway as a “wetland.” Of course we committed genocide of the indigenous in the process. What we call “civilization” is anything but. We are a weak people now, totally dependent on fossil fuels, electricity, large scale food and water systems, etc. These systems are a matter of life and death for billions. It’s pretty much like Morpheus said, “humans are a virus,” and we are hellbent on killing the host.
Well, this is a stunning text, in its clarity and intelligence, I am definitely going to spread it far and wide.
By destroying the petro dollar and babylonian bankster system, this will open the way.