[Point de vue de Samir Shaheen-Hussain] Resisting the violence of the Anthropocene

The author is an emergency pediatrician and assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University. He is involved in the Soignons la justice sociale collective and wrote the award-winning book No more aboriginal children torn away. To end Canadian medical colonialism (Lux Publisher, 2021).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “climate change is the greatest health threat facing humanity”. However, the false universalism of the Anthropocene concept that we discussed in these pages last Saturday not only gives the impression that « we » – all of humanity – have participated equally in the climate and biodiversity crises caused by the capitalism, colonialism and imperialism, but that we all also suffer the same consequences.

Yet the climate crisis disproportionately affects exploited countries, including coastal nations and small island states. According to the UN Refugee Agency, extreme weather events force the displacement and migration of more than 20 million people every year. “Women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people and indigenous peoples” are particularly vulnerable to these uprootings.

For centuries, the exploitation of natural resources—driven primarily by greed and/or minority power—has been a primary driver of climate change, and ecosystems and entire populations are paying the price.

To prevent millions of deaths and severe health consequences for entire populations, carbon dioxide emissions will need to be drastically reduced well before 2050. Amnesty International claims that “rich countries […] must provide reparations, including compensation” to the affected populations. Yet these rich countries, in turn influenced by billionaires and extractive companies, dominate forums like COP15 and COP27. It’s scandalous: the entities that have contributed the most to the climate and biodiversity crises are imposing the agenda to resolve them!

A proposal favored by capitalists to address the climate crisis involves a rapid transition of the global energy system from fossil fuels to renewables. An article published earlier this month in Nature Sustainability explains that among the 5,097 mining projects for critical and strategic minerals identified worldwide, more than half are on or near Indigenous territories, putting these already precarious communities at risk. Without a massive reduction in Western consumption, the “energetic transition” will therefore be a continuation of the exploitation and extraction policies of the last centuries.

A change of mind

Other « we » are much better placed to help humanity out of this Anthropocene crisis. According to Vandana Shiva, an Indian ecofeminist and world-renowned scientist, the Western approach advocating conquest and domination – of nature, but also of peoples – has its epistemological and philosophical roots in the scientific theory of the Enlightenment.

On the other hand, the approach advocated by many indigenous peoples who are on the front lines to combat the violence engendered by the Anthropocene is radically different, and necessary. Indigenous peoples make up almost 5% of the world’s population and their lands make up about 20% of the planet’s territory, but they protect 80% of all the world’s biodiversity, often at the risk of their lives.

According to Global Witness, at least 200 people are killed each year defending their land and environment from extractive forces; almost 40% of them are indigenous. In Canada, Indigenous resistance is also repressed and criminalized, even when it’s symbolic: Indigenous youth who peacefully interrupted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech at COP15 to denounce the government’s climate justice hypocrisy were surrounded and detained by the police.

Indigenous struggles for self-determination and sovereignty are intimately linked to struggles to safeguard ecosystems. During a press conference organized at COP15 by the Indigenous Climate Action group affirming the return of stolen land (“ land back ”) as a climate solution, Ellen Gabriel, artist kanien’kehá:ka and lifelong activist, stressed the importance of decolonizing our approach: “Money will not save the biodiversity of our planet. It takes a change of mind that understands interrelationship, interdependence and connection to all life, and the recognition that we are an integral part of biodiversity. »

In other words, it will become more difficult to dominate ecosystems if we understand that we are part of them. In this regard, in an interview with Guardian, Nina Gualinga, a young indigenous Kichwa leader from the Sarayaku community in the Ecuadorian Amazon, offers an enlightening perspective: “In our language, there is no word for ‘nature’ because we are nature. We can then better understand why “indigenous genocide” goes hand in hand with “ecocide”.

Intergenerational approach

On the sidelines of COP15, Ellen Gabriel castigated the greed of the capitalist free market society that is killing our planet. To oppose the hypocrisy of rich countries, she told me the importance of creating a legacy of hope for the young generations who live on this Mother Earth, and for those who will follow after.

This intergenerational approach seems essential to me. At a seminar celebrating a decade of the Idle No More movement earlier this month, Innu activist Melissa Mollen Dupuis explained how their mobilizations reflected Indigenous social structures where elders and children are put at the center: there is a promise of the younger generation to ensure that the elders are never left behind, and there is a promise from the elders to ensure the future of the next seven generations.

Ta’Kaiya Blaney of the Tla’Amin First Nation has been a land, water and climate protection activist since the age of 10. During an intergenerational conversation at COP15, she explained that she is fighting for « future generations of our people who can survive and prosper and speak our languages », but that she is not fighting « for future billionaires « .

According to Blaney, now in his twenties, the solutions to the violence of the Anthropocene are simpler than most people would like to admit: “Colonialism and capitalism must end so that future generations can survive. »

To see in video

(function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/fr_CA/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));


Back to top button