Opinion Editorial Archive March, 2020: Self Preservation

opinion editorial
Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

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Loss of biodiversity, both plant and animal species, is happening faster than it ever has. The rate of that loss is also accelerating. Yet there are some areas in the world where this is not the case. Those areas are inhabited and/or protected by indigenous people.

In fact, when backed by political and financial will, traditional Indigenous Knowledge is proving to be the key to actually restoring biodiversity. Unfortunately, though, success stories are currently the exception; the rule is that land and other resources are being stripped away from indigenous people in the name of what we call development. This leads not only to loss of culture but also to loss of heritage and identity. A case of this happened just last month when land considered sacred to the O'odham people of the southwestern United States was blasted in preparation for the Mexican border wall. Ancient cultural artefacts including burial grounds were destroyed.

This kind of ethnocide of indigenous people is only likely to continue and even become more common. I believe we are at a precipice where the affected people must take matters into their own hands — take steps toward their own self preservation. Indeed, that happened last month. The man in this month's photo is Cherokee. His people have been subject to ethnocide for centuries. A great deal of their biodiversity was lost when they were forced off their land by European colonists many years ago. But last month they did take a step toward self preservation. They deposited seeds from culturally important crops in a vault in Norway. The Svalbard vault is currently the safest place in which to preserve seeds.

While this was a news story given little attention last month, it shows that 'business as usual' is not serving the greater good. This is partly why youth movements such as Fridays for Future are so threatening to the established elite. Their members are also motivated by a form of self preservation — survival.

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