Open Center History – Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Corporate Globalization
A Teach-In Co-sponsored with the International Forum on Globalization – At Cooper Union Great Hall
by Ralph White
One of the most extraordinary events in recent Open Center history was the day-long teach-in at Cooper Union on the resistance of indigenous peoples all over the world to corporate attempts to exploit and develop the natural resources on their land. Pulled together primarily by the indefatigable Jerry Mander, author of In the Absence of the Sacred and guiding presence at the International Forum on Globalization, it was a powerfully consistent experience. Thanks to funding from the Foundation for Deep Ecology, we were able to bring indigenous spokespeople from all corners of the earth – Inuit from the Arctic, Masai from Africa, Aboriginal people from Australia, representatives from Evo Morales’ government in Bolivia, chiefs from the Amazon and, of course, Native American leaders from the US and Canada.
The universality of their message was strikingly consistent despite the enormous distances between people and cultures. Every indigenous nation felt that they were stewards of their land and they had a sacred duty to protect it from the ravages of industrialization. The fact is that a high proportion of the world’s last remaining virgin forests, pure waters, and countless precious minerals are on or beneath the land of native peoples. And there is relentless pressure from well-funded, legally sophisticated corporations and often intrusive governments to exploit these resources for commercial gain. Whether it was an Amazonian chief in feathered head-dress, a dignified Masai with a resonant voice, or a speaker from the outback of Australia, they all spoke with a clear and consistent message. “It is our deepest spiritual responsibility to preserve these lands in their purity for future generations, and we are uncompromising in our opposition to their exploitation.’
One could only leave the Great Hall with profound respect and appreciation for these people, so long marginalized and ignored in the unending pursuit of economic growth. We are in a time when a new ecological balance must be restored on the earth, and our clarity around this urgent necessity can be strengthened both by environmental and climate science and by the listening to the wisdom of the peoples who have lived close to the nature for millennia and knows its deep systemic intelligence. It was a privilege for the Open Center to host such a gathering with all its courage, clarity and commitment and a reminder that the holistic and the ecological are essentially two sides of the same coin. Together than form the much-needed basis for a healthy and sustainable future.