I’ve often written about my inability to convince people why we need to reject the systems of capitalism and endless economic growth. Emblematic of that is nearly fifty years I’ve lived without a car, hoping others might give up theirs, too. I’ve prayed and written so much about protecting Mother Earth for years, with little or no success. Either I was going about this wrong, or no one was listening, or both.
For the past year I’ve been blessed to become part of a local Mutual Aid community. And learning much about the concepts of LANDBACK. I’ve been putting what I’ve been learning on my website, LANDBack Friends, because my native friends tell me teaching white people about those concepts is one of the best ways for white allies to help them. https://landbackfriends.com/
The following statement applies to the land called the United States, as well as Canada.
Canada maintains the same antiquated, paternalistic attitude towards our peoples that sanctioned residential schools and the pass system—they act as if they know what’s best for us. Our rights, our knowledge and values are not included or taken seriously and we are a mere afterthought when our lands are on fire, our communities are evacuating, and as we watch our futures going up in smoke.Indigenous rights are a counterforce to the climate crisis. Colonialism caused climate change. Indigenous rights are a solution by Eriel Deranger, The Breach, July 30, 2021
As heat and severe weather records are broken again and again, it should be clear by now that there is no limit for capital. There will be no scientific warning or dire catastrophe that leads to a political breakthrough. No huge wildfire, terrible drought or great flood will make governments and corporations change course. To carry on as they are means extinction. And yet they still carry on: more fossil fuels and fewer trees, more pollution and fewer species.
Recognition that there is no way out of this crisis without far-reaching, social upheaval animates the proposals put forward in The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth. The short book was authored by activists from The Red Nation, a coalition devoted to Indigenous liberation and made up of Native and non-native revolutionaries based mainly in North America.
The authors make clear that they believe the campaign to halt climate change and repair ecological destruction is bound up with the fate of the world’s Indigenous peoples. They say bluntly that “there is no hope for restoring the planet’s fragile and dying ecosystems without Indigenous liberation” and that “it’s decolonization or extinction.”No Hope for Earth without Indigenous Liberation by Simon Butler, originally published by Climate and Capitalism
August 27, 2021
For us, it’s a larger social problem of underdevelopment. Colonialism has deprived Indigenous people, and all people who are affected by it, of the means to develop according to our needs, principles, and values. It begins with the land. We have been made “Indians” only because we have the most precious commodity to the settler states: land. Vigilante, cop, and soldier often stand between us, our connections to the land, and justice. “Land back” strikes fear in the heart of the settler. But as we show here, it’s the soundest environmental policy for a planet teetering on the brink of total ecological collapse. The path forward is simple: it’s decolonization or extinction. And that starts with land back.
Each movement rises against colonial and corporate extractive projects. But what’s often downplayed is the revolutionary potency of what Indigenous resistance stands for: caretaking and creating just relations between human and other-than-human worlds on a planet thoroughly devastated by capitalism. The image of the water protector and the slogan “Water is Life!” are catalysts of this generation’s climate justice movement. Both are political positions grounded in decolonization—a project that isn’t exclusively about the Indigenous. Anyone who walked through the gates of prayer camps at Standing Rock, regardless of whether they were Indigenous or not, became a water protector. Each carried the embers of that revolutionary potential back to their home communities. Water protectors were on the frontlines of distributing mutual aid to communities in need throughout the pandemic. Water protectors were in the streets of Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, and many other cities in the summer of 2020 as police stations burned and monuments to genocide collapsed. The state responds to water protectors—those who care for and defend life—with an endless barrage of batons, felonies, shackles, and chemical weapons. If they weren’t before, our eyes are now open: the police and the military, driven by settler and imperialist rage, are holding back the climate justice movement.The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth by The Red Nation
I’ve been working on this diagram for over a year. It’s changed a great deal from the original. I’ve been learning about the concepts of Mutual Aid and LandBack by spending each Saturday morning putting together boxes of food for those in need. It takes awhile to adapt to working with a flat hierarchy of interactions. Nearly every structure we use in the capitalist system is based upon vertical hierarchies. Someone above telling us what to do.
As I’ve learned more about these concepts, it becomes increasingly clear capitalism is a root cause of our environmental chaos. And Mutual Aid and Indigenous leadership are ways to mitigate the increasing damages that are undoubtedly coming.
It’s decolonization or extinction. And that starts with land back.