Racism in The Environment

By Auburn Air youth journalist, Scott Hyland

When governments disregard or just plain ignore the protests of indigenous peoples regarding deforestation and loss of culture, this is an example of one of the environments greatest enemies: Environmental Racism.

In Panama deforestation is a major problem and in a matter of years there will be a desert where forests used to thrive, says moderator Carmel Mbizvo. The indigenous people in these areas are having their way of life completely destroyed.

In the 50's and 60's, the movement against colonization and racism got into full swing, but by the 70's environmental law had not yet recognized a native people's right for self-determination. By the 1980's and the 1992 Rio Summit, many agencies began to recognize the rights of native peoples and demanded that they be given the right to control resource use and conservation in their areas. Many countries allow native cultures to have control over resources, as long as it involves some sort of cultural significance. Many non-government organizations feel that they, instead of indigenous people, should have total control over these resources.

A draft declaration has been released to governments around the world which recognizes the rights of native peoples to self-determination and resource managment. There are hopes that it will be passed and accepted by all governments within the next decade. The major problem is that some governments think it does not concern them. For example, China thinks that the issue only effects Europe.

There is a strong world-wide commitment to the draft declaration. "It is discriminatory for any government to ignore the rights of Indiginous peoples." said IUCN councillor Mary Simon.