WIP: May-nilad Sinking
Updated: Jan 15
Island communities are sinking. Tebunginako, Tuvalu, Manila, Pampanga, Bulacan, Jakarta, Bangkok, Vunidogoloa… the heartbreaking list goes on. Indigenous coastal communities are suffering the impacts of rising water levels, and for larger coastal cities in the Global North, it seems to be only a matter of time. As climate crises wreaks its slow revenge on the exploits of capitalist driven industrialisation, we are all increasingly affected by issues of damaged ecosystems, food security, water resources, energy supply, health issues, and numerous other manifestations of a broken, exploited earth. Under the current systems of government and economy, we’re taking teeny pretty irrelevant steps forward (ban the bag/straws?) and hundreds of giant strokes backwards in terms of addressing the damage done.
These issues are tangible, and inextricably tied to anti-colonial action and anti-capitalism. As we know, the first to be impacted hardest are indigenous communities, working class, and regional communities. Often these are the very same communities who fight at the frontlines of environmental justice and human rights, “comprising less than 5% of the world’s population, indigenous people protect 80% of global diversity” (National Geographic, 2018). Despite the ravages of the ongoing colonial project’s exploitative practices and narrative of disconnection and supremacy, indigenous communities have lived in balance with the natural world for generations. This strength of spirit and resistance has allowed ancient ancestral wisdom to be passed on and sustainable agricultural practices be kept in practice. Indigenous communities have always nurtured deep spiritual connections with the world around us and learnt the ways to live in balance with it, listening to the needs of the land and reciprocally allowing the land to provide for us. But “many of the geographical regions that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are also the traditional lands of indigenous communities” (Tsosie, 2007), and this will continue to be the case as long as current systems of oppression and greed are in place. Displacement and dispossession are entwined with the legacy of indigenous communities. People of colour bear this legacy all over the world. Histories blighted by the poverty, trauma, and necessary migration caused by colonialism. And the issues haven’t gone away, they just have constant PR rebranding strategies.
There's a lot I don’t know about my ancestry. Generations of colonisation and violent occupation on both sides (Pilipino and Hong Kong) have been lost to trauma, secrecy, war, poverty, and natural disasters. There have been many floods. As of today, both these ancestral lands have been locked in major protests in the past few months. There is a lot to be protesting about. In the Philippines, a culture of impunity and imperialism is creating worsening conditions for human and environmental rights, with indigenous communities particularly vulnerable to displacement and dispossession. After the incredible Umbrella Revolution protests in 2014, HK is now engaged in an ongoing 10-week long demonstration to defend democracy. Around the world, people are waking — speaking the truth against these systems even as their voices shake. But what will it take for those in ‘power’ to listen? Deeply entrenched as these systems are, they are built on fragile grounds. All it would take is for people to awaken, connect.
Rising sea levels, floods, dry earth. The blood of the Mother running dry. I find something biblical or prophetic about these signs. The Seven Fires prophecy of the Anishinaabe and the Mi’kmaq Nation keeps coming to my mind. Will we choose a path of materialism or return to deeper understandings? There is a clear correlation with the systems of white supremacy and colonialism that hurts, exploits and gravely misunderstands. It's inherent in the way we perceive everything, unless we take action to unlearn it. And that in itself is ever-changing, ever-present, more than life-long. Conditioning lasts, runs deep, but what if there is something much more ancient, primordial connections that can turn the tides.
She is clear about her pain. Will we listen? This WIP is an attempt to make some sense of the hopelessness that threatens to engulf us at times.
References & further reading (just a few, anyway)
‘Indigenous peoples defend Earth's biodiversity—but they're in danger’ https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/can-indigenous-land-stewardship-protect-biodiversity-/
‘HOW ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM AFFECTS INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN THE USA’ https://wearyourvoicemag.com/race/environmental-racism-affects-indigenous-communities-usa
‘Indigenous Peoples Lands Guard 80 Per Cent of World’s Biodiversity’ http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/indigenous-peoples-lands-guard-80-per-cent-of-worlds-biodiversity/
‘Indigenous People and Environmental Justice: The Impact of Climate Change’ by Rebecca A. Tsosie https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1399659
‘6 ways indigenous peoples are helping the world achieve #ZeroHunger’ http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/1028010/
‘Climate Change Impacts’ https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climate-impacts_.html
‘Eight low-lying Pacific islands swallowed whole by rising seas’ https://www.newscientist.com/article/2146594-eight-low-lying-pacific-islands-swallowed-whole-by-rising-seas/#ixzz5wMgnGA5q'
‘Rising seas give island nation a stark choice: relocate or elevate’ https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/rising-seas-force-marshall-islands-relocate-elevate-artificial-islands/
‘The Leaders of These Sinking Countries Are Fighting to Stop Climate Change. Here's What the Rest of the World Can Learn’ https://time.com/longform/sinking-islands-climate-change/
'One day we'll disappear': Tuvalu's sinking islands’ https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/16/one-day-disappear-tuvalu-sinking-islands-rising-seas-climate-change
‘Seas are rising, cities are sinking’ https://www.manilatimes.net/seas-are-rising-cities-are-sinking-2/556148/
‘4 Sinking Asian cities that could be drowned by climate change’ https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/11/4-sinking-asian-cities-that-could-be-drowned-by-climate-change/
‘Sinking feeling: Philippine cities facing 'slow-motion disaster’ https://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2019/05/20/sinking-feeling-philippine-cities-facing-slow-motion-disaster.html
‘Three islands disappeared in the past year. Is climate change to blame?’ https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/three-islands-disappeared-past-year-climate-change-blame-ncna1015316