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In Defence of Life

By: Mariana Gómez Soto
MSc in Holistic Science 2014-2015
Regional Coordinator for Latin America of the Global Solidarity Network Yes to Life, No to Mining
Sub-coordinator of the Eco-cultural Mosaic Andes-Amazon-Atlantic for Gaia Amazonas Foundation

The recently released film by The Gaia Foundation, which forecasts four important cases of struggles against large scale mining around the world, some of which I have had the opportunity to accompany as Regional Coordinator for Latin America of the Global Solidarity Network Yes to Life, No to Mining. In Defence of Life, a 30-minute documentary, follows the trials and triumphs of men and women in Colombia, the Philippines, South Africa and Romania, as they battle corporate mining giants that threaten to destroy their homelands, homes and livelihoods. The victories won by the communities in the film will bring hope to others. Their stories demonstrate that, despite the odds and sometimes appalling consequences, sustained resistance by communities on the front lines can be successful in protecting their lands and way of life.

In Didipio, Philippines, local people are rallying against Australian-Canadian mining company OceanaGold. In just three years the company has turned what was once Didipio's Dinkiday Mountain into a 371-metre-deep pit in its search for gold and copper. In Defence of Life reveals how the community is coming together to say 'Palayasin!' (Get out!) to the company, as they aim to prevent future mine expansion and force the multinational out of their homelands. In Romania's Apuseni Mountain's, the historic community of Rosia Montana have been resisting plans to build Europe's largest gold mine for over a decade. If built, the mine would level four mountains, raze 900 homes, displace 2,000 subsistence farmers and produce 196.4 million tonnes of cyanide-polluted waste. Following the community's struggle to stop the plans of Canadian multinational Gabriel Resources, In Defence of Life takes us behind the scenes of a landmark European struggle and a globally significant victory for civil society. Having admitted defeat, Gabriel Resources is filing to sue the Romanian Government for over $4billion in damages. In KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, Ibutho Coal plans to dig the Fuleni Mine just 40 metres from the world famous iMfolozi Wilderness- a haven for the endangered white rhino. The mine would reportedly displace up to 16,000 people. Inspired to avoid the destruction they have seen in neighbouring coal-affected communities, the people of Fuleni are playing a crucial role in the global struggle to prevent catastrophic climate change and defend their ancestral territories.

In Yaigoje Apaporis, a 1-million hectare region of the Colombian Amazon, Indigenous people have been outraged by Canadian company Cosigo Resources' attempt to mine gold from a sacred site in their ancestral territory. In Defence of Life follows the unified attempts of indigenous communities to protect every part of their territory, including the state-owned subsoil- though the creation of a national park. The success of these communities has forced Cosigo Resources to leave the area, though the company and two others are now filing to sue the Colombian Government for $16.5billion- the equivalent of losses they say they have suffered as a result of losing out on the opportunity to mine.

After I left the college completing the MSc modules, I had the opportunity to go to the Amazon to do field-work with the Yaigojé-Apaporis people, as one of the cases to be included in my dissertation research. I shared my time with the group local researchers who are studying the traditional ways of managing the territory with the help of the elders, so this can be the guiding knowledge to build the management plan for the recently created National Park in order to defend their territory from mining. They have collected the knowledge of their elders in seven different languages, made maps of their sacred sites, made ecological calendars which guide their daily activities in order to be in tune with the natural cycles they are embedded in, and translated all this material into Spanish so it can be recognized as legitimate information to manage their territory by the Colombian government. This, and other cases of grass-root movements in defence of the land I have been in contact with (as Regional Coordinator for Latin America of the Global Solidarity Network Yes to Life, No to Mining) have inspired me profoundly, and have taken me to confirm that these are manifestations of the voice of the Earth, as part of the self-regulating system of Gaia, which takes place in our consciousness as well, for we are part of this living system as well. We are as part of Gaia as the fungi, the plants, the birds and the ants. We are as embedded in the living system that surrounds us as the rocks, the carbon prince and the calcium princess, so it is time for us as a species to rethink our participation in this living system we inhabit, and voice that collective voice that speaks through us, calling us to say no to extractive models that will cause irreversible harm. This is what local communities around the world are allowing to happen through them, and here are their stories.

To listen more about these thoughts, listen to Stephan Harding, Vandana Shiva and myself, who have a close relation to the college, in one to one interviews in this link:

Watch the interviews here

Watch the full 30-minute documentary here.