When the Earth is Cut

2 September 2014

By Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop for Live Encounters magazine, August 2014 issue


Indigenous peoples were one with the land
But the earth on which their ancestors played and prayed and slaughtered and danced
Was ripped open by mining
Left barren by deforestation

The soul of the community wept Fought to protect the land and water, flora and fauna
The traditions and culture which relied upon nature and protected it

Tribal populations were thrust onto the frontline of human rights abuses
From misplaced corporate power
“Civilised” societies used genocide and slavery to steal land, resources and labour
So that progress knows no barrier
Wealth no bounds

Morality and legality were savaged
As we named them savages

Now they sit on another frontline
That of protecting culture and ecology on behalf of us all
Mapping biodiversity through an intricate interplay[1]

As languages have become lost[2] to ubiquitous tones
Oral traditions silent which once told of the parting of islands by great gods
Of the splendour of mountains and rivers
Landscapes now plundered and for sale by the State

The demand for indigenous knowledge is at an all-time high
A marketable commodity
Resulting in abuse, rather than respect[3]

What of triumph among this injustice

The EU fights the “biopiracy” of multinationals[4] who exploit medicinal plants and traditional remedies
Without sharing the profits with aboriginal peoples

A landmark ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada recognises aboriginal land title Setting a historic precedent affecting resource rights[5]

Yet injustice among triumph

In 2006, Botswana’s High Court ruled the Bushmen’s eviction from their ancestral land Was “unlawful and unconstitutional”
Yet the government continues its persecution[6]

Can the rest of the world learn what aboriginals know

That when the earth is cut, so are we

Imagine a neater way for justice to balance her scales
Tar sands miners destroy the earth’s water balance[7]
An activity curtailed by Canada’s supreme court judgement[8]

Imagine this: The CEO who ordered the mining operation
The government official who sanctioned it
Has the water balance in their own body destroyed

So they are always thirsty
Their head throbbing unrelentingly
Unable to live without pain

Until they rectify their decision
Then and only then, is the balance in their own body
And the earth’s balance

For when the earth is cut, so are we.


[1] See for example Lancaster University Cultural Diversity and the Conservation of Biodiversity

[2] Over 40 percent of the world’s approximate 7,000 languages are at risk of disappearing

[3] UNESCO Innovative Measures Required To Protect Indigenous Knowledge 2002

[4] EU must act to combat biopiracy, say MEPs, 2013

[5] Supreme Court Ruling Grants Land Title To B.C. First Nation, 2014

[6] Bushmen face 10 years of abuse despite landmark legal victory 2014

[7] Suncor Lobbying To Be Exempt From Water Protection Rules 2014

[8] In Landmark Ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court Deeds Land to Aboriginal Tribe for the First Time!

Liberty & Humanity

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