Emblematic of the false promise made by UN states to indigenous nations, Brazil’s industrialization of the Amazon illustrates why the international institution is incapable of upholding the human rights of indigenous peoples. Even if it weren’t for the fact that UN agencies like the World Bank actively assist member states in destroying cultural and biological diversity, the entity — founded by and for states dependent upon the insatiable market system — is simply too embedded in industrial development to do any lasting good for the Fourth World.
The obliteration of indigenous societies whose lifeline is the Amazon — the global icon of biodiversity — unfortunately also exposes the false hope of combating climate change. If the Amazon is to become an industrial wasteland fueled by megadams, then all the propaganda about preserving forests to moderate carbon emissions is nothing but hot air.
As dams worldwide displace millions of indigenous communities in the pursuit of the industrial lifestyle, the acceleration of pollution makes concepts like sustainability a pipedream. Clearing all the forests and mining all the mountains means that soon no one will have clean water or clean air. Maybe that was the message the indigenous delegate from Brazil planned to make to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, until the government of Brazil prohibited her from traveling there to speak.
Brazil’s action, of course, mirrors that of the UN itself, which still prohibits First Nations participation in climate change talks. Given UN conduct so far, it looks like the forum is destined to become a museum of extinction, where pageants commemorating the extinguishment of sacredness are held.
It is indeed a cruel irony, that just as humankind becomes conversant in the meaning of multiculturalism, the loss of the sacred ensures that we will lose our humanity.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here