By Carolina Sang
I know a lot of people in my community who like to complain about the Greenpeace reps accosting them in and around Paseo de San Antonio, but I’ve mostly remained neutral in my opinions about that whole thing. Young idealistic people trying to get the general public aware of and caring about the destruction of la Madre Tierra is a damn good thing in my book. I find any kind of soliciting obnoxious in the extreme, but I have always respected that these 20-something year old college kids believe they are “trying to save the planet.”
Occasionally though, I would get random flashes of insight while trying to politely diffuse their desire for my signature and my money: without knowing anything about the organization, there’s something about Greenpeace that smacked of White privilege.
“Am I just being a total paranoid?,” I thought to myself critically. “What evidence do I have to support this?”
It’s a well kept secret that the first national and state parks in the U.S. were created in part to protect the landscape from los indios who lived and worked on the land, as much as from logging companies and others.
(Just ask the indigenous people about the genocide involved in the creation of Yosemite National Park . . . http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/10/01/native-history-yosemite-national-park-created-native-homelands-151515)
WWF is guilty of later-day abuses of indigenous people in the same vein, illegally forcing the Baka of Cameroon from living their traditional lifestyles on their own lands under the pretense of “conservation,” http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10456
So unfortunately, there is a very reasonable historical precedent for me, as a [email protected] feminist and a person of mixed race hailing from the First Nations of Mexico, to feel suspicious of a largely White-led non-profit looking to “save the planet.”
Plus, among Greenpeace’s many controvercies, back in 1997 Bradley Angel,(Greenpeace’s Southwest Toxic Coordinator at the time), resigned in protest over what he saw as a betrayal of an agreement with tribal governments to fight a U.S. government plan to dump nuclear waste on sacred lands.
Against this landscape, I can’t say that it surprises me much that Greenpeace has desecrated the sacred Nazca lines in Peru.
So as I walked home from the store this morning and heard a White Greenpeacer ask me “Do you care about saving the planet?,” and noticed him looking at me scornfully as I awkwardly decided to ignore him, I finally felt anger.
Anger, not at some little 22 year old with dreams of saving the world, but at an organization that systematically sees the survival and rights of indigenous human beings as lesser than and SEPARATE FROM the needs and rights of animals and plants.
But I maintain that Greenpeace is far from unique in this regard.
The next time a Greenpeace or World Wildlife Fund volunteer gives you a hard time for not donating, ask them what their organization intends to do about defiling a sacred indigenous site, and how they intend to start being respectful and supportive of the rights of First Nations people.
Carolina Sang is a [email protected] writer, activist, and graduate student from the San Francisco Bay Area.