Hope for a Beleaguered Planet....

Our book Milpa: From Seed to Salsa - Ancient Ingredients for a Sustainable Future explores through a blend of essays, recipes and documentary photography how the ancient agricultural knowledge and the wealth of 1000 year-old seeds and planting practices still in use among the Mixtec peoples of southern Mexico can help us to meet the ecological and food crises of today.

The essays, written in conjunction with campesino farmers, serve as a warning about the complicated dangerous effects inherent in the rapidly expanding distribution of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds in Mexico, the birthplace of corn. Our documentary cookbook discusses alternatives for campesino farmers across the world and gardeners and consumers who care about food safety. Using the example of the Milpa planting system in the Mixteca Alta region of Southern Mexico just north of Oazaxa City, the book supports recent studies by UN investigators that show that small plots of land, heritage seeds and sustainable practices can in fact feed the world while enriching the soils on which we all depend for life…….

Milpa contains the traditional recipes lovingly shared by the local indigenous Mixtec women, allowing readers to re-create the culinary magic that flows from this ancient agricultural system. Recipes are painstakingly tested and photographed in traditional indigenous kitchens as well as in a professional modern test kitchen. Please purchase the book, below.....

All Rights Reserved: © Phil-Dahl Bredine, © Kathy Dahl-Bredine © Judith Cooper Haden Photography, © Susana Trilling SOMH.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Climate Change, Erosion and the Bolivian Rights of Mother Earth

         June, 2010

It is June and indigenous campesinos from our village and other surrounding communities are still waiting for the rains to come so they can plant what will serve as their food for the year. A few more weeks without rain, and it will be too late for crops to mature before the fall frosts. Evidently, those who would deny the reality of climate change haven’t been watching the skies and depending on ever more unreliable rains for their daily bread, as have our neighbors. We are just back from meetings with indigenous leaders, and religious leaders in Bolivia, and campesinos there are also watching frightening changes as the glaciers on which they depend for irrigation and water for living, grow ever smaller on the jagged peaks of the Andes.

How and why is this happening? And who is responsible?

When you look at the eroded lands that the indigenous organization with which we work is struggling to re-make, and also at the treeless, deforested slopes of the Andes, you would have to conclude that indigenous peoples played a part in the destruction. That’s why in front of CEDICAM´s small new museum of Mixtec Campesino agriculture and biodiversity called “The Casa de la Milpa”, there is a sign next to the remains of a large stone and molten earth oven. The sign reads:   “Caution, campesino men and women. Before you enter this museum, think deeply. This oven was used to burn rocks to make lime for churches and colonial buildings. It burned trees day and night for three days at a time to produce 500 kilos of lime. With technology like this our ancestors, under the influence of foreign interests, burned the forests of our communities leaving us a sterile and eroded land. Let us build a sustainable way of life based on the wisdom of our communities and create a healthy abundance in harmony with the Mother Earth for the future of the Mixteca Alta.”   It took ten of us, men and women, to unearth and transport the oven to the museum site as a stark but essential reminder of the errors of the past.

photographer unknkown
The Conference of the Peoples of the World on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, took place last month in Bolivia with strong indigenous participation. They concluded that the industrialized countries of the global North bear the majority of the responsibility for the changing climate. They point out that we all share one great global ring of atmosphere which has a set capacity to safely recycle and absorb gases such as CO2. The North has so over-exploited this capacity of the atmosphere that it has drastically encroached on the rights of others to a clean and safe atmosphere, causing changes that are disturbing rain patterns and melting glaciers in the global South. This so threatens the lives of the poor of the South that the conference is demanding the North recognize and pay an environmental debt for its damage to the global atmosphere on which we all depend.

Drawing from the millennia-old values of the indigenous peoples here in the Mixteca of Mexico and across the Americas, the conference concluded:

“To confront climate change we need to recognize our Mother Earth as the source of life and forge a new system based on the principles of:

1.  Harmony and equilibrium among and with everything
2.  Complementarity, solidarity and equality
3.  Common well-being and satisfaction of fundamental necessities of all in harmony with the Mother Earth
4.  Respect for the rights of Mother Earth and for  human rights                                            
5.  Recognition of the value of the human being for what he/she is and not for what she/he possesses
6.  Elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism, and interventionism.
7.  Peace among the peoples of the world and with the Mother Earth.”

Charles Mann, in his book “1491”, points out the dramatic influence that the original indigenous peoples of North America had on U.S. and European history through providing living examples of men and women who believed in and demanded personal liberty. We learned about personal liberty and constructed constitutions to embody these new concepts. But we perhaps forgot about the other aspects of indigenous life: communal responsibility, complementarity, mutual aid, and respect for the Mother Earth. Our experience here in the indigenous village of Yucuyoco suggest to us that perhaps now is the time for us to correct this oversight.

Photographs  ©Judith Cooper Haden unless otherwise noted.

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