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Securing Indigenous Rights in the Green Economy

Dear Cultural Survival Community,

As the world scrambles to address the climate crisis, a new “green” economy is rapidly emerging. However, in this transition, Indigenous Peoples are facing a new wave of extractivism for transition minerals such as copper, nickel, cobalt, and lithium, which are key in battery development for electric vehicles and other technologies. On the surface, transition minerals bring the promise of a perfect solution to combat climate change and reduce CO2 emissions, and relief from a future dependent on fossil fuels. However, there is a large upfront cost related to their extraction: where these minerals are found also overlaps with Indigenous lands and territories. Indigenous lands, territories, and resources are under direct threat as the demand for these minerals increases.

This issue of the CSQ is dedicated to uplifting the voices and struggles of Indigenous communities impacted by this new frontier. We hear from activists and community leaders about what a Just Transition to the green economy should look like and how Indigenous Peoples’ rights are central to shifting investment portfolios towards net zero. Proposed solutions like electric vehicles and other technologies are dependent on transition minerals, many of which bring new and expanded mining projects. These projects are promoted as “green” because they aim to supply minerals used in renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles. However, these mining projects risk replicating the same harms of the fossil fuel economy, threatening Indigenous Peoples’ rights and territories, destroying biodiverse ecosystems, and exacerbating climate change impacts in the process.

While we face an urgent need to address environmental, social, and economic crises, we cannot continue with business as usual. Living in today’s world with complex social and political structures and issues, our future requires implementing a multitude  of complex solutions. There is a clear need for pressing reform globally, but a one-size fits-all approach will not work. Instead, we must lean into the discomfort of being in the space between the urgency of the transition and protecting our human and Indigenous rights without sacrificing the latter. And we must challenge the status quo to move towards placed-based solutions that put people and our planet first. Indigenous Peoples steward over 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity as caretakers of our most precious ecosystems: therefore Indigenous Peoples’ and human rights must be centered, protected, and supported.

We hope you will join us in supporting Indigenous communities to secure their rights in the transition to the new green economy. Our 50-year legacy of advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights is thanks to you, our community, who help make our work possible. Join us in shifting the narrative and resources to support Indigenous languages, solutions, and leadership to build a better world for us all. For our 50th anniversary, we have an ambitious goal to raise $500,000 for our #CS50 campaign.

Please consider donating today to sustain this meaningful and impactful work.

Galina Angarova (Buryat)
Executive Director


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