The 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen (UNFCCCC), represented collectively the indigenous peoples of the world at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions and called on the Pope to repudiate the Christian Doctrine of Discovery.
What is the Doctrine of Discovery? And why should you care about this doctrine as an environmental activist?
The Doctrine is a fundamentally racist philosophy from the 15th century. The Doctrine had allowed, and continues to allow, nation-states to dehumanize indigenous people and devastate the living earth in their endless search for resources and markets. Sounds familiar? One group of people and one nation came to my mind – the great USA and the Native Americans. A still existing case law binding all federal courts of the US still operates to this date to deny Native Americans their entitlement to their land. Albeit a far stretch, but the traditional views of Native Americans towards land and their attitude of harmonious coexistence with mother-nature and earth are the epistemological basis for our theory of sustainability. If a legally binding law is still in place that denies the originality of this epistemological approach, then there is perhaps little hope that the view of reconciliation with mother-earth will ever become predominate social and economical practices.
The case law I am referencing is Johnson v. M’Intosh.
In Johnson v. M'Intosh, the US Supreme Court held that private citizens could not purchase lands directly from Native Americans. The Court determined that the United States government had acquired free title to the land based on the longstanding practices of European colonization under the Discovery Doctrine, and therefore Native Americans could sell their land only to the U.S. government. You may ask, what does the prohibition of selling land has anything to do with sustainability and environmental protection? The short answer is it does not due to a long standing of cultural wash that eroded Native American’s strong belief that one must co-exist with nature and not conquer nature. But the long answer is that it has everything to do with environmental protection and sustainability because if we do not concede to the rights and privileges of Native Americans to their land as a basis for legal, and consequentially social and economical, progress, we will never concede to their long held tradition of respecting the earth as children of earth.
I’m no hippie but a realist. I know that tree hugging will only help save perhaps one tree and one tree forest. I believe that if we are to save our planet, we have to start from the fundamentals. We have to begin to recognize that our legal title to the land as we see fit to use is not proper and that the indigenous culture is entitled to its day in the sun and the concept of holistic harmonious coexistence should be the social norm. Not only should you demand justice for the indigenous people around the world, you should scream as loud as you can to stop powerful nation-states from continuing their exploitation of the indigenous culture. You should demand that we focus on sustainability in our developments with respect to our our natural resources because they are limited and that we need to respect nature instead of conquering nature.
So if you are Catholic, tell the Pope to repudiate the Christian Doctrine of Discovery. If you are not Catholic but religious, tell your religious family to advocate for mother earth as a respectful way to warship your faith. If you are not religious at all, then at least demand justice for all – human beings and everything that mother nature has offered all living creatures for the sustainability of LIFE.