en English

“Who is responsible for prolonging the life of the planet?”

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Who is responsible for prolonging the life of a planet? We humans are—but if we come to agreement. If we do not…. we begin to ignore ourselves and do not recognize the success of other cultures in the realm of the environment….     It’s a mission….of taking care of the planet, of taking care of the world, of maintaining order. It’s come to me to take care of this planet….It would be a disaster for this to not be taught to the children… as if we cut ourselves from the umbilical cord.

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 Danilo Villafañe represents the Gonawindua Tayrona Indigenous Organization and the Consejo Territorial de Cabildos (CTC) of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Several members of the indigenous communities of this mountainous, coastal region visited New York and Washington, D.C. to educate about the ways of life of the Sierra Nevada indigenous groups and to seek financial assistance for the Special Indigenous Fund.

The establishment of the internationally-supported Fund would aid the communities of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in preserving their traditional territories and pre-Columbian practices which, due to threats of modern society, struggle to coexist. During a September 7, 2006 forum at Georgetown University sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank, Villafañe urged cooperation between clashing lifestyles in Colombia.

“In Colombia… finally, at long last… an article in the Constitution of 1991 recognizes that Colombia is culturally diverse and that this must be protected. Finally, after so much has happened…When Westerners try to reduce poverty—the Western concept of poverty—[this poverty] can be understood another way….Then, how can we come to agreement? There exists the impression that what has always been must always be imposed. One doesn’t want to question. Other lines of thinking do not occur to us….There exists coherence.… other thoughts do not occur. Is this coherence just?…. How do we narrow our differences in understanding to bring us closer to other forms of thought and to the resolution of conflict?

"Our society [of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta] is collective. The Mámas (spiritual leaders) exercise control, a social regulation, a social orientation, that has permitted us, first, to live in harmony among our neighbors and, second, to live in harmony with the environment. It’s successful living, this form of guiding life and interpreting responsibility. It’s an issue of responsibility—responsibility with the world and responsibility with the future and responsibility with our generations. It’s to say, our return [to tradition] is the future. To return is the future. The future is not uncertain… It’s something that we plan….To return means respecting the trees. One must understand, understand that this is part of an order, and we must remove it from imbalance: to change the course of a river, for example, causes disaster…

"Who is responsible for prolonging the life of a planet? We humans are—but only if we come to agreement. If we do not…. we begin to ignore ourselves and do not recognize the success of other cultures in the realm of the environment…it’s a mission….of taking care of the planet, of taking care of the world, of maintaining order.  This simple form of life is what makes us happy. It’s come to me to take care of this planet…it would be a disaster for this to not be taught to the children… as if we cut ourselves from the umbilical cord.”