Saturday 27 June 2020

Covid-19 and the danger to the Navajo, the Kogi and all indigenous peoples

The plight of the Navajo Nation in the Covid-19 pandemic

Did you know that the Navajo Nation is the hardest hit community in the U.S. when it comes to the pandemic? The news is full of reports about what is being done about the Covid-19 virus in countries around the world but nowhere near enough coverage has been given to how the indigenous people have been coping with the danger from the Coronavirus. The Navajo Nation, who are the second largest tribe in North America, have reinstated lockdowns because the tribal leaders have feared the spread of the virus after suffering the highest death toll than any American state. They fear that people carrying the Coronavirus from the neighbouring states of Utah and Arizona will bring it into the Navajo territory, either directly or via contact. But complicating matters to a very serious degree is the fact that the Navajo are dependent on grocery stores outside their land for food and basic supplies. This means they must risk infection. Tragically this is the consequence of many years of destruction of their original way of life and the attempted assimilation of the Navajo into the global ‘civilised’ way of life.
Navajo Nation - Covid-19 claims whole families
This has happened over and over and over again through the centuries to indigenous people worldwide. Their traditional ways of supporting themselves with food, water, and other needs they once were able to find in their local areas, and without causing any environmental damage, have been destroyed by the invasion and colonisation of their homelands, together with the destruction of indigenous culture. You may think this was all in the past but it continues today in various ways, such as use of or pollution of water sources by industry or mining, logging and general deforestation, and being pushed into barren areas where it is difficult to grow food. Indigenous people have been terribly weakened by this ongoing assault on their ways of life. Not only that but most indigenous people have immune systems that do not fend off virus attacks well.
Kogi Guardians of the Planet appeal for help
The Kogi people from Colombia in South America were featured on a BBC documentary back in 1990. It was entitled From The Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers’ Warning. It showed the Mamas or Mamos spiritual leaders of this tribe, who are the surviving descendents of the ancient Tairona people, and who live high on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. At the time of the Spanish invasion long ago these people retreated to the high mountain areas and for many years shunned all contact with the outside world. By doing this they have maintained their ancient belief system and culture. They believe that they really are the Elder Brothers and that they were given sacred work to do as Guardians of the Earth. They regard their mountain home as the Heart of the World. By the way, the word mama or mamo means “enlightened one,” and these people certainly have an ancient wisdom. The mountain they live on has examples of every habitat and microclimate for the rest of the world, so is like a microcosm of the planet. The Mamos are able to tell by looking at signs in the ecosystem there what it is like elsewhere and what can be expected in future. Now the “Younger Brother,” who make up the rest of the world of civilised people, in the Kogi belief system, were long ago sent away across the ocean and given knowledge of machines. Sadly they returned in the form of Spanish invaders bringing with them guns, death and destruction. For this reason the Kogi kept themselves to themselves until 1990 when the Mamos were so alarmed by what they could see happening that they broke their silence and agreed to talk to the Younger Brother to give a warning. This is why they allowed Alan Ereira, who directed the documentary, to visit them to make the film. So let us take a look at their warning message. This is part of what was said: "The Great Mother gave us what we needed to live and her teaching has not been forgotten right up to this day. We all still live by it. But now they are taking out the Mother's heart, they are digging up the ground and cutting out her liver and her guts. The Mother is being cut to pieces and stripped of everything. From their first landing they have been doing this. The Great Mother too has a mouth, eyes, and ears. They are cutting out her eyes and ears. If we lost an eye we would be sad. So the Mother too is sad, and she'll end, and the world ends if you do not stop digging and digging." (Click on the highlighted film title in the text above to read the rest of the transcript and to watch the documentary). 
What had really disturbed these people was the fact that the clouds and the snow and ice that should be on the peaks of their sacred mountain home had gone. The highland tundra was drying out and thawing and plants that grow there were dying. Without water coming from the mountains they know well that everything below will eventually die. In their warning they said that we, the Younger Brother, are destroying all natural order by mining, taking minerals and oil from the ground, deforestation, and other destructive ways, and that if we do not stop eventually the world will come to an end. They also warned that new illnesses would occur and that there would be no medicine or cure for them.
Ramon's speech in which he spells out the Kogi warning
It seems they were proved right because now we have the Covid-19 pandemic. Tragically the Kogi are victims of this disease that they predicted too. They have taken measures to isolate themselves but are desperately in need of food and supplies that have not been provided by the Colombian authorities. What if these people really are our Elder Brothers and the Guardians of Planet Earth? Shouldn’t we be listening to their warnings and shouldn’t we be helping them now?
Urgent Message From The Kogi During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Monday 15 June 2020

Ocean Aid Concert

Ocean Aid Concert 2020

An Ocean Aid Concert is an idea I have had for several years and been trying to get off the ground. It would be a follow-on from Band Aid and Live Aid but this time would be focused on raising awareness about the threats to the oceans of the world, such as, plastic pollution, overfishing and acidification, all of which are taking a very heavy toll on marine life.
Of course, I would love to think that the day will arrive when many world famous acts would take part in a massive concert that would get televised and receive international publicity and coverage, but right now with the lockdown restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most concerts this year and big festivals too, have all been cancelled. But not the online ones, where there is no risk of spreading or becoming infected with the disease. So, with the help of my good friend Paul Richmond aka Zest Radio Show, I have come up with an idea to get Ocean Aid Concert 2020 actually happening. If singer-songwriters, singers and bands have songs about the environment they would like to contribute, what I would need is a video of their song. Ideally the songs should have something to do with the oceans but songs about nature and the environment fit with this too. The idea is for me to create a Youtube playlist entitled Ocean Aid Concert and the videos would be included in it, giving everyone some publicity and raising the profile of the Ocean Aid campaign. 
At this stage it is all about getting this happening and raising awareness. Fund-raising would be part of a much bigger Ocean Aid Concert, and I have thought money could be raised for organisations that help the oceans and marine life, organisations, such as, Sea Shepherd, and Greenpeace, but all of this would be decided on a later date. 

Besides singers and musicians, the Ocean Aid Concert could also include videos of poets with their poems on the subject, readings of prose by writers who want to get involved, and videos of suitable artwork. The Ocean Aid Concert is not just music and song but all creative arts.

SPAM by Filippo Solibello, a Book about Plastic Pollution

Last year a book entitled SPAM - Stop Plastica a Mare was published in Italy. The author is Filippo Solibello, and he is a well-known radio host in his country. I am very proud to say there is a four-page chapter in this book with the title Where Does All The Plastic Go?, which is also the title of a protest song of mine.

The chapter is about me, my song and my ideas about the worldwide problem of plastic pollution. When Filippo interviewed me back in 2018 I told him about my idea for an Ocean Aid Concert and he asked if I minded if he spread the word in Italy. I said, no, not at all, because I just want to see this event happen and it doesn’t matter where! Well, since the publication of SPAM, the author had been touring Italy promoting his book and telling people about my idea. He was also showing videos of my song.

He managed to get a copy of his book to Pope Francis and received media coverage because of that. I was invited to go over to Italy at some point but then the Covid-19 pandemic struck and all plans had to be put on hold. This is why I am thinking we can get this Ocean Aid Concert going online. So please get in touch if you want to be included or can help in any way! Please also share this blog and let’s get Ocean Aid Concert happening! To make a start with this happening I have created an Ocean Aid Concert playlist at Youtube featuring any songs I thought fitted the bill. It includes a few big names, such as, Neil Young, Kate Nash, Jack Johnson and Ed Sheeran.