By Hank Edson
The Gaia hypothesis posits that our planetary environment, the Earth, functions as a self-regulating whole with a dizzying array of complex systems for maintaining its biological wellbeing, its life. For many, the Gaia hypothesis is deeper and yet simpler: the Earth is a being with a soul. No matter how you view our planet, the point is that we are, as a society, becoming increasingly aware of new and previously unsuspected dimensions of interconnectedness. This is our growing edge, the next step in human development: understanding, embracing, and fostering health and harmony in every fiber of the web of life.
Over the last three decades, one example of the Earth’s capacity to self-regulate its health and wellbeing has attracted Bay Area activists’ attention more than any other: the Amazon rainforest. Nicknamed the “lungs of the Earth,” the dense forest vegetation of the Amazon is estimated to breathe out a staggering one-fifth of the planet’s oxygen. Here by the Bay, a network of gutsy non-profit organizations including the Pachamama Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, and Amazon Watch, have a proud history of collaborative action dedicated to restoring and preserving Mother Gaia’s precious lung capacity.
In a concerted effort to achieve global coexistence between the environment and modern society, organizations find new and dramatic ways of directing public attention to the values, lives, and future at risk. For example, you may remember two years ago seeing Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network activists dangling from a wall-size banner hanging off the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. The banner captured widespread local and national news coverage during Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting. The action brought the spotlight on the $19 billion guilty verdict handed down against Chevron, who happens to be a Bay Area neighbor, for its gross negligence in polluting a massive portion of Ecuadorian rainforest, home to between 20,000 and 40,000 people. At the same time, inside the meeting, shareholders sympathetic to the protests were urging a resolution aimed at driving the company to adopt a more responsible approach to the judgment.
The sophisticated coordination of shareholder activism, public protest, and a multi-dimensional communications strategy is a hallmark of the Bay Area’s record of success in helping defend a planet under attack. Among this group, some of the most interesting and important work is being done by Amazon Watch, which focuses on partnering with and empowering the indigenous peoples who have proven themselves the best guardians of complex rainforest ecosystems both in modern times and since millennia.
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