The Environmentalism of the People

Against the Current, No. 42, January/February 1993

Hugo Blanco

THE JUNGLE AND cloud forest have been inhabited for thousands of years by people who know how to coexist with, and be part of, their environment.

They know that their crops need to copy nature and that beside an avocado they must have a “pacay,” a palm, a gourd growing along with beans. They know when they will need to leave one place and move on to another, and they know much, much more.

In this region the people knew to build terraces to avoid erosion; they knew that the weeds are not bad but must be allowed to grow so as to protect the soil and that later they could be used for fodder. They knew that planting a single crop is bad for the Andean soil and the crops need to be planted along with others for ecological reasons.


The Europeans came later to “civilize us” and destroyed our terraces in order to plant extensive crops. They began the single crop planting that destroys the earth. They put in sheep that tear out the pasture by the roots, unlike the llamas and alpacas. And as if that weren’t enough, they now use insecticides and herbicides.

They entered the jungle to “colonize” with a philosophy against the natives. They went to struggle against the “green Hell” and some times they defeated it, turning it into a desert. They cut down the forests, in the first place to take the wood and second to raise a few cattle, thereby causing the deaths of many other edible animals of the region.

Thirdly, they established monocultures that, given the great amount of rain in the jungle, erode the land quickly leaving it like a desert. The ex-President Fernando Belaunde tells us that the jungle is uninhabited and that the future of Peru lies in depredating it.

Who are the Anti-environmentalists?

It is easy to figure out the principal contaminators of the environment: Big mining companies that contaminate the water, the air and the soil, and kill animals, plants and human beings with their waste waters and smoke; and big logging companies that murder the Amazon jungle and the Amazon River.

Who obliges the peasants to grow a single crop, be it coca or other products? The factories that poison the air and the waters, and the state that contaminates the beaches south of Lima with sewage, all the while knowing that the currents flow from south to north.

Is it not true that the people of Bambamarca have been environmentalists for a long time? Many times they have struggled valiantly to stop the contamination of their ground and surface waters by mine operations.

Aren’t the people of Ilo and the other valleys that are being affected by the Southern Peru Copper Corporation environmentalists? Aren’t the people of Tambo Grande in Piura being environmentalists when they rise up like a single fist and are willing to die to prevent the opening of a mine in their town, in their valley?

The people of the Valley of Mantaro are also environmentalists who have seen their sheep die and their fields and soil poisoned by the waste waters and the smoke from the smelter at La Oroya. The populations that inhabit the Amazon jungle are also environmentalists who die to defend it from depredation. The poor of Lima are also environmentalists when they protest having to bathe at contaminated beaches.

False Enemies

Without doubt, some environmentalists don’t want to accuse these big polluters of the environment. Whom do they blame instead? The street vendors who litter the area where they sell, or the bus driver, or the peasant who cuts down a tree in order to celebrate with the “yunsa” in the carnival.

Of course we are not in favor of the children killing the birds in the parks or of someone stepping on the tail of the cat that belongs to one of the ladies of Miraflores. But there is no comparison between these actions and the actions of those that export animals by the hundreds from the jungle or with the foreign-owned monopoly company “Michael and Sarfati” that kills hundreds of vicunas for their wool.

These false environmentalists, some from “Non-Governmental Organizations,” have as their real objective to cover up for the real despoilers of the environment. For that reason they are anti-environmentalists.

–exerpt from La Republica, (Lima) April 6, 1991

January-February 1993, ATC 42