Letter from the Zapotec Indigenous community

25 May 2016 17:10,

The NUS represents 7 million students and passes policy at their annual conference. In collaboration with the Zapotec Indigenous community, UK students from the University West of Scotland and beyond are proposing an amendment to the Divest-Invest motion (502b) to support a just transition to renewable energy that does not reproduce the colonial models of extraction employed by the fossil fuel industry. Please act on their call for our solidarity.

To the National Union of Students
To all students in the UK

Dear friends,

I’m writing to you from my hometown, the Zapotec Indigenous community of Ixtepec, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico.

Our community is currently setting up a community-controlled wind farm in collaboration with Yansa, a non-profit that has been supporting our struggle. The wind project will be a tool for community development.

Fighting green colonialism

Natural resources are rich and abundant in our region. However, over the years exploitation and expropriation have driven us towards poverty and economic marginalisation. Despite this our culture, worldviews, traditions and ways of living continue to this day.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is one of the windiest areas in the world, which has attracted excessive numbers of large, usually foreign, corporations. These companies have installed large private wind farms with no benefit to the local community given their predatory nature. Currently, 21 operating private wind farms are producing over 2000 MW, and one more has been granted planning permission to produce a further 396MW.

These wind farms have been built with a complete disregard for the  collective Indigenous rights of our communities. Not only have these projects relied on land grabs and the destruction of our environment, but they’ve also resulted in division and conflicts within our communities. We have also experience a rise in violence, repression and militarisation.

The Mexican government intends to authorise projects for the production of a further 3683 MW from wind farms, under the same colonial, authoritarian and extractivist model, without consulting the communities on the use of their land, natural resources and common goods.

Building our community wind farm

This is the context in which our community and Yansa are proposing to set up a different wind farm model. Together with Yansa, we have set up a ‘Community Interest Company’ with the community directing 50 % of its net profits to promote social development. To reach this objective, active community participation in planning and decision-making processes are central to our aim of developing this new model of sustainable, inclusive and ecological community-led development.

We hope that this community wind farm model will multiply and inspire other communities in the region to set up a wind farm too. To this end, we will donate 50% of the profits for the development of similar community-controlled renewable energy projects.

This project needs strong community participation and organisation. We work hard to engage the entire population, with a specific focus on those who aren’t always part of the community structures, like women and young people. To promote their autonomous organisation, we’ve established a women’s forum and a youth forum.

This process hasn’t been simple. The Mexican government partnered with national and international corporations to allow the development of private wind farms. Furthermore, the government together with foreign and national private companies has prevented our community from using and managing our natural resources through our community wind project. Due to these barriers, we have mounted a legal challenge to defend our land and our right to manage our common resources.

A just transition to renewable energy

We are deeply aware of the global challenge posed by climate change that threatens to destroy our ecosystem. For the past 2 years, droughts have devastated our communities. This project will not only directly benefit our community, but it will also reduce future carbon emissions.

As a community, we are all in agreement that the transition to renewable energy is essential. However, we reject the model of private wind farms that have imposed themselves on communities in this region. We believe that communities should be involved in the development and operation of projects, protecting and respecting territorial and collective Indigenous rights. Projects should also provide real socio-economic benefits to the communities and have minimal environmental impacts.

We find ourselves at a critical time in which we must chose between either continuing green colonialism or, supporting grassroots community projects with alternative models of development.

This is why we turn to you, as organised students who care about climate change and projects that have positive social impacts. Please support our community project in any way you can.

Students at the University of the West of Scotland have submitted a motion to the NUS conference on our behalf asking NUS to support our project and divest from fossil fuels and invest in the construction of the the turbines on our land. Students on the conference floor will vote on this in 24h and we want as many of them as possible to hear my message. Help spread it and vote YES if you can

Letter all the way from Zapotec indigenous community (Mexico) in #solidarity to #NUSconference
Before you vote on #Divest motion amendment 502b this is a must read for #NUSConference delegates
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Solidarity from the Zapotec indigenous community of Ixtepec.

Nashieeli Valencia Nuñez
Zapotec woman, member of the Women’s Forum

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