The Saffron Revolution
October 1, 2007
I am a long time Burma activist. I have spent some of each year for the past 7 years on the Thai-Burma border working with former political prisoners, refugees, migrant workers, doctors, lawyers, students, and 20-something backpackers for the freedom of the Burmese people. This issue, the freedom of a people, is not just a human rights issue, it is an environmental justice issue. Greenpeace, many years ago, worked on forest issues within Burma. It seems that American companies are very happy to make shady corrupt deals with the Burmese regime. If you do not know what is happening inside Burma right now, please check this out.
But what I really want to talk about this Monday morning, is how repressing human rights magnifies environmental degradation. Looking at the situation inside Burma is the easiest way to talk about this issue, though there are several cases within the United States where this also exists. Love Canal, Hurricane Katrina, superfund sites around Los Angeles, CA, refineries in Convent, LA, and chemical waste landfills in Port Author, TX — to name just a few.
As many communities around the United States have seen, illegal dumping and irresponsible management of toxic substances leads to water and land pollution and the poisoning of our families and loved ones. One way to better understand the situation within Burma is by picturing the Love Canal and then adding child soldiers, slavery, and ethnic cleansing.
This weekend a couple friends and I spent an amazingly beautiful Washington DC early Fall afternoon walking around the city. As we were walking through downtown we saw about 100 birds flying in circles above a small round-about park in formation. We started discussing the simple complexities of eco-systems. We shared knowledge on how schools of fish react to predators and how bats understand community. We talked and talked and what we were really saying was that we are all connected. Everything we do effects the lives of people and animals and the giant complex eco-systems around us. A government can not suppress a persons freedom of speech without it directly relating to the way that government regulates toxic chemicals or the way that government turns a blind eye when foreign companies mismanage their waste systems within their country.
Supporting the Saffron Revolution is just one way to support the environmental justice activists within our own country. And what we are all doing by taking cyberactions, reading up on what is being done about the blown over oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and better understanding the connection between building pipelines and child slavery inside Burma is realizing Aung San Suu Kyi’s words, " Please use your liberty to promote ours."