The Blue Green Blog

Selected tags

Recently, the Kalinga indigenous people in the Philippines showed that environmental protection is possible, through collective action. They stopped the Chico River Dam Project from being constructed, an action that inspired Joan Carling (who is from the Kankanaey tribe in the Philippines) to fight for human rights in land development.

An activist for over 20 years, Joan Carling says, “In the very principles that indigenous people carry it says that we must retain our reciprocal relations with Mother Nature. That reciprocal relationship is the one that I believe is being undermined by the western concept of development.”

Carling’s activism started in Cordillera, in the north of the Philippines, which is home to 1.3 million indigenous people and is part of the country’s mineral belt, rich in gold, copper and manganese. Carling and the Cordillera People’s Alliance petitioned the government as a response to the country’s Mining Act of 1995, which allowed transnational corporations to have control of the lands. The alliance successfully stopped some of the planned projects because it was able to demonstrate the evident impacts on the environment.

Carling has spoken out about dam building. However, many developing countries view dam building as the route to economic development. Based on this, Carling has not advocated for a ban on dam building, but instead has proposed ‘a human rights-based approach to energy development.’

Now, Carling is looking to create partnerships with the private sector, in order to show that sustainable development is possible. Carling received the UN Environment’s Champion of the Earth lifetime achievement award in 2018.