World Peace, a Pact with Nature

Por: Craig Santos Perez

My name is Craig Santos Perez, and I am an indigenous Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guam. My family’s clan name is Gollo, and my village is Mongmong. In the Chamoru language, our word for water is tåsi and our word for land is tåno. Our word for our people is i taotao tåno, the people of the land. In our creation story, a brother and sister, Puntan and Fu’una, sail across the vast expanses of the ocean. After Puntan dies, Fu’una transformed his body into an island, his eyes into the sun and moon, and his eyebrows into rainbows. She then dives into the water off the shore of this new island and becomes a stone called Laso Fu’a. The Chamoru people were birthed from this stone into the surrounding sands. Our creation story embodies important ecological wisdom: namely, that the island—and by extension the earth—is our oldest ancestor.

This wisdom also teaches us ecological ethics: because the land and waters are our kin, we must treat the planet with respetu (respect) and guinaiya (love). Relatedly, the most important value in Chamoru culture is inafa’maolek, which translates roughly as “to make good for each other.” Inafa’maolek teaches us that all things are interconnected and related, including peoples, environments, elements, and all species. Because all things are interconnected, we must act with compassion, care, and sustainability. 

Despite the ecological values of my Chamoru culture, Guam itself is a place that has experienced much pollution and contamination. Guam has been a colony of the United States of America since 1898. The U.S. uses Guam as a massive military base in the western Pacific; indeed, Guam is often referred to as “The Tip of the Spear” pointing to Asia. Currently, the U.S. military occupies thirty percent of our entire island with multiple bases, firing ranges, and munitions storage for the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines. The military has polluted our island through weapons training, bombing, and waste disposal, which have caused the leaching of various toxins into the soil and groundwater. This pollution has exposed the Chamoru people to many hazardous chemicals, which has caused Chamorus to suffer and die from high rates of cancer. For the past ten years, I have lived in Hawaiʻi. Like Guam, Hawaiʻi has also been colonized by the United States and has also been contaminated by the American military. 

As if that was not bad enough, the U.S. military is also one of the largest carbon emitters in the world, which has been contributing to climate change. The impacts of climate change in Hawaiʻi, Guam, and the larger Pacific are manifold: extreme temperatures, unprecedented storms, historic droughts, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, the spread of infectious diseases, species die-offs, and mass migration. As a native Pacific Islander, I worry about the future of our habitats, as well as the future that my children, and the next generations, will inherit. 

For the past twenty years, I have been involved in the decolonization, demilitarization, sovereignty, environmental, and climate justice movements in the Pacific Islands. I believe that it is important for us to stand up and resist the destructive forces of colonialism, militarism, capitalism, extractivism, and the fossil fuel industry. For me, this activism also involves writing poetry about these important topics to raise awareness and empower others to learn about the Pacific and to stand with us in solidarity. Poetry is a space where I can protest, mourn, advocate, and inspire. Poetry is a space of healing, revitalization, and resurgence. Poetry is a place where the land and water can be honored and sanctified. Poetry is medicine, poetry is sacred, poetry is power. 

There has been and continues to be so much violence against the earth, violence against indigenous peoples, and violence against all peoples of color. There has been and continues to be so much war between and within nations, which are often fought to control natural resources. I believe we will never have peace in the world until we make a pact with nature. This pact should be based on indigenous values of interconnection, kinship, respect, and mutual care. This pact should promise decarbonization and a just transition. This pact should be grounded in sustainability, circular economies, and bio-diversity. This pact should help us envision an abundant future for the earth and all beings who call this place home.

Dr. Craig Santos Perez is an indigenous Chamoru (Chamorro) from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is a poet, scholar, editor, publisher, essayist, critic, book reviewer, artist, environmentalist, and political activist. Craig is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, where he teaches creative writing, eco-poetry, and Pacific literature. He is affiliate faculty with the Center for Pacific Islands Studies and the Indigenous Politics Program. He served as Chair of the Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Islander Board in the Office of General Education (2017-2020), and as the Director of the Creative Program (2014-2016 and 2019-2020). He earned a B.A. from the University of Redlands (2002), an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco (2006), and an MA (2009) and Ph.D. (2015) in Comparative Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a faculty member for Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA, 2018), Kundiman Writers Retreat (2019), and Mokulēʻia Writers Retreat (2019).

Published on 20.02.2022

Última actualización: 08/06/2023