Storm Song: Why I Love Mormon Crickets

When you find yourself bitter that no one seems to care, when you’ve tricked yourself that you’re all alone, when you’ve fought longer than you thought you could and the war has just begun, look for the little ones, the creatures underfoot and overhead, our tiny allies humans too often ignore.

When I was bitter, feeling sorry for myself, and exhausted, Thacker Pass showed me Mormon crickets. They came alive in late April. I went to sleep one night, forgetting that Mormon crickets even existed, and the next morning the dusty road leading into camp was covered with them. Cars couldn’t drive up the road without killing hundreds of them. Walkers couldn’t walk up the road without squashing dozens of them.

Mormon crickets are one of the most hated species in the Great Basin. But, I fell in love with them. Fascinated by their sudden appearance in Thacker Pass, I wanted to learn more. I learned that Mormon crickets aren’t even crickets – they’re shieldbacked katydids. From a distance, they look uniformly brown. But, on closer inspection, a swarm of Mormon crickets becomes a rainbow of hazel browns, rich scarlets, royal purples, iridescent greens, and obsidian blacks. When they hatch, they are tiny – maybe a third of an inch long. After a few days of feeding on sage brush and grasses, they become noticeably longer. Some Mormon crickets can eat and grow their way to being three inches long.

Most importantly, Mormon crickets are warriors. They earned their name in their first campaign. In the late summer of 1847, members of a new Christian sect, the Mormons, invaded the Salt Lake Valley in Utah and brought humanity’s oldest war against the natural world with them: agriculture. Immediately upon arrival in the arid Utah terrain, Mormons dammed and diverted streams for irrigation systems, stripped land for farms, ripped stone from the earth for churches, and cut living forests for houses and other buildings.

The Mormon crickets who hatched in the spring of 1848 found the first Mormon settlers’ newly-planted crops. Because there had been rumors from their grasshopper relatives on the Great Plains of a new kind of pale-skinned human who had recently arrived only to immediately begin destroying grasslands for crops, these young Mormon crickets recognized the declaration of war. In fact, historians still call this The Cricket War of 1848. The Mormon crickets knew that the best way to win a war is to destroy your enemy’s capacity to wage war. They knew their Mormon enemies would be hard-pressed to wage war if they were starving.

So, the Mormon crickets marshaled their strength and ambushed beans and peas, first. Mormon diarist Mrs. Lorenzo Dow Young wrote on May 27, 1847:

“…the crickets came by millions, sweeping everything before them. They first attacked a patch of beans for us and in twenty minutes there was not a vestige of them to be seen. They next swept over peas, then came into our garden; took everything clean. We went out with brush and undertook to drive them, but they were too strong for us.”

Then, they assaulted cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash. Finally, they attacked corn and grains. Mrs. Young wrote on May 28, 1847: “Today the crickets have commenced on our corn and small grain. They have eaten off 12 acres for Brother Rosacrants, 7 for Charles and are now taking Edmunds.” The next day, Mrs. Young wrote: “Today they have destroyed ¾ of an acre of squashes, our flax, two acres of millet and our rye, and are now to work in our wheat. What will be the result we know not.”

If it wasn’t for the seagulls and the frost, the Mormon Crickets of 1848 might have succeeded in driving the Mormons from the Salt Lake Valley. Seagulls arrived just in time to feast on the crickets, frost froze many crickets to death, and the Mormons were able to salvage enough of their crops to survive. Though Mormon crickets have failed to push European invaders and their agriculture from the land, they renew their battle every year. And, to this day, Mormon crickets cause significant damage to crops in the Great Basin.

Mormon crickets have bravely battled another destructive culture for decades: car culture. Some years, when the crickets have seen too many of their winged kin massacred on windshields, heard too much of the smack and crunch of gopher, rabbit, and deer bones under speeding tires, and choked too long on roadside exhaust, they have taken matters into their own hands. In what has become an almost-yearly phenomenon in the Great Basin, Mormon crickets have sacrificed themselves in such numbers that some winding, hilly roads become so slick with cricket blood that cars run off the road. These suicide missions sometimes even succeed in making roads impassable.

After learning about the bravery Mormon crickets have shown, I went looking for them. It was a cloudless April day. The sun poured down unfiltered. Wind stirred up dust and reminded me of the drought. The green slopes of the Montana Mountains were already giving way to brown – weeks too early. The land and I longed for rain.

I found the crickets. As I approached them, I noticed that my footsteps caused splashes of hopping crickets on the dirt and sage brush branches. I paused and listened. “Dance with us,” the crickets said.

Many of the crickets seemed to hop around to face me, beady eyes looking up at me, antennae reaching towards me. There was a tempo in the way those antennae twitched. It was a music I felt more than heard.

I picked up my left foot and stomped on the road. The crickets leapt and their tiny feet jingled the sage brush. I stomped my right foot. The crickets jumped and their tiny feet jangled the grass. As I found the rhythm, my feet were the bass line and cricket feet were the treble. My feet became thunder and cricket feet became rain. Boom. Patter. Boom. Patter. Boom. Patter. We brought a storm song to Thacker Pass.

I don’t know how long we danced like this. Eventually, I was soaked in sweat, out of breath, and my throat was coated in dust. I stopped for a breather. It took a few beats for the crickets to notice. As they settled, I thanked them for their courage, for their service in the war against the natural world, and for dancing with me. Then, I asked them what they needed from me.

“Fight with us,” is all they said before scattering back into the sage brush. And, I knew if these tiny creatures could be so brave, I could, too.

People of Red Mountain Petition and Fundraiser – please sign!

Protect Thacker Pass works in solidarity with, and in support of, the traditional Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone tribal members who have come together to form a committee, Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) to stop the Thacker Pass Open Pit Lithium Mine. Please consider donating to Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu’s fundraiser. All donations will cover expenses such as events, food, gas, supplies, legal aid, traveling costs, other necessities, etc. If you’re wondering who to donate to between Protect Thacker Pass and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu, please donate to Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu!

Go Fund Me: https://gofund.me/9a4cbb15

Protect Thacker Pass Campaign Orientation and Intro

Curious about Peehee mu’huh, Thacker Pass? Interested in participating in the camp and organizing on behalf of the campaign, but don’t know where to get started? Join us Wednesday May 5, 5pm PT for a live streaming orientation to the ProtectThacker Pass campaign. 

Facebook Live Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/219993606554727

Baghpat Farmers: ‘How Long Will The Lies Work?

Baghpat Farmers: ‘How Long Will The Lies Work?

DGR are interested in these protests in India, led primarily by those in poor farming communities, because they offer insight into successful campaigning and highlight the brutality of those in power. 


By Parth M.N.

Farmers’ protests have been on at sites beyond Delhi’s borders.

One in Uttar Pradesh was dismantled by a late-night crackdown – with some leaders dubbed ‘suspects’ in the Republic Day violence in the capital.

If it weren’t for the violent blows of police lathi s, the farmers protesting in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district would not have left their protest site on January 27. “The protest had been going on for 40 days,” says Brijpal Singh, 52, a sugarcane farmer from Baraut town, where the sit-in was held.

“It was not even a rasta-roko . We were peaceful, and exercising our democratic right. On the night of January 27, the police suddenly started beating us up. They tore our tents, and took our vessels and clothes. They didn’t even care for the elders and children,”

added Brijpal, who owns five acres of farmland in Baraut.

Until that January night, about 200 farmers from all over the district had been staging a protest on the Baghpat-Saharanpur highway in Baraut, against the new farm laws. They are among lakhs of farmers across the country who have been protesting ever since the central government introduced three new farm laws in September 2020.

Farmers in Baghpat and other parts of western Uttar Pradesh (UP) have also been demonstrating their support for those famers – mainly from Punjab and Haryana – agitating at the borders of Delhi since November 26, 2020, demanding a repeal of the laws.

“We received threats, phone calls,” says Brijpal, who is also the local leader of the Desh khap – the all-male council of the Tomar clan in Baghpat region. “The [district] administration threatened to fill up our farms with water. When nothing worked, the police lathi -charged in the night when we were sleeping. We were caught by surprise.”

Before his bruises could heal, Brijpal received another shock.

A notice from Delhi Police informing him to appear at Seemapuri police station in Delhi’s Shahdara district on February 10. The notice said that he would be questioned about the violent events in the national capital on January 26, during the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally. “I was not even in Delhi,” says Brijpal. “I was at the dharna [in Baraut]. The violence happened 70 kilometres from here.” So he didn’t respond to the police notice. The farmers’ protest in Baraut had been going on until the night of January 27, confirms Baghpat’s Additional District Magistrate, Amit Kumar Singh.

Eight other farmers who protested in Baraut also received notices from Delhi Police. “I didn’t go,” says 78-year-old Baljor Singh Arya, a former sepoy of the Indian Army. His notice said that he had to appear on February 6 at the Pandav Nagar police station in East Delhi district. “I have no clue why I am being dragged into it. I was in Baghpat,” says Baljor, who farms on his two-acre plot of land in Malakpur village.

The Baghpat farmers are “suspects” in the Delhi incidents, said Sub-Inspector Niraj Kumar from Pandav Nagar station. “The investigation is going on,” he told me on February 10. The reason for sending the notices cannot be disclosed, said Inspector Prashant Anand from Seemapuri. “We will see whether they were in Delhi or not. We have some inputs. That is why we sent the notices.”

The notices sent to Brijpal and Baljor cited the first information reports (FIR) registered at the Delhi police stations. The FIRs listed various sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to rioting, unlawful assembly, assault on a public servant, dacoity and attempt to murder, among others. Sections of laws such as the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act were also included.

But the farmers were only demanding their rights, says Vikram Arya, a 68-year-old sugarcane farmer from Khwaja Nagla village, eight kilometers from Baraut. “Ours is a land of agitation and protest. Every peaceful protest has Gandhi in it. We are protesting for our rights,” says Vikram, who was at the Baraut protest. The regime at the Centre, he says, “wants to eliminate everything that Gandhi stood for.”

The three laws that farmers across the country have been opposing are: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 ; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 .

The farmers see these laws as devastating to their livelihoods because they expand the space for large corporates to have even greater power over farmers and farming. The new laws also undermine the main forms of support to the cultivator, including the minimum support price (MSP), the agricultural produce marketing committees (APMC), state procurement and more. They have also been criticised as affecting every Indian as they disable the right to legal recourse of all citizens, undermining Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.

Vikram doesn’t believe the government’s claim that MSP will continue even after the new laws take full effect.

“What happened to BSNL after the private companies came in? What is the state of our public schools and hospitals? That is exactly what the state mandis would be reduced to. They will die a slow death,” he says. Apart from worrying about the state-regulated mandis (APMCs) becoming redundant, farmers like Vikram and Baljor also fear the presence of corporate entities in agriculture. “The companies will have a monopoly over our produce and they will dictate terms to the farmers,” says Vikram. “Do private companies think anything else apart from profits? How can we trust them to treat us fairly?”

Farmers in western UP, who mainly cultivate sugarcane, know what it’s like to deal with private corporations, says Baljor.

“We have a contract with sugarcane factories,” he explains. “The prices are decided by the state [state advisory price]. According to the law [UP Sugarcane Act], we are supposed to receive our payments within 14 days. It has been 14 months but we still haven’t received payment for the sugarcane we sold the previous season. The state government has hardly done anything about it.”

Baljor, who served in the army in 1966-73, is also angry that soldiers have been pitted against the farmers by the government. “They have sold false nationalism by using the army. As someone who has been in the army, I detest that,” he says.

“The media is busy telling the country that opposition parties are politicising the farmers’ agitation,” says Vikram. “If political parties don’t get involved in politics, then who will? The agitation has woken up the farmers,” he adds. “We are present in 70 per cent of the country. How long will the lies work?”


This article was published in  The People’s Archive of Rural India on  MARCH 3, 2021 you can access this here!

The Big Green Lie

The Big Green Lie

We in DGR stand in solidarity with Survival International and support them because we believe that their analysis is correct and the organization is doing incredibly important work in standing up for indigenous peoples worldwide. While we encourage everyone to support Survival International and their very well-made campaigns, as an organization DGR pushes for more radical approaches than writing or signing letters and petitions, begging those in power to act in a different way. Those in power have never been on the side of the masses, the poor, the indigenous or the natural world. Asking nicely will not stop them continuing their atrocities.

By Survival International

https://youtube.com/watch?v=xRc7Ez8uY7A%3Fversion%3D3%26rel%3D1%26showsearch%3D0%26showinfo%3D1%26iv_load_policy%3D1%26fs%3D1%26hl%3Den-US%26autohide%3D2%26wmode%3Dtransparent

At the next Convention on Biological Diversity summit, world leaders plan to agree turning 30% of the Earth into “Protected Areas” by 2030.

Big conservation NGOs say this will mitigate climate change, reduce wildlife loss, enhance biodiversity and so save our environment. They are wrong.

Protected Areas will not save our planet. On the contrary, they will increase human suffering and so accelerate the destruction of the spaces they claim to protect because local opposition to them will grow. They have no effect on climate change at all, and have been shown to be generally poor at preventing wildlife loss.

It is vital that real solutions are put forward to address these urgent problems and that the real cause – exploitation of natural resources for profit and growing overconsumption, driven by the Global North – is properly acknowledged and discussed. But this is unlikely to happen because there are too many vested interests that depend on existing consumption patterns continuing.

Who will suffer if 30% of Earth is “protected”? It won’t be those who have overwhelmingly caused the climate crisis, but rather indigenous and other local people in the Global South who play little or no part in the environment’s destruction. Kicking them off their land to create Protected Areas won’t help the climate: Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the natural world and an essential part of human diversity that is a key to protecting biodiversity.

We must stop the push for 30%.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a protected area. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead.
These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a protected area. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead. © Survival

The truth about Protected areas

In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.

This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding. Usually these projects are funded and run by big Western conservation NGOs. Once the locals are gone, tourists, extractive industries and others are welcomed in. For these reasons, local opposition to Protected Areas is growing.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=z74qlEk5o3w%3Fversion%3D3%26rel%3D0%26showsearch%3D0%26showinfo%3D1%26iv_load_policy%3D1%26fs%3D1%26hl%3Den-US%26autohide%3D2%26wmode%3Dtransparent

“If the jungle is taken away from us, how will we survive?”

Kunni Bai, a Baiga woman, denounces efforts to evict her people in the name of “conservation”.

Why should we oppose it?

Doubling Protected Areas to cover 30% of the globe will ensure these problems become much worse. As the most biodiverse regions are those where indigenous peoples still live, these will be the first areas targeted by the conservation industry. It will be the biggest land grab in world history and it will reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty – all in the name of conservation. Creating Protected Areas has rarely been done with the consent of indigenous communities, or respect for their human rights. There is no sign that it will be any different in the future. More Protected Areas are likely to result in more militarization and human rights abuses.

The idea of “fortress conservation” – that local peoples must be removed from their land in order to protect ‘nature’ – is colonial. It’s environmentally damaging and rooted in racist and ecofascist ideas about which people are worth more, and which are worth less and can be pushed off their land and impoverished, or attacked and killed.

The conservation industry is looking to get $140 billion every year to fund its land grab.

What do we propose?

We must fight against this big green lie.

If we’re serious about putting the brakes on biodiversity loss, the cheapest and best-proven method is to support as much indigenous land as possible. Eighty per cent of the planet’s biodiversity is already found there.

For tribes, for nature, for all humanity. #BigGreenLie

More information on the 30% land grab:

– Mapping For Rights: The ‘Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’

– ‘New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind’

– #DecolonizeConservation: Tribal Voice videos

– Joint statement by NGOs: concerns over the proposed 30% target

– The Big Green Lie: an infographic explainer

– EU Conference on 2030 Biodiversity Strategy

– 30% by 2030 and Nature-Based Solutions: the new green colonial rule

– Letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

For The Wild Podcast Interview of Max Wilbert on Renewable Energy’s Sacrifice Zones (Part 1)

For The Wild podcast: https://forthewild.world/podcast 

We join Max Wilbert of Protect Thacker Pass to discuss the totality of violence Lithium Nevada is prepared to enact; from man camps to proposed water usage in the country’s driest state to the fallacies of green energy.

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