‘My fight is for the health of my son, Moises, against the contamination of the environment in La Guajira,’ says Luz Angela Uriana Epiayu of the Wayuu indigenous nation.
Luz Angela came from Colombia to London for a week of events around the BHP Billiton AGM in October at the invitation of the London Mining Network. Every time Luz Angela spoke about her family’s plight, she cried. She is not a slick public speaker, nor trained campaigner, but a mother fighting for the survival of her family and her tribe. Meeting her had a profound impact on me: she has passed on her tears and the determination that we must use everything we have to fight this.
Luz Angela is travelling with a German lawyer, who tells us the stark statistics of the situation for the people living next to the opencast mine. Cerrejón, owned by BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American, is Colombia’s biggest coal producer. In 2015 it produced 33.4 million tonnes of coal, most of which was destined for Europe. The mine keeps on growing: of the 690 square kilometres permitted to be mined there, 90 have been exploited already.
When Luz Angela made her complaint against Cerrejón for its impact on her son’s health, the company tried to buy her off. They said they would pay for his treatment and give her a job in the mine, on the condition that she dropped her case against them. She says should could not accept this as the pollution needs to stop for the sake of her whole tribe.
Luz Angela won her court cases, but no action has been taken. Ideally she’d have the whole mine closed, but she thinks that this won’t happen and so is trying to force Cerrejón to reduce the pollution and the impact on her reservation. She came to the belly of the beast in London and spoke at the BHP Billiton AGM. The experience was not positive.
There have been reports of children starving because of the water shortage. As ever, the truth seems fraught with competing issues. Luz Angela tells the sad tale of one of her family members, a girl of just eight months who went to hospital with breathing difficulties.
‘No puedo mas – I can’t cope with more,’ says Luz Angela. ‘There are many consequences of this. There are other children and adults who have respiratory illness and problems. Two months ago an eight-month-old baby died, she was in my family. Doctors said there was nothing wrong. This is indicative of the way that Cerrejón buys out doctors.
‘I need to fight for all the children so that they don’t die. I am scared that my Moises will die. Which is why I ask people to help and tell people our story and to say that there are many other communities suffering. We come to ask for doctors from this county to go to La Guajira to show that that there are countless problems being caused by the coal.’
Although the Cerrejón mine opened in 1983, there has never been an independent investigation into its health impacts on the surrounding population. ‘They have a tendency to change the clinical history of why people die. The girl I referred to died of respiratory problems but they wrote on her records that she died of malnutrition even though her weight was fine,’ Luz Angela explains.
Cerrejón claims that it adheres to the standards set by the Colombian state. This might be true, but the Colombian authorities allow sulphur oxides of 250 micrograms per cubic metre, many times the 20 micrograms maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation.
During Luz Angela’s visit she also attended a protest organised by Biofuelwatch at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, demanding that the UK government stop subsidising Drax power station to the tune of £1.6 million per day. I spoke about her community at the demonstration at Drax a week after she left, in an attempt to ensure that her story is listened to and acted on by people here. Meeting her has made me determined to take her humanity into our campaigning against the companies that profit from the coal taken from the earth that was the home of her people.
Anne Harris campaigns with the Coal Action Network, which supports the communities fighting against the mines that supply the UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry