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2023: Hope Amidst the Chaos, and a Closing of the Cycles
A roundup of courage, hope and heroism from the year gone by.
By Tracy L. Barnett Posted in Esperanza Project on December 30, 2023
Cheryl Angel on defending our watersheds and the Heart of Everything That Is Previous Saying Farewell to a Legend Next

This past year has been a tough one for many. Devastating wars in Gaza and the Ukraine have taken their toll far beyond their excruciating epicenters. Climate change is no longer a future foretold but a reality unfolding before our eyes. An uncertain economy has been further fueled by tens of thousands of layoffs spurred by the also uncertain impacts of the generative AI revolution. Presidential elections from the US to Argentina and points between have brought conflict and chaos. It’s hard to know what to expect going forward into the new year.

And yet.

The human spirit continues to shine in so many dark corners, illuminating the possible instead of decrying the seemingly impossible. We have given ourselves the task of seeking out those who are defying the odds, resisting repressive and antiquated systems seemingly bent on crushing that spirit. And we continue to find it everywhere.

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In our biggest project to date, we have found it in the responses of Indigenous communities throughout the Andean corridor to the recent pandemic and to the civilizational crisis that humanity now faces. From the Lickanantay people of Northern Chile to the Mapuches of Patagonia, Indigenous people have been safekeeping a different vision of how life can be, a vision that was revived during the pandemic that their wisdom keepers have managed to keep alive during their Dark Ages of Colonialism.

Just last month we released Legacy of the Andes, the second episode in our epic Cosmology & Pandemic transmedia series, which many of you have already watched and/or read the stories. We’re very proud to have been able to share that work with you, thanks to the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the One Foundation.

Lea este artículo en español en 2023: Esperanza en medio del caos y un cierre de ciclos.

If you haven’t yet seen the film or read the stories, give yourself this special gift. Film available for a limited time only. (Cosmology & Pandemic photo illustration/The Esperanza Project)

Beyond our transmedia project, we have worked very hard to bring you stories such as this one, which was our surprise No. 1 top read story of 2023: Botany as archaeology, to save a sacred site from a lithium mine. In this unusual piece, “First Foods” specialist Nikki Hill shares results of a survey revealing an ancient kinship of place with a “horticulture based in endearment”. The survey was conducted at Thacker Pass, Nevada, the sacred site known as Peehee Mu’huh by its Paiute name, now fast-tracked for destruction by the voracious demand for lithium brought on by a double-edged “clean energy” transition.

Lithium ranked high among our top read stories of the year, as evidenced by the popularity of Mine Resisters Denounce the Dangers of the New “White Gold” Rush, an investigative look at the Thacker Pass issue and other impacts of the lithium juggernaut.

And we can’t leave the subject of lithium with calling your attention to our story about the Lickanantay people that emerged from the Legacy of the Andes reporting: ‘We don’t want to be a sacrifice zone,’ in which the original community discusses the ways in which massive lithium extraction in one of the world’s driest deserts is handing down a death sentence to an ancient culture’s sustainable lifeways.

Other top stories this year were focused more on the generation of light than the resistance to darkness. Our coverage of Embrace of the Amate, the XVI transformational gathering organized by the Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth, opened a window onto a countercultural current that has run through the heart of the Americas for generations, and is alive and well, providing inspiration to create oases of hope, healing and regenerative living in deserts of soul-deadening overconsumption and despair.

Sadly, one of the principle founders of the Vision Council, its chief visionary and standard-bearer and longtime Esperanza Project collaborator and cheerleader “Coyote” Alberto Ruz Buenfil, transcended this plane during the last weeks of 2023 and began his journey into parts unknown. But the outpouring of love, stories, photos, videos, interviews and inspiration that followed his passing will be the subject of an upcoming tribute piece that a team of us are working on for release in early 2024. And in the meantime, I share just a bit of what Alberto’s life and example have meant to me; indeed, to the entire Esperanza Project, which was inspired by his example.

A new alliance with the innovative female-fueled and staffed Global Press Journal brought us such jewels as Maya Piedra’s excellent Mexican Indigenous Group Fights to Preserve Sacred Sites, digging deeper into the matter after a much publicized decree signed in August by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promising to protect the five most sacred Wixárika sites representing this millenial culture’s cosmovision; but for the Wixárika community, as Maya details, the struggle isn’t over.

And as the kidnapping of longtime friend and Wixárika leader Santos Carrillo de la Cruz together with his wife and two small children so shockingly emphasized, the defenders of Indigenous territories are at tremendous risk everywhere, but most especially in Mexico. Thankfully Santos was found and rescued after a national outcry. But his life and those of his loved ones continues to be at risk, and he is one of thousands, hundreds of whose stories have ended tragically.

We continue to hold the balance between darkness and light here at The Esperanza Project, and rejoiced at the beauty and sustenance being generated for the broader rural communities in the drylands near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with this article by Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik, founders of the inspiring project of Tikkun Eco Center.

As we look ahead to 2024, we have so much more to share — stories of courage and valor, innovation and beauty and creative resistance. Stories of the real-life superheroes who are standing up to injustice and working hard every day to turn the tide toward a world in balance, one that values life over commodities. We hope you’ll join us, and help us to spread the world. Juntos, se puede. Together, we can.

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