In Memoriam: Jyri Jaakkola

The 33-year old Finn Jyri Jaakkola—climate activist, revolutionary, human—was murdered on 27 April while participating as an international observer in a caravan destined to the community of San Juan Copalá in the state of Oaxaca, México.  He went as an associate of VOCAL (Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Liberty) in a convoy that was intended to deliver much-needed food and other supplies to the autonomous municipality which has for months been cut off by paramilitary organizations.  The caravan was at a certain point ambushed and fired upon; Jyri and Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo were killed.  Those responsible are said to be members of the Union of Social Welfare for the Triqui Region (UBISORT), an organization that has been said to be a paramilitary group tied to México’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)—the party of the present governor of the state of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.1

The present author had the pleasure of knowing Jyri but for a few days, this during the Encounter for Autonomous Life that took place in Oaxaca de Juárez in early April.  He was a member of the Finnish grassroots environmental organization Hyökyaalto as well as of Climate Justice Action, and he partook in protests during the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties in Copenhagen last December.  During the Encounter, he presented an account of the Copenhagen meeting and the activities that took place to resist it, showing pictures of sit-ins and manifestations organized by protestors as well as disturbing images of police brutality directed at such.  He closed his plática, or talk, with a list of demands adapted from those advocated by Climate Justice Action:  that fossil fuels be kept in the ground, that local communities obtain control over their resources, that food-production be localized, that Northern over-consumption patterns be massively reduced, that the concept of ecological and climate debt2 be recognized and that reparations be granted to Southern societies, and that the rights of indigenous peoples and forests be respected.

Jyri was in the audience for the talk “Atmospheric Dialectics,” presented during the final day of the Encounter, and it was he who spurred dialogue after the conclusion of this decidedly depressing speech.  His kindness and warmth will not forgotten.

Jyri expressed to the author his desire to participate in actions surrounding the COP-16 meeting that is slated to take place at Cancún in November and December of this year.  Sadly, he will be able to do no such thing now.  It is perhaps to be hoped, though, that that which will occur at Cancún would have pleased Jyri; in this sense, it may be that we can commemorate him thusly in life, against death.

Beside the talk he gave during the “COP, Cochabamba, and local actions: sources in the struggle against global warming” event held on the second evening of the Encounter for Autonomous Life, Jyri was filmed in an interview by J.P. Sipila while at the Encounter.  It is available here; his section begins at 20:28.

Jyri’s passing brings to mind some of Hannah Arendt’s comments in The Human Condition: “Men, though they must die, are not born in order to die but in order to begin.”3 It is time that we began—that we act to realize Arendt’s affirming negation of her mentor and former lover Martin Heidegger here, that we work to realize “a rational establishment of overall society as humankind.”4 It is to be imagined that Jyri, like the rest of the Earth’s multitude that today suffers brutal repression and violence, would wish for such.

1Octavio Vélez Ascencio, “Desaparecidos, varios de los emboscados en Copala,” La Jornada, 29 April 2010.

2Andrew Simms, Ecological Debt: Global Warming & the Wealth of Nations (London: Pluto, 2009).

3 p. 246

4 Theodor W.. Adorno, “Progress,” Benjamin: Philosophy, Aesthetics, History, ed. Gary Smith, trans. Eric Krakauer (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1989).

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