October guest blog by Cool Earth’s Programme Manager, Martin Simonneau
Despite being some of the most biologically and culturally diverse places on Earth, tropical rainforest regions have historically been hostile environments. That’s not just due to snake bites, prowling jaguars or deadly fungus species.
For centuries, the people that call rainforest home have understood its intricacies. Against those who view the forest purely as a means for wealth and power, indigenous and rainforest communities continue to rely on their trees for basic needs and survival.
“The Amazon may be as much the product of the Indians as the Indians are the product of the Amazon.” – George Monbiot, Amazon Watershed, 1991.
Fortunately, we have reached an age in which more and more people across global business and civil society are realising that one of our civilisation’s best bets for averting the effects of climate breakdown is to protect, respect and empower forest communities.
In 2007, the UN passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 2019’s IPCC report highlighted that “indigenous peoples’ holistic view of community and environment are a major resource for adapting to climate change.” It’s about time.
“No one understands the value of forests better than indigenous and local communities. As experts, often guided by hundreds of years of knowledge, we are uniquely suited to manage, protect and restore the world’s forests.”
– Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur, 2019.
Yet from the drug trade to development ideals, gold mining to gas harvesting, rainforest invasion and encroachment upon indigenous land, resources, traditions and beliefs, continues. Add to this the rapid rise of reactionary ideologies like in Brazil, and subsequent burning of the Amazon, and it’s easy to feel like hope for the forest is lost.
Cool Earth is no expert on indigenous land rights; we can never claim to know everything. But one thing we do know for certain. Supporting rainforest peoples in their struggle for self-determination and peace is not only contributing to tackling climate breakdown, but also means valuing and respecting the well-being of 350 million people.
Those that have relied upon the rainforest for millennia have always known of its ecological and social importance and, crucially, of its fragility. Cool Earth’s community-led approach helps enable people to protect their complex social and spiritual structures that maintain a perfect balance for rich ecosystems such as the Amazon Basin and the Congo Basin to thrive.
By supporting us, this is exactly what you are contributing to; it’s fundamental, it’s compassionate and it’s powerful.