Trust our expertise or face catastrophe, Amazon peoples warn on environment

(The Guardian, 28 Jan 2020) Indigenous leader urges focus on native knowledge as study shows rainforest areas under tribal stewardship manage carbon better.

Ecosystems will continue to collapse around the world unless humanity listens to the expertise of indigenous communities on how to live alongside nature, a prominent Amazon leader has warned.

Tuntiak Katan of the Ecuadorian Shuar people, who is vice-president of the pan-Amazon organisation representing communities in the river basin, said governments were spending millions of dollars on environmental consultants while largely ignoring the land management skills of the planet’s indigenous people that could help combat the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

Speaking to the Guardian from the Ecuadorian Amazon, Katan, who became the first indigenous representative at a UN climate action summit last year, said environmental “catastrophes” such as the fires that devastated the world’s largest rainforest in 2019 would continue unless the contributions and human rights of indigenous people were respected.

Indigenous communities support around 80% of the planet’s biodiversity despite accounting for less than one twentieth of the human population, according to the World Bank.

Katan’s warning came as a new study revealed that parts of the Amazon rainforest under the stewardship of indigenous peoples sequester carbon better than areas with little protection, leading to less deforestation and degradation.

“We are the defenders of nature, of the life of the forests, of our territories,” said Katan, vice-president of Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Coica). “The world is investing lots of money to implement public policy to combat climate change, help conservation and restoration. But these policies are made in offices by technical experts with little or no knowledge of the Earth.”

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The Guardian, 28 Jan 2020: Trust our expertise or face catastrophe, Amazon peoples warn on environment