Discover more from Adetokunbo Sees
Why do indigenous people push for climate justice?
They get murdered every two days globally, with 1,700 killed in last decade, plus climate change could push 100 million of them into poverty by 2030
Indigenous people from Brazil protesting; Credit, The Intercept
Recently, Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, Defend Democracy in Brazil Committee (DDB-NY), Greenpeace Brazil, and Greenpeace U.S.A. took to the streets in New York, at the opening of the United Nations’ General Assembly. This follows on a protest in Brazil in August, as an unprecedented 6,000 indigenous people from 176 tribes camped at the Brazilian capital outside Brazil’s Supreme Court.
In June, an unrest took place in Ecuador, when indigenous organizations set up blockades in the capital Quito, the incident leading to the death of three indigenous people during marches, two during accidents, and two dying in ambulances delayed by the blockades.
In Colombia, the members of the Misak and Nasa indigenous people and campesino communities embark in protests, with at least one person killed by security forces in August 2021. A year earlier, the protesters used ropes to tear down the equestrian figure of de Belalcazar, who founded the south-western city of Popayan in 1537, with the members of the Pijao indigenous group joining the agitators.
Environmental conflicts; Credit, ScienceDirect.com
Globally, members of indigenous groups join each other in protests against governmental policies, and their activism grows with the passage of time. Groups such as the Xolobeni community in South Africa continue to hold protests, just as the Didipio community in Nueva Vizcaya in Philippines, which held global rallies in 2019. The Yoemi group of the Yaqui community in Loma de Bacum, Dakota felt pushed to the wall, so they destroyed an eight-meter section of a $400 million natural gas pipeline forming part of the Dakota Access pipeline in August 2017.
Due to climate change, fire seasons last longer, becoming more extreme, and indigenous people find themselves at the frontlines. The average length of the fire season increased by 19 percent from 1970 to 2013, with a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report revealing a rise in the number of global fires by 13 percent compared to 2019, already a record year for fire disasters. In 2020, 1,453 fires tore through the indigenous territories in the Amazon, the highest since 2009 and 56 percent higher than the average of the last ten years.
Since 1907, the annual global temperature has risen by around 0.74 degrees Celsius, and experts predict even further increases, with indigenous people slated to be greatly affected. The greenhouse gas emission for developed nations declined by 6.5 percent between 2008 and 2018, but the emissions from developing countries, where lots of the indigenous people reside, rose by 43.2 percent between 2000 and 2013.
An estimated 370 million indigenous people reside in various parts of the world, with two-third of them staying in Asia. Although they account for five percent of the world’s population, they cater for and protect 22 percent of the earth surface and eighty percent of its biodiversity. Around 70 million indigenous people depend on forest resources for survival, and the forest plays a vital role in combating climate change and the vagaries of weather.
As the ones in the frontlines, indigenous people must play their role in combating climate change and protecting the earth from the vagaries of weather, as forests such as the Amazon show 27 times less emissions due to the indigenous people’s near zero deforestation as compared to outside their protected area. Since extreme weather events such as global fires affect them, they must safeguard their territories, especially as 100 million of them around the world could be pushed back into poverty, as a consequence of climate change by 2030, 13 million of them in East Asia and the Pacific.
Killings of environmental activists; Credit, Mongabay
In trying to protect the world from the damaging effects of climate change, they suffer various problems. An environmental activist gets murdered every two days on the average over the past decade, with 1,700 people dying while striving to prevent logging, oil drilling, or mining. Sixty-eight percent of the murders takes place in Latin America, with Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras recording the highest number of killings. Ten documented murders happened in Africa, with many taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where six of the deaths occurring at the Virunga National park happened mostly to park rangers.
In trying to protect the world from the damaging effects of climate change, indigenous people experience setbacks. Since 2019, Brazil lost more than 13,000 square miles of the Amazon forest, with 1,500 square miles of the forest destroyed, the greatest ever within the period, making indigenous people bleed. Apart from leaving indigenous people rootless, the policies of the Brazilian government lead to increasing violence against indigenous land defenders, with 27 of them killed in 2021 while protecting the land.
In Africa, the Afar indigenous people, faced with climate change-induced drought, exist amidst rising temperature, irregular rainfall, reduction to their pastoral areas, negatively impacted upon by water unavailability, leading to animal deaths from hunger and diseases. Two million people from Borana communities made themselves adapt to off-farm activities due to frequent droughts and floods, while the Endorois take up non-traditional occupations such as beekeeping and rain harvesting.
Mining, agribusiness, logging, and other big interests target indigenous people, when they try to protect the world from the more damaging effects of climate change. The top five targeting countries for 2020 in terms of the highest death rate per capital (killing of human rights per million populations) include Nicaragua (12/6.6 million), Honduras (17/19.7 million), Colombia (65/50.3 million), Guatemala (13/16.6 million), and Philippines (29/108.1 million).
For indigenous people to stop their protests then, governments need to be held accountable for violence against them, especially as 227 environmental activists got killed in 2020, the highest record for a second consecutive year. The International Court of Justice should issue effective advisory opinions on climate change, because though 28 advisory opinions since 2017 have emerged, the court is yet to hear a case on climate change. With the International Court of Justice listening to cases on climate change, and governments held accountable for their crimes, only then will indigenous people stop protesting against climate injustice.
Credit, Getty Images
Asia report on climate change and indigenous people - Read here.
Dispossessed, Again: Climate Change Hits Native Americans Especially Hard - Read here.
Impacts of climate change to African indigenous communities and examples of adaptation responses - Read here.
Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean – Read here.
What to eat
Brazil vegan diet; Credit, Domestic Gothess