Mediation: Gabriela Sampaio (Fundação Amazonas Sustentável - FAS)
Panelists: Carlos Nobre (Climate Scientist), Jósimo Constant (Puyanawa Indigenous leader), Sineia do Vale (Conselho Indígena de Roraima - CIR)
Lesson: Climate change is exacerbating the difficulties that indigenous communities are already facing, but could be mitigated through learning of these communities and through applying modern technologies.
This panel is moderated by Gabriela Sampaio, she is a programme manager of the Innovative Solution Programme at FAS (“Fundação Amazonas Sustentável“ - Sustainable Amazon Foundation), which is a private foundation based in Amazonas (a Brazilian state) that works with protected areas and focuses on improving the quality of life of traditional forest people and on environmental conservation in general. Gabriela explains that climate change is compromising the life of indigenous people, especially their health and traditions. They are among the first to face the different consequences because of their dependence and close relationship with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties that indigenous people are already facing, including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights and violations, discrimination, and unemployment. Gabriela will lead the conversation today with Sineia do Vale, Jósimo Constant and Carlos Nobre.
The first one to speak is Sineia do Vale, she works for a grassroot organization called ‘Indigenous Council of Roraima’. Indigenous people have an important role in the climate crisis. For a long time, the indigenous people use their knowledge and wisdom to conserve and keep the forest standing. When we talk about the forest, we not only talk about big trees, but also about all biomes. For example in Roraime (Brazil), they have a biome that is different from all the Amazonian biomes, called ‘lavrado’, the local name for savanna. The indigenous people have kept these ecosystems standing, but they often lack public policies that guarantee the rights of these people. Especially important in this regard is the demarcation of land, which is still unclear in large parts of Roraime. Indigenous people are a barrier to deforestation, Sineia and her grassroot organization are an example of this in the Brazilian Amazon. She wants to send a message to all the indigenous and non-indigenous people around the world: We need to make a task force to prevent the climate from warming up, since we know that the people who will suffer the most will be the indigenous people that are in direct contact with nature. She calls out to all the countries in this world to take a look at the climate crisis. Together we are stronger!
The next one to speak is Jósimo Constant. He grew up in the indigenous Puyanawa community, and then moved to the city to study anthropology. Gabriela is really curious about what Jósimo thinks about the climate challenge, especially with regard to his community. Jósimo starts explaining how he evaluates the impact of climate change on the traditions of indigenous people from a social and cultural point of view through mentioning specific impacts. Especially important for the Puyanawa community are the frogs, the word ‘Puyanawa’ means frog (‘people of the frog’). These frogs play an important role in the ecosystem; if the frogs disappear, other plants and animals run the risk of disappearing as well. Unfortunately, many of the frogs have already disappeared, Puyanawa saw a gradual decline of different frog species over the years. Currently, the community only has 3 types of frogs left. Another example of a specific impact is the disappearance of many types of manioc, these species gradually declined over the years because of climate change. To continue, the community also suffered many disasters, drying rivers and disappearing animals. This last one is connected to another pertinent problem: Pollution. The reason that the frogs are dying in the river is both because of the adverse effects of climate change and the increasing pollution. This is his message to everyone in the world: We have to protect the Amazon forest, we have to protect the rivers, and we have to protect the animals! If one species dies, we could all be in danger!
The last one to speak is Carlos Nobre, he has the Amazon as a laboratory to study as a climate scientist. He will elaborate on how we can create links and bridges to bring science recommendations and results closer to native and indigenous people that are living in remote regions. He first starts to explain about the Brazilian communities in the Amazon. These communities in the Amazon amount to nearly 1 million square kilometres, which is almost 25% of the forest. This undisturbed forest removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; nearly half a ton of carbon per hectare is removed every year by the forest! If you make that calculation, you will find that indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon are responsible for 200 tons of carbon dioxide per capita per year. We are not talking about positive emissions here, but about the so-called ‘negative emissions’: Carbon dioxide that comes from the atmosphere and is removed by the forests. When we look at the Brazilian greenhouse gases (GGH’s), we reach this year a per capita average of 8000 per person. About 4 tons or carbon dioxide is due to deforestation, land degradation and fires, 2 tons due to agriculture, and 2 are due to energy emissions (fossil fuels). So whereas ‘we’ (the Brazilian inhabitants) are emitting 8000 tons of carbon per person, the indigenous people are absorbing 200 tons of carbon dioxide a year. An important reason that could explain this is the ideology of these communities, they have the cultural value to keep the forest standing. Carlos continues by explaining more about the quantification of greenhouse gases into monetary values. Take for example the carbon credits, Carlos talks about the example of Norway who gives around 10 dollars per ton of carbon dioxide. Today, it could thus be calculated in monetary value that the indigenous people are serving the planet and humanity around 2,000 dollars a year. This is only one example of the many ecosystem services that the forest provides (taking up CO2). Without the forests, the Amazon would be 2-4 degrees warmer, which is clearly visible in degraded and clear-cut areas. This could have a tremendous effect on the biome and particularly on agriculture. Other ecosystem services are the huge variety of pollinators and the mitigation of climate extremes like droughts and strong rainfall.
Through all these examples, Carlos tries to show us that the forest really plays a tremendous value, both culturally, spiritually, ethically and economically. As these forests are often protected and maintained by indigenous people, we should recognize their efforts to save our planet. Science is discovering things that indigenous people already know for thousands of years in the Amazon. Carlos for example talks about the manioc; the indigenous women derived thousands of varieties of manioc and other plants over thousands of years. A common problem in the Amazon is the soil, the Amazonian tropical soils tend to be very nutrient-poor because of high rainfall. The indigenous people used special agricultural techniques for thousands of years already, whereby small parts of the forest are cut, abandoned and subsequently naturally restored by mother nature. This system creates the so-called ‘dark earth’, which improves the fertility of the soil. Science is now discovering that the economic value of the forest standing is much higher than replacing it with only one species (such as soy or corn). One of the solutions was to merge scientific knowledge (e.g. renewable energies) with traditional knowledge from these communities, which resulted in a new paradigm for the Brazilian Amazon. Carlos is working on a new project called Amazonia 4.0, which is about how to use modern technologies to empower local communities along with their traditional knowledge!
See the record of the talk below:
About the Day of the Climate Professional:
The Day of the Climate Professional (DCP), celebrated on November 24, is an annual date to celebrate and catalyse the professionals accelerating solutions to the climate crisis. The 2020 inaugural edition was marked by an all-day virtual summit—networking activities, workshops, keynote presentations, interactive Q&As, and more—fostering reflections and actions on the interdisciplinary of climate change, its urgency, and the importance of working to tackle it through varied professions and sectors of society. Learn More.