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The Importance of Indigenous People and Protecting Our Forests


Only 2.5% of the total Indigenous Land (IL) area in the Amazon has been deforested, while in regions occupied by rural properties the percentage is 52.5%. Indigenous people around the world have been observing environmental changes and caring for their sacred land for generations. Therefore, relying on their expertise and knowledge during our current climate and environmental crisis can help to mitigate the harmful consequences of human overconsumption. However, relying on these Indigenous peoples knowledge and cultural practices, also means including these generations into the global conversations that they have historically been left out of. 


Siham Drissi, a Programme Management officer at the Ecosystems division at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), interviewed Philip Alston, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, to discuss the relationship between Indigenous people and the land that they occupy around the world. Indigenous people, or people who have culturally significant and historic ties to the land they occupy, suffer disproportionately from loss of biological diversity and environmental degradation. These losses have only been exacerbated by climate change induced from non-native high polluting people and countries. In order to prevent further destruction, spread awareness, and improve relations between governments and Indigenous communities, the UNEP is publishing work on traditional knowledge on responsible land management, as seen in the UN Decade for Ecosystems Restoration (2021-2030). Again, considering that Indigenous communities contribute the least to climate change, but in a lot of cases are being affected the most, it is imperative to include Indigenous communities in the conversation with governments and policymakers to prevent history from repeating itself and causing a ‘climate apartheid’.


Now, the good news is that there are Indigenous people who are being heard and playing a role in forest protection. This article shares the story of Fiji’s Emalu people who are making a difference to protect their diverse forests and ecosystems. This article shares the story of Ecuador's Indigenous Waorani who have made strides towards environmental protection with corporations and governments. There is still a long way to go to correct the mistakes that have historically been made in regard to the protection of our forests, but by supporting the Indigenous communities who were here first, change is possible! 


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