Letter of the Encounter of knowledge: Amazon and climate change

To the Government Leaders of the World,

To the People of the Earth,

In a few days the world’s attention will be focused on a land of mountains called Scotland, where the wills and the hopes of stopping a climatic catastrophe that is already happening all over the world will come together. Global warming is melting the snow of the Andes, thawing the Arctic, and causing severe floods and droughts in our region: the Amazon rainforest. Changes in the ecosystem of plants, animals, and rainfall are signs of a severe imbalance. This imbalance will make the sky fall, according to our shamans. It will make the Earth an uninhabitable place for the human species, according to scientists. Scientists agree: the warming of the world is caused by the release of gases into the atmosphere, intensifying the so-called “greenhouse effect.” Its biggest culprits are the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. These two monsters feed each other, devouring life on the planet.  

The Amazon is the largest river basin and the largest tropical forest in the world. It spans the territories of nine countries: Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Suriname, Bolivia, Guyana, and French Guiana, and is home to more than 300 indigenous peoples, as well as other traditional peoples and communities. Because of its ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, regulate rainfall and temperature, the Amazon Forest is vital to the Earth’s climate balance. Attacks on the forest are, in practice, attacks on humanity.

And although everyone knows this, the clearing of millions of hectares of forest continues and has intensified most recently. Likewise, the environmental destruction caused by mining, both legal and illegal, fires, and the land degradation caused by pesticides worsen. Behind this destruction lies a destructive logic, driven by greed and the desire to control the wind, the rain, the sun, and the moon.

We live in the Amazon. Since the European invasion, we have fought against a predatory and genocidal colonization that exploits and destroys the forest and its peoples. Colonists tried to tear out our roots and exterminate our customs, languages, and knowledge, though we continue resisting. Amid struggle, we reinvented life. In our territories, nature lives and has rights. Forests and rivers are common goods. We defend the good life. For this reason, profit seeking forces attack us. We continue resisting.

There is a moment of decision. And this moment is now. Scientific studies have proven that in the devastated areas in the south and southeast of the Brazilian Amazon, the forest is already emitting more carbon dioxide than it absorbs. According to research, the point of no return—when the forest will no longer have the capacity to recover—is dangerously close. The effects of forest destruction are already being felt throughout Latin America, from the Pacific to the Caribbean, from the Andes to the Pampas.

In dangerous times, one must be audacious. Environmental crimes against the Amazon are driven by genocidal governments such as those of Brazil and Colombia. Putting an end to these governments is crucial for the peoples of Panamazonia and the world. But beyond this, it is necessary to change long-term politics. A definitive stop to cutting and fires is an indispensible measure. We support the campaign of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, aimed at reaching 2025 with 80% of the forest cover of the Amazon standing, preventing the point of no return.  On an international scale, it is necessary to stop the consumption of products linked to the deforestation of the Amazon, particularly those of predatory agribusiness.  Defending the Amazon is the only way forward for people on all continents.

It is essential to demarcate and protect all indigenous lands and traditional communities, immediately ceasing invasions and attacks. We demand compliance with ILO Convention 169, which guarantees free and informed consultation with traditional people for any projects that affect our territories and our way of life. It is no longer possible to bear the heavy social, environmental, and cultural costs imposed by hydroelectric dams, infrastructure megaprojects, monocultures of soy, palm oil, eucalyptus, and acacia, which do not benefit, but threaten our lives.

By the time this letter reaches your hands, world leaders, you may be arguing about how to spend the resources intended to stop climate catastrophe. Let us say sincerely, that not a single cent should go to those who, through open attacks or false environmental solutions, promote the destruction of nature. The world’s resources for forests should go to those who defend them and face violence. We should receive the resources destined to save the forest. In this way we can strengthen and expand our action, benefiting all of humanity.

There is no more time to wait. We, indigenous people, quilombolas, fishermen, Amazonian city dwellers, and scientists from various fields, have gathered for four days in Belém, to exchange knowledge and perceptions. After having reached some conclusions, we wrote this letter, with what our heart says, nourishing minds for the healing of the Earth.

From Belem do Pará, near the delta of the Rio Grande, we raise our voices. We are convinced that Amazonia is the heart of the world. The battle will be fought here, where the fate of humanity and of biodiversity will be decided. There is no way to save the planet’s climate without stopping the attacks on the Amazon and our people.  We believe that the strength of the people of the world will be able to change this story. A preserved and victorious Amazon will be the foundation of a new humanity.

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