Guardians of the Amazon

August 24, 2022

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Courtesy of FENAMAD

Indigenous leaders prepare to meet with current Peruvian President Pedro Castillo. One of their major concerns is representation in climate change issues.

Jaime Corisepa is the former president of the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and Tributaries (FENAMAD) and plays a key role in communicating the desires of Peru’s Indigenous peoples to the public and government. 

Operation Mercury, despite reducing mining, forced many illegal miners deeper into the Amazon, some encroaching on Indigenous territories. This pushed many Indigenous people to move to new locations. As the Amazon is contaminated by outside interests, the innocent who have always called it home are facing the consequences. 

Corisepa has sacrificed his normal life to serve the needs of his people, the Harakmbut. With a foot in each world, he must be an active member of his tribe while also acting as a sort of diplomat. He has attended various climate meetings and Indigenous rallies, all with the central goal of highlighting Indigenous perspectives on the climate emergency. 

“We have our own physical and spiritual connection to the rainforest. We need to be there [the IPCC]. The Indigenous people should be represented–we are part of these big decisions that affect the whole world.””

“The biggest misconception of the western world is that they think Indigenous people are just another object inside the rainforest,” Corisepa said. “We are forced to adapt to western ways of living. The western world has a lot of political, financial, and social strategies to force the Indigenous people to adapt to their ways of thinking and being.” 

Because the Indigenous people are viewed in such a way, they are not appreciated for how they protect and care for the rainforest. Despite being there for over 5,000 years and serving as guardians of the forest, they are still often cast to the side when trying to make their voices heard.

Many Indigenous people hope to be represented on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body that deals with climate change science and environmental issues. But they still struggle to be heard at even lower levels.  

“We have our own physical and spiritual connection to the rainforest,” Corisepa said. “We need to be there [the IPCC]. The Indigenous people should be represented–we are part of these big decisions that affect the whole world.” 

IPCC decisions and climate summits across the world will be essential to determining the well-being of future generations — an estimated 216 million people may be forced to migrate within their own countries by 2050 due to climate change, according to the World Bank on Climate Change and Health. Most of these people reside in low and middle-income countries which have little voice on an international scale, their fates being decided by world powers. 

Protecting the Amazon is integral to the future of the planet, as it is one of the most crucial assets to slowing global warming. With preservation efforts by organizations like CINCIA and fair representation in climate policy-making, the invaluable rich biodiversity of the Amazon could be saved. 

“There is hope.” Corisepa said. “As long as governments are willing to listen and learn, there is a future.” 

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