Top 10 quotes on Indigenous peoples and climate change

By Sandra Cordon

On the banks of Germany’s Rhine River, the chants of prayers to Mother Earth, the harmonics of Siberian throat singing, the drum-led music of Indigenous peoples of the global South and the cadence of Inuk poetry blended and streamed through the quiet former capital city of Bonn during the recent Global Landscapes Forum, which focused on securing the rights of the planet’s most important caretakers.  

Youth from around the globe rose in solidarity with their elders from Indigenous peoples’ organizations and local communities from across 83 countries to stand up for their rights to control their territories and continue the critical work of halting the enormous damage of the global climate crisis. Two heads of global environmental research organizations lingered in embrace of friendship and collegiality in a moving conclusion to the emotional event that ended 23 June 2019.

Thoughtful, brave and hopeful words poured from participants during the event, which touched more than 14 million people through social media. Here are 10 of the best quotes.

Indigenous leaders hold hands at a dance ceremony. Pilar Valbuena, GLF

  • “We are 12 minutes behind (schedule) but the speakers we just heard were 10 years ahead of time.” – Tony Simons, director general of World Agroforestry (ICRAF)
  • “Forests are trees holding hands underground.” – Jeffrey Campbell, head of the Forest Farm Facility of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO)
  • “We have a mother, and that mother is our territories, our common home of all the Indigenous peoples and everyone who inhabits this earth” – Maximiliano Ferrer, general secretary of the National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Panama

Diel Mochire Mwenge, leader the Initiative Programme for the Development of the Pygme in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pilar Valbuena, GLF

  • “People are not sitting down, people are taking action. And women are at the forefront of these actions.” – Joan Carling, Co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG)
  • We should change the narrative from one of fear and despair. Despite the bad (climate) news, people are still very optimistic. Optimism in this case is essential, because hope beats fear every time.” – Hilary Tam, strategy director of global change agency Futerra
  • “Indigenous peoples are right on the frontline of the very real and dangerous fight for the world’s forests.” – Alec Baldwin, actor and climate activist

Tony Simons and Robert Nasi, heads of World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) respectively, embrace at the end of the two-day conference. Pilar Valbuena, GLF

  • “Brazil is at a very tense moment. (Indigenous peoples’) land rights are under attack. We’re under direct attack. Our existence is at stake, our very lives are at stake.” – Sonia Guajajara, Brazilian Indigenous activist and politician
  • We’re fighting for soil, land, food, trees, water, birds. We’re fighting for life.” – Gregorio Mirabal, Indigenous leader and coordinator of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA)
  • “The animals, medicine and clean water sources are gone. And with them, happiness is gone.” – Father Anselmus Amo, director of Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in Papua, Indonesia, speaking of forests cleared to make room for palm oil plantations
  • “A rights-based approach to landscape development means restoring our understanding of these sacred responsibilities to the environment.” – Janene Yazzie, member of Native American Diné tribe and IPMG focal person

A Filipino dancer. Pilar Valbuena, GLF

Source: Global Landscapes Forum

Related to SDG 13: Climate action and SDG 10: Reduced inequalties

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