Over the past week, both Joanna and I have had the incredible honour of being together with a group of indigenous leaders from the Huni Kuin tribe in the Brazilian Amazon, as they made an annual visit to South Africa. I’m struck by the depth of their connection and reverence for nature, their dedication to a life of trust, guided by Spirit, and the joy that emanates from their songs of beauty and love for our home planet and all of humanity.
Here are people who truly experience themselves as nature, with a pristine clarity about our place in the ecological web of life, living in harmony with the rainforest and its wildlife. The Huni Kuin peoples or “true people,” (from huni, “people”, and kuin meaning “true.”) bring an important and positive message. It’s time for a new era – a time of reconciliation between mankind and Mother Nature.
And yet the Amazon, this place of wonderous cultural and natural biodiversity, and home to this tribe and many others, is seriously under threat. More than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has already gone. Deforestation abounds at an average rate of 10,000 hectares per day.
The cattle sector of the Brazilian Amazon, incentivized by the international beef and leather trades, is one of the major perpetrators of Amazonian deforestation, responsible for around 14% of the world’s total annual deforestation. Equally devastating is the continued drilling of oil and gas from the Amazon, funded by American banks. Leaks from pipelines pollute rivers used for drinking water, harming people and wildlife, while the cutting-through of roads to enable drill operations, trigger rapid deforestation, as was seen in the 2019 Amazon wildfires.
Scientists predict that once the Amazon has lost more than 25% of its tree cover, it will become a drier ecosystem, all because deforestation changes weather patterns (due to how trees respire), which in turn reduces rainfall. We will also see species decline as fragmented pieces of forest, surrounded by pasture lands, cannot sustain the current levels of biodiversity.
As Brazilian environmental activist, Chico Mendes, assassinated by ranchers in 1988, said ‘Destroy it, and we, the human race, will end up destroying ourselves’. The Amazon rainforest is sacred, as is all nature. Let us not forget this. In this moment it feels so important to join forces to safeguard the most biodiverse forest of the world, and the indigenous tribes who protect it. Save the Amazon, and we just might save ourselves.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Let your voice be heard. Educate your family and friends about the importance of the Amazon, which is home to 10% of the known species on Earth. Then ask them to speak out for its protection. You can also sign numerous petitions such as this one that looks to hold JP Morgan Chase and CitiGroup to account for their continued funding of oil and gas exploration in the Amazon. Protect the Amazon, Protect the Planet! | Amazon Watch
2. Become a discerning consumer. Ask how your food and other purchases have been produced. Are any wood products sustainably harvested and certified to prove it? One of the best ways to protect forests like the Amazon is to buy products that have the FSC® label.
3. Reduce your use of fossil fuels, and your impact on the planet. The less fossil fuels used, the less impact climate change will have on the Amazon and other important natural areas, plus the less demand there will be for new sources of oil and gas. Support and demand renewable energy wherever you can. Turn off electric appliances when you’re not using them. Walk, bike or liftshare and avoid unnecessary car trips.
Written and compiled by Rachael Millson