Indigenous people and allies around the world are mobilizing this Earth Day to demand respect for community land rights in the name of the climate, biodiversity, and human rights.
“Peoples and local communities are the best guardians of their lands and forests, yet governments are giving the go-ahead to hydroelectric dams, industrial mining, predatory logging, extensive cattle ranching, and palm oil plantations that rob the forests’ customary owners of their homes and livelihoods, and threaten the climate and resources we all depend on,” declares a statement from organizers, who are operating under the umbrella of the global Land Rights Now campaign.
As Antonio Dace, a member of the Munduruku community along the Tapajós River in the Brazilian Amazon, put it: “If you want to take care of the forest, you need to invest in us—Indigenous peoples—because no one takes better care of the forest than we do.”
The Earth Day mobilization, involving Indigenous peoples, local communities, social movements, environmental activists, and women’s groups from around the world, will see close to 40 actions taking place in 27 countries over the next week, some in conjunction with like-minded initiatives including the March for Science on Saturday, the 10-year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples beginning April 25, and the Peoples Climate March on April 29.
The actions began Thursday, with communities in the Brazilian Amazon, Kenya, Guatemala, and Taiwan demanding respect for their rights in response to threats from business and government interests pushing projects like mega-dams, coal plants, palm oil plantations, and private development in ancestral community forests.
“We’re not anti-development, but no one in the world has ventured into coal mining and faced no long-term consequences,” noted Ishaq Abubakar of the Lamu Youth Alliance in Kenya, where East Africa’s first coal plant is proposed for the coastal community of Lamu. “Coal is dirty energy, and its effects are detrimental.”
Added Lamu activist Walik Ahmed, who is part of the Save Lamu Coalition calling for the project’s cancellation: “The whole world is worried about global warming and climate change. It can’t be these things do not matter for Lamu.”
The movement is particularly fired up in Brazil, where Indigenous people this week launched an online petition against what they describe as an “unprecedented attack” on their rights.
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