World Social Forum protests Amazon destruction

Indigenous people from across Latin America led more than 1,000 protesters, gathered in Belem, Brazil, for the World Social Forum, in formation of a human banner Jan. 27. Around the giant outline of a warrior taking aim with a bow and arrow, indigenous leaders and activists spelled out the message “SALVE A AMAZONIA,” or “save the Amazon” in Portuguese. Some indigenous participants were themselves armed with bows and arrows.

“We are the guardians of the forest,” said Marco Apurina, vice-coordinator of COIAB, Brazil’s leading Amazonian indigenous organization. “This is a critical moment for indigenous peoples to unite with non-indigenous, activists, teachers, environmentalists, unions, government. The Amazon rainforest needs everyone to work together now to defend it before it’s too late.”

The Amazon Basin, encompassing 5.5 million square kilometers and including territory belonging to nine nations, contains over half of the planet’s remaining rainforest—but nearly 20% of the basin has been deforested over the past 40 years. The mean annual deforestation rate from 2000 to 2005 amounted to 22,392 square kilometers per year—18% higher than in the previous five years.

COIAB said in a statement: “With the permission of our ancestors’ spirits, we indigenous peoples are here with our friends from all corners of the Earth. We build this symbol with our bodies as the cry of living beings from this green forest, this planet, for our continuity as humans and diverse creatures.”

“It is urgent that the world act now to stop deforestation and to recognize the importance of the Amazon in stabilizing our climate,” said Atossa Soltani, executive director of the US-based Amazon Watch. “There needs to be an immediate halt to industrial resource extraction that is bringing the ecosystems and cultures of the Amazon to the brink of collapse.”

If development plans for the Amazon continue unchecked, warned Soltani, scientists predict that the entire basin will reach the point of permanent ecological collapse within the next 10 to 20 years. This process would release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating global climate change.

Voice for stateless nations
For the first time at the World Social Forum, representatives of 30 different stateless nations and indigenous peoples from across the world are to share a tent and a three-day program of lectures and workshops. Quechua, Palestinian, Tamil and Western Shoshone representatives join those from Kurdistan, Baluchistan, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Western Sahara in the “Space for Collective Rights of Peoples.”

Discussions in the “Collective Rights” tent will explore struggles for self-determination and sovereignty of stateless peoples and nations, indigenous communities, and other marginalized groups. On the heels of the Gaza aggression, the Palestinian delegation is center-stage. A “General Assembly for Palestine” is slated for Jan. 31. (Environment News Service, Jan. 29)

See our last posts on Brazil, the Amazon, the World Social Forum and the world indigenous struggle.

  1. Climate Justice Assembly Declaration from Belem
    Via the Global Justice Ecology Project:

    Bélém, Brazil, 1 February 2009


    No to neoliberal illusions, yes to people’s solutions!

    For centuries, productivism and industrial capitalism have been destroying our cultures, exploiting our labour and poisoning our environment.

    Now, with the climate crisis, the Earth is saying “enough”, “ya basta”!

    Once again, the people who created the problem are telling us that they also have the solutions: carbon trading, so-called “clean coal”, more nuclear power, agrofuels, even a “green new deal”. But these are not real solutions, they are neoliberal illusions. It is time to move beyond these illusions.

    Real solutions to the climate crisis are being built by those who have always protected the Earth and by those who fight every day to defend their environment and living conditions. We need to globalise these solutions.

    For us, the struggles for climate justice and social justice are one and the same. It is the struggle for territories, land, forests and water, for agrarian and urban reform, food and energy sovereignty, for women’s and worker’s rights. It is the fight for equality and justice for indigenous peoples, for peoples of the global South, for the redistribution of wealth and for the recognition of the historical ecological debt owed by the North.

    Against the disembodied, market-driven interests of the global elite and the dominant development model based on never-ending growth and consumption, the climate justice movement will reclaim the commons, and put social and economic realities at the heart of our struggle against climate change.

    We call on everyone—workers, farmers, fisherfolk, students, youth, women, indigenous peoples, and all concerned humans from the South and the North—to join in this common struggle to build the real solutions to the climate crisis for the future of our planet, our societies, and our cultures. All together, we are building a movement for climate justice.

    We support the mobilizations against the G20 summit and on the global crisis from 28 march to 4 April, and the 17 April 2009 mobilisation of La Via Campesina.

    We support the call for an International Day of Action in Defense of Mother Earth and Indigenous Rights on 12 October 2009.

    We call for mobilisations and diverse forms of actions everywhere, in the lead up to, during and beyond the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, especially on the Global Day of Action on 12 December 2009.

    In all of our work, we will expose the false solutions, raise the voices of the South, defend human rights, and strengthen our solidarity in the fight for climate justice. If we make the right choices, we can build a better world for everyone.

    See our last post on the climate crisis.