Indigenous peoples guard ‘the lungs of the planet’ for all of us

By Alnoor Ladha & Felipe Viveros
June 15, 2020

On January 14-18, representatives from 45 Indigenous communities gathered in the small village of Piaracu, in the Xingu Basin of the Amazon, to mobilise against the anti-environmentalist rhetoric and devastating “pro-development” policies of Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonoro, which have led to an unprecedented surge in the number and severity of fires in the Amazon rainforest.

The meeting, which was convened by legendary Indigenous Brazilian leader and environmentalist Chief Raoni, came at a watershed moment in the fight to save a region that is considered to be “the heart and lungs of the planet”. Today, scientists are warning that the Amazon is fast approaching its “tipping point” - the point when global climate change, combined with increasing deforestation, would cause the Amazon rainforest to turn into a dessert-like savannah. According to Carlos Nobre, a renowned climate researcher at the University of Sao Paulo, this could happen within 10 to 15 years at the current rate of destruction, resulting in a global catastrophe that would affect the entire planet.

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