The people who currently live in the remaining forests (around 300 million worldwide) are playing a crucial role in human history. This sounds paradoxical, but they are simultaneously in a position of great power and extreme vulnerability.
It’s easy to understand why they are so vulnerable. In every country, the people who live in a relative state of harmony with the forest ecosystems have been under constant attacks from the industrialized world. This began many centuries ago, but the trend exploded during the 20th century. These people have been subjected to mass slaughters and genocides. Just take a look at this long of list of genocides of indigenous people. Their forests are being systematically destroyed, at ever increasing rates. Their cultures have been threatened by the global consumerist culture based on endless growth, mindless consumption and the irresponsible use of natural resources.
The industrialized world appears very successful, because it manages to produce so much food and products, but in reality this civilization is very fragile. We perceive the Earth as nothing, but a pile of resources that are waiting to be exploited. Today, we are starting realize that the damage that we’re causing to the ecosystems is almost inevitably going to lead to our own demise. We are actively trying to destroy the indigenous populations, despite the fact these people are likely the only ones capable of protecting us from our own destructive society.
The destruction of the forest in particular has dramatic influences on the climate, on the biodiversity and on the rainfall patterns. This means that the health of the Forest has a huge influence on our own food supply, its protectors are in a position of power. We think we are completely controlling them, but while we are destroying their way of life, they are protecting us. They aren’t doing this out of their good will, they are protecting their lives, their cultures and the Forest they love, but this inevitably helps us.
Efforts to protect the forests while excluding the native populations have often lead to failure. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the people who lived in the forest for countless generations are really good in protecting it. These people could choose to leave the forest and join our industrialized world with all its comfort and benefits. We depend on them not choosing that path. They are the strongest buffer between the forests and the encroaching industries. Without their work, we would lose the forests even faster and our civilization would crumble even more rapidly. We depend on them to continue their traditional life, despite all its hardship. It’s not easy to live in a forest and we’re making their lives much more difficult by relentlessly reducing the size of their territories, by polluting and driving species into extinction. And by systematically killing them, even to this day.
Since we didn’t find the political will to treat them with respect on basis of our belief in human right, maybe we should start considering the cooperation and protection with indigenous people as something that we do for ourselves. Maybe this message would resonate with a larger number of people in our countries. We all share the same planet, we are all connected. This is not just a vague slogan. This is the way in which a massive entity like a planetary ecosystem functions and we are all a part of it.
How do we do this? I could try to give some vague solutions about the need to create economic incentives to protect the forests and how the indigenous people should be the ones directly involved in this process. But we should maybe listen to what they suggest. First of all, this is list indigenous rights organizations on Wikipedia, categorized by countries. Below you will find a short list of links (in no particular order) to websites and social media of other international and smaller organizations that you might want to discover. If you know an organization that should be on this list, let me know and I’ll update it :
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Steve the Bartender