There are people from different Amazonian (minimal clothing) and Andean (heavy clothing) tribes in full ceremonial attire attending the COP, and they look fabulous. I didn’t want to insult anyone by asking for photos. When I finally did, not only were they happy to pose, but they grabbed their cameras to get some pictures too. I guess I look as wild to them as they do to me. Too bad I am not blond, that would really be something to show the kids when they go home.
They didn’t come for the pictures though. Tribes from Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, some of whom are traditional enemies, have joined together with the help of lawyers to make clear demands with slick presentations. They are suffering from global effects of climate change, as well as from local territorial invasion for mining, lumber and farming. Where they have fought it, they have been murdered. They argue that they alone can save or restore the forest, and in doing so contribute to solving climate change.
More than anything else, they want land rights. In Brazil they have given indigenous people land rights to odd shaped sections of the Amazon. In satellite images, the exact shape of these territories appear as islands of forest in an ocean of cleared areas. I can only imagine that they had access to force to keep squatters out.
The potential impact of their contributions are huge, much more than the government can offer by switching to green energy. For example, compared to US annual carbon emissions, Peru only emits 1%. However, their Amazonian forests trap 130% of what the US emits. Currently, Peru is deforesting rapidly.
At the COP indigenous people have been given access to attend and to speak, their traditional ecological knowledge and its value is touted in museum displays. Their demands are posted in public places and fill the local media. Surely being in the international spotlight will embarrass Peru and other governments into doing the right thing? Surely the governments want foreign currency coming into the country as part of funding for the indigenous conservation efforts? The good-looking guys in the photo with me said their was no progress at all so far. I can’t imagine them having a better chance than they have now. Best of luck to them — we will all benefit.