“Humanity – Together – Is in Danger of Extinction. Are We Really Understanding This?”
In Pictures! Sarayaku and Amazon Watch Capture COP21 Paris
- December 3, 2015
"We have to come to France to have my voice heard and all of the voices of Sarayaku represented – we need the world to listen to our voices, especially as women who care for future generations. We live in the heart of this shared planet – we are defending it not just for ourselves, the world needs to hear this." Ena Santi, Sarayaku community leader
"Let's leave our old perceptions and ideas, to be reborn and boost a collective transformation!" Patricia Gualinga, the Kichwa Director of International Relations from Sarayaku told a packed house at the Rights for the Earth conference at the UN COP21 climate summit in Paris. "Now is the time to stop these destructive ideas in our ancestral territories and around the world. We as indigenous peoples have the great opportunity to bring our vision – and a clear proposal – that could call on a transformation for all of humanity."
Patricia, Amazon Watch and a commanding delegation of indigenous leaders and youth from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon hit the ground running with a full first few days of events at and around the summit, where they are advocating for the protection of their ancestral territories, sharing an innovative vision of sustainable development based on Kawsak Sacha and highlighting the importance of keeping fossil fuels in the ground in Earth's most biodiverse places like the Amazon.
Kawsak Sacha – the "Living Forest" – is Sarayaku's proposal for living in harmony with the natural world, stemming from the knowledge of Indigenous peoples who have inhabited the Amazon for millennia. While much of the western world views nature as a source of raw materials for human use, Kawsak Sacha recognizes that the forest as a whole is made up entirely of living beings and the connected communicative network that they have with each other. According to Sarayaku "the Living Forest economic system is an ecological web; the natural world is also a social world."
"We must achieve peace with nature first. Then we can achieve peace with each other," said former president of the Constitutional assembly in Ecuador Alberto Acosta back at the conference in Paris where he sat on the panel with Patricia. Sarayaku's vision seemed to tie in effortlessly to discussions on the forefront here in Paris and around the world whether intended or not.
The Sarayaku delegation has big plans for symbolically presenting this proposal – and the importance of keeping oil in the ground – to the world on Sunday. While logistics and security have become challenging in light of the recent tragedy in Paris, we are all moving forward with hope to transport a traditional "Canoe of Life" from the Amazon to Paris to carry and serve as a focal point for their message. The long river canoe was carved from a single canela tree by community members and is a symbol of the importance of empowering indigenous forest stewards – the rainforest's best defenders – in this global movement to confront the impacts of climate change.
Leading up to this brave action, the delegation has been relentlessly voicing their message inside and outside official COP21 spaces at its Le Bourget center, in a wide array of events with indigenous and NGO partners, to the media, new friends and supporters from around the world...and even straight to French President Hollande!