Indigenous People and their Impact on Environment Conservation
According to the United Nations’ (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Indigenous Peoples), indigenous people claim 20% of Earth's land. Indigenous people mostly live in areas with extremely diverse ecosystems and significantly impact environmental conservation. According to a Scientific American article from May 2019, these people curate the wildlife around them and promote more diversity than more traditional agricultural habitats by creating rich gardens, practicing traditional burning practices, and restoring degraded lands.
However, governments around the world ignore rights laid out for indigenous people. For example, governments lease land that should be controlled by indigenous tribes to loggers and miners without consent, oust tribes from their territory, and withhold certain rights.
Discrimination is an issue that permeates every part of indigenous life. The UN has created international laws regarding the rights of indigenous people and the land they live on. However, national governments regularly violate these laws because of their biases against indigenous people, and there are countless examples of their abuse. For example, current Brazilian President, Bolsonaro, and his anti-environment policies have decimated the Amazon Rainforest and deforestation reached a 12-year high under his administration. Indigenous tribes have been fighting against these policies since 2019, but their calls fell on deaf ears. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has further created a rift between indigenous and non-indigenous people - the American Lung Association released a statement in October 2020 detailing the effects of COVID-19 on Native American populations, and in many states, Native Americans were found to be 3.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white Americans. A National Geographic article released in June of 2020 stated that in Brazil, 9.1% of indigenous people who contracted COVID-19 died, which was about twice as many as the general population.
Amazon Watch and African Conservation Center are some of the many organizations across the globe that protect Earth’s wildlife with the help of indigenous people. Climate change directly impacts these people's lives because they rely on the environment around them, but if indigenous people are protected, so is our planet. Combining scientific research and indigenous knowledge has been extremely beneficial for the pro-environment community. Additionally, tourism that benefits indigenous groups helps finance conservation efforts around the globe. For example, the Maasai in Africa have utilized tourism so that the profits go towards a good cause. These tourists also help preserve the people’s culture.
Conclusively, whether or not humans can control climate change will partially be up to governments upholding indigenous rights and people supporting the indigenous population. We can help combat climate change by supporting indigenous people, whether it be donating to organizations dedicated to environmental conservation, lobbying against unjust policies (Bolsonaro’s treatment of the Amazon, poaching in Africa, etc.), or just staying educated about these issues.