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‘Defending life:’ Indigenous way of life imperative to solving climate crisis · Global Voices

‘Defending life:’ Indigenous way of life imperative to solving climate crisis · Global Voices

‘Defending life:’ Indigenous way of life imperative to solving climate crisis · Global Voices

“The future is a land to be protected.” Illustration by Futuros Indígenas, used with permission.

Earth Day, which was celebrated on April 22, sparked debates about how we can address the global ecological crisis. Global Voices spoke to Miryam Vargas, a Nahuatl journalist hailing from Choluteca in Mexico, to learn more about what we can learn from Indigenous communities.

Vargas has been reporting on environmental issues for over a decade and has worked with her native community. She believes the key to climate and environmental emergency is found in Indigenous and rural communities, not in Western, urban, or “green capitalist” solutions. Vargas also wants to switch off the narratives of fatalism – “that we are all doomed.”

She is part Futuros Indígenas (“Indigenous Futures”), a network of Indigenous journalists in Mexico who work to reframe the climate emergency on their terms. They dismantle outdated narratives about Indigenous peoples, development, and doom.

In Futuros Indígenas, we have reflected on the fact that this [fatalism]It does not reflect what we experience in our communities. [Also]We are not responsible for this crisis. We ask people to recognize that the climate crisis is caused primarily by a few corporations. There are corporations that have taken over the natural resources of the entire globe.

Just one example: 100 companiesOver 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions have been caused by the United States since 1988. More than half of all global emissions can also be attributed to 25 private or state-owned businesses. Climate change is the result of inaction direfor humanity and all species. Climate change is not only about fossil fuels — it also comprises damage to biodiverse ecosystems, deforestation, overconsumption of natural resources (including in the technological and fashion industries), industrial agriculture, and more.

By contrast, Indigenous people Protect 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity and are therefore crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change. For example, the Amazon rainforest makes more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. Vargas:

We are changing the narrative to focus on the Indigenous and rural communities. We want to re-center their stories and how they are building lives, and how we heal the territories and spaces.

Vargas urges people to recognize that the Indigenous ways of life are an example to be followed if we want the climate crisis to be solved and to live in harmony with our environment.

These stories are rewritten with hopeful words that restore the courage that sometimes goes with all that has happened. We believe that we can achieve a bright future. That we are successful in continuing to sow, protecting life, organizing ourselves as peoples and that we exist.

Joy through tradition, art, and language are what gives her strength. Language, in particular, is central to her community’s identity and forms an integral part of their fight to protect the earth’s ecosystems.

In some communities, we even bring native languages into the narrative changes [about the climate]. We are making ourselves stronger by speaking deeply about our cosmovisions as native peoples, what hurts us, and what makes us feel closer with the earth.

Life defense

The defense of life is central to her thought processla defensa de la vida), particularly against what she calls “death practices in the land.” For her, centering the conversation on life means thinking in terms of coexisting with all kinds of biodiversity in a determined space.

When we talk about defending life, it’s about defending the living conditions [of biodiversity]To continue to exist, you must have a way of continuing to exist.

But she claims that some projects are not compatible with biodiversity concerns. “There’s no more water, no more earth, the air is contaminated. What’s left of water or soil makes people ill,” she says.

Mines — used to extract and sell metals for technological appliances and infrastructure worldwide — pollute waterways, deforest, and ultimately harm the health of local populations, displace them, and contribute to social conflicts. Latin American communities are often inhabited by indigenous and rural peoples. ProtestThe installation of mines, dams and other infrastructure Large infrastructure projects, often They put their lives on the line. After denouncing the negative effects of a pipeline, a thermoelectric and an aqueduct upon her community, anonymous attackers attacked. Raid Vargas’ home twice in April 2022. 

“It is impressive to see how these rich lands, this other wealth, this other way of living, are seen as if they were a blank page ready to receive developments,” Vargas says.

Urban centers get most of the industrial and agricultural products from rural areas. Vargas suggests that city dwellers reduce their consumption to reduce the negative effects of development. She said:

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As [rural]Communities are no longer able to live in peace. We can’t drink water anymore, we can’t breathe. They are extracting all that is creating our living conditions to transport it to these places, where they are creating lifestyles that can be used by millions.

There are no solutions from the West.

Most Western and Gulf countries ConsumeThere are many more resources available than the planet can replenish. “These lifestyles are not functional,” Vargas says. “In our communities, in our lifestyle, we have been able to achieve a balance until now, and we must go back to it.”

Because of this, she doesn’t believe that the solution to the climate emergency can be found in the West or in cities. She believes that solutions will be found in rural and Indigenous communities.

The solutions to the crisis do not lie in the corporations or in the global North. They are found in those of us who live closer to nature, those who grow corn and beans. With these practices, we are restoring the land from the industrialization that has ravaged all of our land. We must remember what our people have been doing over many years. Now, youth and women are regenerating that land.

That is not to say that Indigenous communities in Mexico do not relate with other people from across the globe — far from it.

Vargas and her fellow delegates were supported by an international group of people who could help them imagine a better future for the earth at the COP 26 conference held in Glasgow last year.

We will not be separated by the discourse of nationalism. We are peoples who have been woven together and united in all aspects. We have many rituals that are common in many senses when we meet and we also have love for the land.

She concludes:

We are Indigenous futures. When everyone asks how we are going to get out of this crisis, we say, ‘here is the solution!’. We don’t have to look far for it. We exist as living options, and we are creating and transforming alternatives.

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