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Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon offer a new compass to navigate the climate change.
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Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon offer a new compass to navigate the climate change.


Two imminent threats loomed over universities in western Canada, and they began another school-year under the shadow of wildfires as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. These are not local issues. global issuesThey are happening all around the globe, not just because they are everywhere, but also because some of their root causes — including ecological destruction and dispossession of marginalized, especially Indigenous, peoples — are not concerned with borders.

We know many wildfires aren’t just a result of drier conditions and rising temperaturesClimate change is not only a problem, but also the forced expulsion of Indigenous Peoples form their ancestral lands, and disregard for traditional practices that support ecological integrity such as prescribed burns. Pandemics like COVID-19 are caused by deforestation which is a force that displaces both human and other-thanhuman communities. more likely.

Many universities have made commitments to address global challenges. But society-wide, our universities are ill-prepared to help deepen our collective capacity to face today’s interconnected “wicked problems” — those that are hyper-complex and cannot be solved with simple individualistic solutions. These problems include biodiversity lossOur global mental health crisis.

Amazonian Indigenous peoples in regalia surround a banner that says 'struggle for life.'
Global warming is intertwined with the dispossessed of Indigenous peoples. Here, Indigenous communities protest the destruction of their lands by Brazilian authorities in August in Brasilia (Brazil) in August 2021.
(Vanessa Andreotti). Author provided (no reuse).

We need deeper changes

We are often asked by scholars of Indigenous studies, global education, and food systems what type of education and research is required to address these wicked problems. This question usually comes from a well-meaning place; it’s also often motivated by a desire for ready-made alternatives.

Complex problems cannot be solved with simple solutions. This is not due to educators’ or researchers’ lack of effort or ingenuity. Our inability to solve these problems with the depth of engagement required stems from the educational models that we inherit and (mostly), reproduce.

We cannot solve wicked problems within the same paradigms that created them. For example, many universities embraced the UN Sustainable Development Goalsfor addressing climate changes and sustainability. But, the goals are not only. been critiquedFor the assumption that we can continue operating within an economic system that is based on infinite growth.

There is no doubt that proposals to change dominant educational models and viewpoints will prompt a follow-up question: What else?

Learn from your mistakes

Our own research has ledThis question should be approached with caution. We have learned that if we jump too quicklyTo find solutions, we often fail to take enough time to evaluate the causes of the problems. This can lead to repeating the same mistakes, causing harm.

First, we need to identify learn from mistakes beforeWe can move toward truly different educational futures.

This insight comes from our community research collaborations with the Teia das 5 Curas network of Indigenous communities in Brazil. These communities offer a different diagnosis of our current social and environmental crises and offer different solutions than the ones offered in mainstream academic debates. Yet Indigenous Peoples’ analyses remain under-addressed in research and practical approaches to wicked problems.

A woman is seen holding a flag covered in red paint.
Participation of a protester in the August 2021 demonstration calling on the Brazilian government to respect Indigenous Rights and stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
(Vanessa Andreotti). Author provided (no reuse).

Indifference is denying interdependence

The communities that make up the Teia das 5 Curas network suggest that the primary cause of both ecological destruction and colonial violence is an individualistic and extractive mode of existence rooted in a false assumption of separation — of humans from each other, and of humans from nature.

They believe that our inability to see ourselves as interdependent beings is part of a living planet metabolism. This leads to indifference to suffering that others also cause. They also believe that the problem is due to our inability to confront our complicity with a harmful, unsustainable system.

The government of Brazil has launched a repressive campaign to stop violence against Indigenous Peoples and the Earth. co-ordinated attackFor Indigenous rights and ecological protections

Root causes

Many Indigenous communities have maintained their alternative educational and social systems despite decades of genocide by governments around the globe. They also have preserved 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, despite being only four per cent of the world’s population.

Non-Indigenous researchers are increasingly recognizing the value of Indigenous knowledge and practices held by Indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, many policy-makers and scholars are non-Indigenous. selectively engageTo strengthen existing systems, indigenous knowledge and practices are needed. or they romanticizeInsane and unsustainable ways for Indigenous communities

The challenge we face is to unlearn colonial modes of engagementWe can learn ethically by reading this book weave togetherThe gifts of different traditions and human wisdom. Our collective survival depends on it.

The invitation

Indigenous communities, especially those in the Amazon, are putting their lives on the line to protect everyone’s future. The Teia das 5 Curas network also includes the Huni Kui of Acre. They are part of the Teia das 5 Curas network. Last Warning campaign against deforestation and the attack on their rights, the Huni Kui caution, “if we lose the forest, we lose our future.” This is true for all of us: further deforestation of the Amazon will accelerateGlobal climate change

YouTube video of Last warning campaign

Although there are many ways that people can help this fight for our collective survival and the Last Warning campaign, its primary offering consists of an educational invitation with accompanying call to accountability. This is an invitation to us to let go of the illusion of separation and to recognize the pain we inflict upon one another and the planet to sustain our modern consumerist lifestyles.

We are asked to increase our capacity to hold space difficult, painful and uncomfortable things. These include the truth regarding our complicity and unsustainability in systemic violence, and how our socially sanctioned behaviours contribute to the unfolding ecocide in Brazil and elsewhere.

Last Warning doesn’t tell us how to change our current paradigm to make room for a better one. It does not claim to know all the answers. Instead, it offers a new educational compass — a way of orienting ourselves away from reproducing harm and toward fostering more generative possibilities for co-existence, without glossing over the difficult elements of this work.

Reorienting ourselves

This is a compass which is oriented towards maturity (the imperative). to grow upin order to be good elders and ancestors). discernment(How we can most generatively interfere in any context to foster collective wellbeing) and responsibility.

This is a way of recognizing our interdependence and the debts we owe to certain communities and the Earth. It requires us to face all aspects of humanity, its complexities, and paradoxes.

Continue reading:
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This educational compass will not provide much guidance for those who are looking for simple, universal solutions to wicked issues.

For those who see the raging wildfires or the shape-shifting COVID-19 epidemic as signs of a deeper systemic disease in our institutions, this work may provide some guidance for the removal of harmful systems so that we can learn to co-exist differently.

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