From the Amazon, Indigenous People Offer New Compass to Navigate Climate Change

November 9, 2021

Indigenous Peoples protest at the ‘Luta Pela Vida’ (struggle for life) protest, in August 2021, in Brasilia, Brazil. Photo by Vanessa Andreotti

PWIAS Interim Director, Vanessa Andreotti and 2021 Wall Scholar Dallas Hunt along with UBC professors Cash Ahenakew, Sharon Stein, and Will Valley recently published a piece in The Conversation about addressing global challenges by reorienting ourselves away from reproducing harm and toward fostering more generative possibilities for co-existence.

As scholars of Indigenous studies, global education and food systems, we often get asked what kind of education and research are needed to address such wicked problems. This question usually comes from a well-meaning place; it’s also often motivated by a desire for ready-made alternatives.

But complex problems cannot be addressed with simplistic solutions. This is not due to educators’ or researchers’ lack of effort or ingenuity. Rather, our inability to address these problems with the depth of engagement required is a product of the educational models we have inherited and (mostly) reproduce.

Indigenous communities in Brazil protest the destruction of their lands in August 2021. Photo by Vanessa Andreotti

Chief Ninawa Huni Kui and the Last Warning Education Campaign

The article references an the Last Warning education campaign about deforestation and Indigenous rights in Brazil that was launched last summer in collaboration with Amazon rainforest and Indigenous rights in Brazil that was launched last summer in collaboration with the Huni Kui Indigenous People’s Federation in the Amazon.

One of the flagships of the campaign is the children’s book “A forest called Amazon” authored by Chief Ninawa Huni Kui and produced with the support of the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures arts/research collective at UBC. The book is available to download for free. Another educational resource available is the “Pledge of Generations“, which invites new commitments across generations to face global challenges with deeper levels of responsibility. A knowledge mobilization video with 15 Canada Research Chairs in related areas has also been collaboratively created to highlight the importance of the Amazon region for the regulation of global water cycles and carbon filtration and the urgency of making Indigenous rights central to the climate agenda. The video and a featured article emphasize that more deforestation will push the Amazon beyond a tipping point, turning it from a rainforest into a savanna. The Amazon will go from being a vital carbon sink that helps us slow down climate change to a dangerous carbon source that will accelerate the heating of the planet.

Although the Last Warning campaign has many suggestions about how people can support this fight for our collective survival, its primary offering is an educational invitation and accompanying call to responsibility. This is an invitation for us to wake up from the fantasy of separation and to un-numb to the pain we inflict on one another and the planet in order to sustain modern consumerist lifestyles.

Chief Ninawa Huni Kui, spokesperson for nearly 17,000 Indigenous people in 104 villages across 12 Indigenous territories in the Amazon, joins PWIAS as a visiting scholar in November 2021 where he will be working with the Wall Scholars and other collaborators to address the many complex systems at play in the cancelation of Indigenous rights in Brazil, the destruction of the Amazon forest.

The next phase of the Last Warning campaign will be launched during an extended visit to UBC in 2022.