Environment ‘Not protecting these lands is accelerating climate change’, says indigenous anthropologist on COP26

Coordinator of the indigenous teacher training course. (César Alejos/ Cenarium)

Victória Sales – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – Being the biggest event on climate change in the world, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference receives the largest group of Brazilian indigenous leaders in the history of the event, this fact was disclosed by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib). In an exclusive interview to CENARIUM, the coordinator of the indigenous teachers training course at the Amazonas State University (UEA), Gersem Baniwa highlighted the importance of representation and the highlight of the indigenous agenda at the event.

According to Gersem, the biggest concern is undoubtedly the guarantee and protection of the Indigenous Lands, because this is the concrete way of contribution of the indigenous peoples in combating climate change. “The role of Indigenous Lands today is fundamental, I am sure that it is not necessary to think, neutralize and combat climate change without taking into account Indigenous Lands”, he explained.

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The coordinator also states that in Brazil, for example, there are 14% of Indigenous Lands in the country with the most preserved area. “Destroying Indigenous Lands, today, as the current government is stimulating, is practically accelerating climate change, so this is fundamental. Besides guaranteeing, it means demarcating lands, because more than half of the Indigenous Lands in Brazil have no guarantee of recognition, demarcation, protection”, he highlighted.

Gersem also reports that it is not only about protecting the lands that have already been demarcated, but above all it is about recognizing, demarcating, approving, and then protecting the lands that have not yet been demarcated. “And the discussion that is taking place in the National Congress with the PL 490 is very worrying. All of this goes against any well-intentioned purpose of fighting climate change. These lands are even better than the Conservation Units (UCs), which are less preserved than the Indigenous Lands, because these people venture, cling and give their lives in this protection”, he said.

Deforestation and fires in the Amazon Rainforest (Edilson Dantas/Agência O Globo)


Asked about the representativeness of indigenous leaders who are participating in the event, Gersem says that because of the capacity that the indigenous movement has to mobilize, the movement in Brazil is taking a significant delegation in terms of numbers and quality, because these are other times. “Nowadays the indigenous movement is composed of indigenous people who are much better prepared in their capacity, qualified, and with access to higher education. Today the debate is much more qualified from a technical point of view”, he explained.

“If before the discussion was more on the cultural level, now we also have legal debate. Many indigenous lawyers are specialists in environmental issues. I think that the world, even because of the adversity it is going through, is more aware of these issues, and I believe that this awareness is growing. So the awareness grows through this youth represented in Brazil in general”, reported the coordinator.

The indigenous man also points out that the media at its different levels needs to pay more attention and give more visibility to this segment of the world’s population that are the indigenous peoples, due to the relevance they represent in the debate, but especially in the possibilities of seeking solutions to this problem of climate change.


“I am very optimistic, so I believe that there is a very significant opening on the part of the international community with more sensitivities. I think there is a little more confidence precisely in these potentialities that indigenous peoples and their territories have to contribute to the fight against climate change. I have no doubt that the international community will leave this COP with some real commitment to contribute so that indigenous peoples maintain their historical struggle in defense of their territories”, highlighted Gersem.