Amazon activist to bring climate change warning to Britain

By staff writers
29 May 2009

An activist from the Yanomami people in the Amazon is to visit the Houses of Parliament to tell MPs that the world’s rainforests cannot be put under further pressure from multinational companies or illegal loggers and miners.

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, from the Yanomami people in the Amazon, is a world renowned Brazilian activist for indigenous peoples’ rights and protection of the rainforest.

He has been dubbed ‘the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest’, following his two decades of international campaigning to secure Yanomami land rights.

Davi led the Yanomami people from the brink of extinction by spearheading the campaign to establish the Yanomami Park, created in 1992.

A fifth of the Yanomami died in just seven years due to the invasion of their land by illegal gold miners in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1992, their numbers have recovered but gold miners have returned in recent years, posing new threats to the health and security of the Yanomani.

Davi is touring Europe this month to give a stark warning to national leaders that any climate change initiatives will be jeopardised if the rainforests are not protected.

Rainforests are a vital defence in tackling climate change say campaigners. They provide critical ecosystem benefits for the whole world by storing water, regulating rainfall and providing a home to over half the planet’s biodiversity.

Rainforests absorb almost 20 percent of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions every year, while tropical deforestation anually releases an extra 17 oercent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 square kilometres of forest - an area larger than Greece. At current rates over half the entire Amazon rainforest may be gone in 20 years time.

As the spiritual leader and head of his indigenous community, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, will tell MPs at the Houses of Parliament on 10th June that the world’s rainforests cannot be put under further pressure from multinational companies or illegal loggers and miners.

Davi is in the UK to spread the message that the world’s rainforests cannot be bought and unless indigenous people’s land rights are recognised, the biodiversity of the rainforest and any initiatives to tackle climate change will be jeopardised.

He said: “We must listen to the cry of the earth which is asking for help. The earth has no price. It can’t be bought or sold or exchanged. The preservation of the forest is more valuable than money or gold. Mining will kill the forest, it will destroy the rivers, my people and eventually, it will kill the world.

“It is very important that we all fight together to save the life of the forest and the earth. If we don’t fight together what will our future be? Your children need land and nature alive and standing. We Indians want respect for our rights. That is important not only for the Yanomami but for the future of the whole world.”

Dr Mike Edwards, CAFOD’s Climate Change Advisor, said: “We need to listen to people such as Davi who are warning us that our resource consuming behaviour is destroying the ecosystems upon which all life depends. Climate change is a clear indication that we in Western industrialised societies are living beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth. If we choose not to heed Davi’s words, then we will be facing a very bleak future.”

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