—Armi Beatriz E. Bayot, University of Oxford Faculty of Law
[Editors’ Note: This is one of our biweekly ICONnect columns. For more information on our four columnists for 2021, please see here.]
A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations shows that the indigenous peoples of Latin America are an important line of defence against the destruction of the Amazon and environmental catastrophe.
Large-scale deforestation has been linked to irreversible loss of biodiversity. It also causes an intensification of the effects of climate change: the Amazon’s ability to absorb CO2 is reduced as the forest cover dwindles, and the forest fires that follow the felling of trees increase the presence of CO2 in the atmosphere. The widespread destruction of nature has also been linked with the increase in animal to human transmission of diseases, as wildlife lose their natural habitats – increasing the likelihood of more pandemics.
With the frightening prospect of losing the Amazon and the rest of the planet’s forest cover on the horizon, the FAO report shows that indigenous peoples are holding the line against aggressive deforestation. While 28% of the Amazon Basin are indigenous territories, they only account for 2.6% of the region’s carbon emissions. Indigenous peoples occupy 237 million hectares of forested land in the Amazon Basin – an area larger than France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Spain combined. These forests have been much better protected than other forests in the region. While intact forests are declining worldwide, those managed by indigenous peoples have declined at a lower rate – 4.9% compared to 11.2%.Read the rest of this entry…