Climate change victims face world leaders at COP27

Climate change victims face world leaders at COP27

Zhe Bajaga Apurina, an Amazon leader from the Aldeia Idecora TI Caititu tribe in Brazil, also attended COP27 to lobby for the Loss and Damage Fund.

His people used to lead a nomadic life, but they had to stop due to the new frontier in the land they could not cross.

Zhe believes that if they can keep moving, they can escape the floods and fires of climate change. Speaking to us before the conference, he highlighted the impact climate change is already having on his community.

In addition to the bushfires, he said, “Temperatures are up and there are many winds and storms like never before.

“The rainy season happens at different times than it used to be, and that has a lot of implications for the region. The rainy season is different now, so the floods are bigger and the dry season is worse. This affects the fish population and the daily life of the forests.”

For Zhi, the loss and damage is not just about what happens in the Amazon: what happens in the forests is part of a larger, connected world. The damage to the Amazon hurts the rest of the planet. He places special emphasis on the water cycle, which transports water from the Amazon to Brazil and the rest of the world in what he calls “flying rivers.” If these were changed, the whole world would suffer.

Furthermore, illegal mining, water pollution and deforestation have caused cancer and lead poisoning in his community. The majority of the tribe’s members also have respiratory problems, and many are undiagnosed, likely caused by smoke inhalation from intermittent fires and fires encouraged by outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

When I ask about Lula’s victory in last month’s election, his expression changes and you can see his hope for the coming years. He says that Lula “showed the light at the end of the tunnel” to indigenous peoples in Brazil and that the era of persecution of indigenous leaders would come to an end. Bolsonaro had catalyzed the conquest of Zhe lands, and stripped the funding that had been supporting his communities. Lula vowed to the contrary, and promised to protect the forest, which means that the inhabitants of Aldeia Idecora can begin to live their lives more freely and continue to live their lives connected to nature.

They were arrested for protecting their land

Instead of focusing on compensating for loss and damage, Amalia Vargas of the Chicha tribe is in the northern Andes at COP to demand an end to the polluting activities destroying her land and planet.

It says you can’t “fix” these problems: you have to stop the activities that cause them.

She paints a picture of the vast and interconnected issues of the Chicha nation in the Argentine Andes. Besides the harsh weather and rising temperatures, mining companies have taken over their traditional lands and are exploiting the land and communities in the surrounding area. This exploitation has polluted the residents’ water supply which means that the Shisha community can no longer drink their water or eat their meat for fear of contamination. Furthermore, women trying to continue their traditional lifestyles are verbally and physically abused by the police while transporting their sheep and llamas in the mountains.

Amalia told me a harrowing story about a woman who was arrested for protesting to protect her land. One of the prisoners was seven months pregnant. She has the child in prison. They had nothing against [her] Then except for earth protection. They brought her to Buenos Aires and imprisoned her there.”

Police discrimination when carrying out such arrests led to the resignation of Argentina’s Minister for Women, Gender and Diversity, Elizabeth Gomez Alcorta, who said they were “serious violations of the human rights of the detained women”. As Amalia said, “The police have certain gender equality rules, but they don’t apply to Indigenous women.”

Pollution in the Argentine Andes has had disastrous effects on people’s health. Children have birth defects, nearly 80% of people in one community have tested positive for lead, and cancer has affected and killed some of Amalia’s closest friends and family.

Amalia blames the capitalist system for the persistence of this oppression, whereby money and profit are prioritized over their communities and culture. For her, proposing loss and damage is not the answer. Instead, you want to end polluting activity and land exploitation.

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