At the end of last year, the world's eyes were on Lima as 196 nations debated what to do about climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP20). Yet while world leaders negotiated, signed — or failed to sign — agreements, more than three hundred indigenous people from throughout the Amazon gathered on a beach in Lima. Together, they formed a human banner meant to send world leaders a message: protecting the Amazon rain forest by supporting indigenous rights is key to maintaining climate stability.
When viewed from the sky, the design displayed a tree with the face of Pachamama and the words "Pueblos + Derechos = Bosques Vivos," which means "Peoples + Rights = Living Forests" in Spanish.
"Together we created a beautiful image of what we want to see in the world. We want our rights and territories respected, here in Peru, across the Amazon, and around the world," said Juan Agustín Fernandez, leader of the Shipibo community of Cantagallo in Lima who helped create the banner.
The creative action helped bring awareness to the urgent need for indigenous and territorial rights in the Peruvian Amazon. Throughout the Amazon basin, 100 million hectares await territorial recognition by the governments.
"The Amazon is incredibly important in the climate debate, both because deforestation is a huge source of emissions, but also because the rain forests of the Amazon actually are the rain machine for the planet," said Amazon Watch founder Atossa Soltani. "They create these flying rivers that provide fertile rain to the entire continent and the rest of the world. It's like the heart of the planet, pumping moisture and vapor. When we lose the Amazon, we not only create emissions, but we lose the climate-stabilizing function of the forest."
Photo courtesy of the author