Hidden by the dense vegetation and isolated from the rest of the world live approximately 30,000 people of 420 different tribes in Brazil. Amazon indigenous people think climate change is affecting their physical health and lifestyle, which has forced them to find ways of lessening the harm caused by drought and previously controlled diseases. Now these villages are also at great risk in the combat of the pandemic.
The climate change, mining, agribusiness and wildfires are already threats to the Amazon biodiversity, however COVID-19 is hitting indigenous territories harder than other locations in Brazil. According to SESAI (Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena) and the National Committee of the Indigenous Life Memory, 158 villages were already infected by the virus and the mortality rate is higher than the national average, due to the poor access to health care and sanitation.
This suggests a terrible hazard to the planet’s biodiversity, as indigenous people are an important factor in the maintenance and conservation of the richest biological areas of the world. The management of the natural resources is seen, by these human groups, as a sacred quality, where Nature is the primary productive source absent of any economic resource. This management includes a set of rules where humans are participants in a wider community of living beings, all interlinked to live together in balance. These beliefs promoted the establishment of recognized protected territories such as sacred forests, mountains or lakes.
Another peril has been threatening Amazonia’s environment and its indigenous communities since January 2019. Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, has repeatedly confirmed his desire to weaken environmental licensing and has already abolished the sector dealing with climate change. The new president has also stated how indigenous protected territories and natural ecosystems should be open to mining and agriculture, suspending official lists of wild species at risk and legalizing its hunting, promoting large infrastructure projects that will endanger the Biome.
Climate change has been a threat for over a decade, where the lack of rain and the increase of a hotter and dryer climate is negatively impacting the indigenous reserves, with intense and prolonged drought that impacts the crops and the availability of food in the villages. This forced the Apinajé people in Tocantins to adapt and act, by researching specific seeds that are resistant to higher temperatures and drought.
This research made possible the ability to grow similar species of manioc and beans, but the lack of available water decreases the plantation of rice, banana and corn crops, which are seeds that demand more rain. However, the decrease of natural resources is not the only issue that these communities must surpass; the hot weather and the increase of air pollution, is altering the bodies of women in the north-eastern Bahia state, causing the menstrual cycle to hit adolescents at a younger age and to cause irregularities on its cycles. Nonetheless, a year ago, the Apinajé people started the ‘Seed House’, a community bank to store crop species and to help educate other villages in the Amazon, aiding the interchange of knowledge and information for the Amazon communities to adapt and overcome peril.
The Amazon is of great importance to all humankind as it provides oxygen, regulates planetary systems and is a rich ecosystem that houses millions of species. With the recent political situation making it difficult to regulate deforestation and mining, several organizations have come forward to support and protest the destruction of the Amazon. You can also be a part of the movement to protect conservation of natural territories and indigenous communities by donating to these organizations:
Amazon Conservation Association, Survival International, Rainforest Action Now, Amazon Watch, Rainforest Trust.
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