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Mon Dec 22, 2014, 02:30 AM

Murder in the Rainforest: Local Activists and the Global Politics of Climate Change

Published on Wednesday, December 17, 2014

by Rolling Stone

Murder in the Rainforest: Local Activists and the Global Politics of Climate Change

At the U.N.'s latest climate talks, indigenous tribes showed again that they're frontline allies in the climate fight. So why aren't we protecting them?

by Alexander Zaitchik, Rolling Stone

On the morning of December 5th, a dark piece of news began circulating at the U.N. climate talks in Lima: The body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a leading Ecuadorian indigenous-rights and anti-mining campaigner, had been found in a riverside grave near his village, his remains bound in rope, showing signs of beating and torture. Antún had planned to be in the Peruvian capital last week, where hundreds of indigenous leaders from around the world gathered to demand recognition and rights, as both defenders of the world's rainforests and underappreciated players in the effort to slow climate change.

The outlines of Antún's murder were grimly familiar to indigenous activists. The spread of logging, agriculture and extractive industry into once remote forests has sparked social conflict under the tropical canopies of Amazonia, Africa and Asia. Rising native resistance is met with repression and violence, the screams from which don't often reach the outside world. The situation is especially bad in the northwest Amazon. News of José Antún's death in Ecuador follows the September killing of four Peruvian indigenous anti-logging activists near the Brazil border. The group's slain leader, Edwin Chota, had also planned to travel to Lima and use his famed energy and eloquence to help sound the indigenous alarm. Two of the widows faced down threats from local loggers to attend in his name.

This jungle violence isn't just a human tragedy or a local environmental story — it is global climate politics. The first days of the Lima summit — known as COP 20, for the twentieth session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — saw the publication of data that quantifies, for the first time, the exact size of the climate impact made by indigenous populations as front-line guardians of imperiled rainforests. The size of this impact, a kind of negative carbon footprint, is staggering. Nowhere is this more true than in the Amazon that begins just over the mountains from the just-concluded negotiations.

"The territories of Amazonian indigenous peoples store almost a third of the region's aboveground carbon," said Woods Hole Research Center scientist Wayne Walker. "That is more forest carbon than is contained in some of the most carbon-rich tropical countries, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

More:
http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/12/17/murder-rainforest-local-activists-and-global-politics-climate-change

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