Event round-up: Indigenous People and you

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On 21st June 2022, Size of Wales held an event to discuss the importance of Indigenous Peoples in tackling the global climate crisis as part of our Go Green Day campaign. The full event can be viewed here.

Indigenous Peoples have stewarded forests across the world for millennia. Consequently, rates of deforestation and nature loss in areas they occupy are much lower. Following the agreement reached by world leaders at COP 26 to end global deforestation by 2030, the event aimed to raise awareness of the role Indigenous Peoples play in forest protection and how we in Wales can support them.

As part of the panel, we were honoured to be joined by Galois Flores Pizango, Pamuka Ayatke (Vice President) of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampís Nation, who are currently in a struggle to protect their territory from illegal logging in the Peruvian Amazon.

Wales’ deforestation story

Our first panellist was the science educator Huw James who began by explaining the context of nature loss and deforestation in Wales. He discussed how Britain has lost around half of its ancient natural woodland in the last 100 years due to exploitation. In Wales, exploitation of our natural resources has seen forest cover fall to 5% of what it once was, although it has now risen to 15% due to conservation efforts.

The story of Wales is the story of land that’s been exploited. Sometimes by us, but quite often by others … our trees are just one example of that exploitation — Huw James

Huw made several suggestions for how we can protect and expand forests in Wales as part of tackling the climate crisis. This includes the Senedd investing in more science funding to monitor the state of nature in Wales, learning from Indigenous communities like the Wampís Nation, and for a law to ensure the products we import do not drive deforestation (read about that here). Huw also outlined the importance of not just planting more trees, but leaving existing forests alone to thrive.

Osbaston school’s climate journey

Next up was Shelley Tokar, Deputy Head and year 6 teacher at Osbaston Church in Wales School, Monmouth. Shelley was joined by our Education Outreach Officer, Nicky, following a day of workshops that explored the issue of deforestation and the story of the Wampís Nation.

Shelley explained how her year 6 class is learning about the climate crisis whilst also developing ways they can feel empowered to be part of the solution. They have looked specifically at the issue of climate anxiety and adopted the mantra “Lots of smalls make a big”. This mantra has led to them planting over 200 trees in their school and local area, taking part in a documentary film about climate anxiety, and running a survey of local schools to assess how other young people feel about climate change.

When you’re in the position of working in education, there is a heavy responsibility attached to where we leave children. We give them this information, but we cannot leave them in a position where they cannot do anything about it — Shelley Tokar

As part of Size of Wales’ work with the school, Shelley hopes Osbaston can make a meaningful connection with the Wampís Nation to both educate and empower her pupils.

The Wampís Nation fight for the well-being of humanity

Joining via video link, Galois Flores Pizango of the Wampís Nation told the story of his peoples and their commitment to defending their forests for the benefit of the whole planet.

The Wampís have existed and stewarded their territory for over 7,000 years. Spanning over 1.3 million hectares, it is a world-renowned hotspot for biodiversity. Each year their territory captures an estimated 57 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gasesto put that into perspective, Wales emits 33 million tonnes each year. The Wampís forest also stores a massive 522 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide overall.

That is why, we as the Wampís Nation tell the world that our forests need to be listened to, that the work we do is not only for us and our descendants. The work we do is for the whole of humanity. — Galois Flores Pizango

Galois called for the voices of Indigenous Peoples to be listened to, both by leaders in Peru and across the world. His speech outlined the contribution Indigenous Peoples make to preserve and protect nature and his wish to work with people in Wales to strengthen ties in the fight against global deforestation.

Why solidarity matters to climate change

Barbara Davies-Quy, Deputy Director of Size of Wales, was the final speaker and emphasised the importance of supporting Indigenous Peoples in tackling the climate crisis.

She explained how Indigenous Peoples occupy only 20% of the planet’s land mass, yet protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity and see significantly lower levels of deforestation when compared to other communities. Despite this, they only receive 1% of global climate finance.

Barbara talked about her experiences of working with different Indigenous groups across South America and how these forest guardians are often threatened:

The experts on the ground are receiving such little support. Not only are they marginalised from climate change discussions, but they are often facing severe threats and often assassinations on their lives. — Barbara Davies-Quy

Excitingly, Barbara also announced details of new funding from the Honnold Foundation and the Welsh Government that will help the Wampís build the first two solar-powered boats in the Peruvian Amazon and support efforts to protect their territory from exploitation.

So, what can you do?

Huw James highlighted the importance of learning from Indigenous Peoples like the Wampís Nation in our common struggle against nature loss. This connection between our two nations was a common thread throughout the event.

Size of Wales currently does this through our educational resources, linking Indigenous communities to UK policymakers, advocating to end imported deforestation in our supply chains, and harnessing solidarity from Wales through funding and support.

You too can join in these efforts and help amplify the voices of Indigenous Peoples in their calls for the legal protection of their territories and access to climate finance. We can also change what we buy and consume here in Wales to ensure we are not driving deforestation overseas. By standing together, we can indeed ensure lots of littles make a big!

Size of Wales would like to thank our partners Orchard Media for helping us to deliver this event.

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