The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest:
Despite this immense importance, it continues to be under threat.
While the highest rates of Amazonian deforestation occurred in the 1980s, the destruction continues today. One fifth of the Amazon rainforest has already been lost, and current estimates state that the Amazon is vanishing at a rate of 20,000 square miles a year. If this rate continues, 27% of the Amazon biome will be without trees by 2030.
For the past 500 years, more often that not, indigenous people have been exploited and mistreated. Anthropological studies show that their populations have been reduced by approximately 90% since first contact with Europeans. This genocide has largely gone unnoticed.
And while colonization may only be but a collective memory, this exploitation continues today.
There is an inextricable link that connects biodiversity and cultural diversity. In almost every instance across the world, biodiversity hotspots are correlated with higher levels of linguistic and other markers of cultural diversity. The loss of one inadvertently means the loss of the other, and we are seeing this unfold in front of our eyes in the Amazon.
Yet the inverse is also true. Strengthen one, and you give life to the other. Inhibit growing deforestation, and you provide fertile ground for the fortification of the communities that call that land home. Bolster cultural diversity through supporting indigenous communities, and you also give hope to the land stewardship that is necessary to protect lands from biodiversity loss and mass destruction. More simply put: A healthy people means a healthy forest, and a healthy forest means a thriving people.
The dominating discourse on conservation and environmentalism often separates landscapes from the people that inhabit those landscapes, operating under the assumption that humans are an inherent threat to nature and its ecosystems. Yet, 50% of the world’s surface is protected by indigenous peoples. This protection is often informal and almost always undervalued. At Xapiri, it is our deeply rooted belief that supporting Amazonian communities in the realm of art, culture and economic opportunity has a multiplier effect that ripples out into the forest itself. By supporting its protectors, we support the longevity of the forest.
It is time for change. Time for the rainforest to be protected, time for indigenous people to freely continue their way of life, maintain their culture and determine their own future. For the wider world to understand, learn from and give the diverse mix of ethnic groups in Amazonia the respect they deserve.