Friday, November 17The Voice of London

Crime against the environment is crime against humanity

Indigenous leaders march in London’s streets to gain recognition of their role as Guardian’s of the forests. They reach out to the city for help, since deforestation will have an impact on our lives too.

For the first time they will be teaming with Climate experts on their way to COP23, the UN’s Climate Change Conference that will take place in November.

Indigenous leaders from around the world sing, dance and share songs with London activists on parliament square as part of a peaceful demonstration to tackle climate change. Amongst the music, vibrancy and coming together of a native cultures and activists – they come bearing a serious yet simple message. Preventing climate change is our responsibility too.

Speaking at a Press Conference, Sonia Guajajara, Executive Coordinator of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB) says:

“The nice meat that you eat in your home comes from the conflict and the murdering that is happening against our people. The food that your dog eats comes from the soya that is produced with the use of chemicals that is denying indigenous territories. The delicious chocolate that you eat have the taste of blood because it has cost lives…”

Holding banners down London streets of all the faces of the activists that have lost their life in the fight to protect forests, they aim to bring the reality of the situation to our attention.

London – being one of the richest and affluent cities in the world – needs to curb consumption, and stand behind those protecting the worlds forests as part of a wider initiative to combat climate change globally. They bring warning of the consequences that will follow if we fail to do so. They join as part of a group called If Not Us Then Who. 


Wearing their traditional headwear and clothes, they have come from Brazil, Indonesia, Peru and Panama, these leaders stand in front of a heaving press conference. Bringing the discussion to Britain’s capital was part of their wider tour of European cities by bus on their tour to Bonn, where climate discussions will take place.

Native people have come together with climate experts in order to get their often silenced voices heard, for one of the first times. They ask for international recognition for their land rights, protection of their environmental activists, funding for the preservation of the worlds forests. They also ask us to think about the consequences of our consumer actions that can fuel these conflicts.

Research with local indigenous communities called money where it matters discovered that out of £127 billion in international investment to reduce carbon emissions, only 2 per cent of the fund was dedicated to reducing deforestation. And only a very small percentage of that would be given to these communities that work to preserve green spaces. Our own government shares little information about where the funding to reduce carbon emissions actually goes.

Speaking at the event, Mina Setra, The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelagos from Indonesia tells us:

“Your investments are responsible for this problem. Your governments need to know that crime against the environment is crime against humanity. We need government to start making necessary measures to protect our land. We need access to funding, the adaptation to finance and coronations are huge, and nothing goes to communities. All our initiatives must be supported.”

The study has been published as an initiative to pressure global leaders who will be taking part in the COP23 climate summit to recognise that a large part of the climate problem is due to deforestation. Long term protection will answer 40% of the climate change solution.

Our money is going towards the destruction of forests, more than it goes towards reforestation projects. The report suggested that governments and donors invested 39 times more to promote agriculture and land-intensive development than they did in stopping the destruction of the forests.

Charlotte Streck, co-founder and head of Climate Focus said:

“Forests hold so much potential in the effort to limit climate change, and yet there’s a seemingly endless supply of money to help tear them down… we need to invest much more in keeping forests standing rather than in activities to destroy them.”

During the last 40 years we have lost almost 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest, everyday an unprecedented amount is lost. This is largely due to large hydro-dams, large-scale mining – such projects many indigenous communities are campaigning against.

A warning sign

The leaders of these communities warned us that the environmental consequences of deforestation will have a knock-on effect to the rest of the world. Storm Ophelia was one warning sign, giving Ireland and the British Isles it’s stormiest weather in 150 years – according to New Internationalist.

Holding signs of the many faces lost in the battle over land, indigenous people come together with UK activists to bring the ongoing reality of this battle to the streets of London.

Crime against environmental activists is an all time high – in 2016, 200 activists were killed – according research conducted by Global Witness. By early October this year, another 153 environmental defenders had been murdered. More than 40% of these activists were indigenous leaders. Latin America, home to some of richest resources in the world, is currently recognised by the UN as one of the most dangerous places in the world for environmental activists. Global Witness’s project aims to start recording more of these deaths per year.

With the increasing lack of natural resources such as oil and gas, there is a scramble amongst corporations who are starting to reach out to untouched indigenous areas which contain large amounts of natural resources, and they are prepared to commit crime against anyone in their way,  and there is little done to penalise these people- which acts as a little deterrent.

Sonia Guajajara goes on to tell us about the violation against her people:

“If theres still forests standing today. It’s because we exist. We are being brutally attacked by the forces and the profit of agribusiness and the model of development that has been invented here in the UK. The destruction of the Rio dulce in Brazil was not an accident. It was a crime. It was not just the only crime. An ecocide, a crime that kills all life and all the possibility of life. Many people are being murdered by people who take over the land that isn’t theirs. We saw the death of a man and a young child who was wounded for trying to save their land.”

Photo by: Yasmin Dahnoun

Indigenous leaders hope that their role in the environmental protection of our planet will be recognised by world leaders and supported by an international community. They prey that one day they will live without the threat of violence that has become the reality of their everyday existence.

Leader Mina Setra goes on to tell us:

“My land was stolen for a reservation site. Our river is dry now, the water is no longer theirs to drink from. This is the situation that has brought us here. 80 per cent of the best forests are in the hands of the indigenous, we are proven to be the protectors of the forest. Yet governments fail. They destroy forests.”

Read more about the clean air fight in London

Ever wanted to live in the wild? Find out more about the benefits

Words: Yasmin Dahnoun | Edited: Joshua Hornsey & Ainaa Mashrique.