Defenders of the Forest; Why Indigenous Groups are Protecting the World’s Largest Carbon Sink.
With the world rapidly warming, carbon sinks are a major part of how we address global climate change worldwide. Carbon sinks sequester carbon, and that is due in part to the large number of trees and other flora that “eat” the carbon and store it in themselves.
The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest net carbon sink. However, due to encroachment by loggers and other natural resource extraction, it could change to being a carbon source if action isn’t taken now. As it turns out, Indigenous groups not only benefit from the conservation of their forest as a major source of their culture, food, and resources but also are helping our environment by doing what they have done for thousands of years.
When loggers take forests down all the carbon that had previously been trapped in the wood of the trees is released into the atmosphere, and right now, the Amazon rainforest is at a tipping point. The Amazon Rainforest could become a net carbon source rather than sequestering it. If this happens, it would become incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to turn back the tide of carbon being released into the atmosphere. As it turns out, the indigenous groups that are under formal or titled claim to their land are far more effective at conserving their land compared to areas under other forms of management, according to a new report. Between 2001 and 2021, they emitted 121 million metric tons of carbon while sequestering 460 million tons, for a net total of 340 million metric tons of carbon removed. With Brazil’s former government encouraging the logging industry and mining companies to deforest the area, indigenous groups have become a major part of the conversation as they are some of the only ones committed to defending the land they have known for thousands of years.
When it comes to the discussion about indigenous rights, the focus has been on the people themselves, which it rightly should. However, the environmental angle is quite important as well, as it shows that protecting some of the most vulnerable people on their planet not only can be a benefit to themselves and us but also to the survival of our planet at large.
With the world on track to meet the +1.5 degrees celsius target that scientists have warned about for years, carbon sequestration is the most promising solution to our carbon footprint. It is encouraging that we now see how protecting and defending the most vulnerable is inevitably protecting ourselves.