Story form Indigenous-Amazon Facing Climate Change

Late rainfall, intense drought, dry riverbeds, more forest fires, less food available indigenous communities across the Brazilian Amazon suffer social transformations due to climate change. Indigenous people believe that climate change has even affected their physical health: previously controlled diseases like measles and yellow fever, they say, have inexplicably reappeared in the rainforest, and even indigenous women’s menstrual cycles are beginning at an earlier age.

Indigenous people have found many ways to take action and lessen the harm. These approaches include selecting and growing seeds that are more resistant to drought and heat, investing in frontline firefighters, and even a smartphone app that offers information about climatic variations. The scientific community, using satellites and other measures, is an agreement: recent studies show that the Amazon is drying out and has already reached, or is very close to reaching, a biome tipping point.

At least half of the rainforest could become degraded savanna over the next 50 years, some researchers say, if global climatic change, Brazilian deforestation, and Amazon fires are not greatly reduced. And, as indigenous people have noted, global warming of late is quickening its pace and may bring ecological collapse for more quickly than thought. As if diminishing natural resources weren’t enough, the reappearance of illnesses in local villages is increasing.

The combination of an increasingly hot and dry climate resulting in far more numerous and intense Amazon wildfires — especially as land grabbers clear more rainforest, or as farmers clear fields for planting — is also negatively impacting indigenous reserves. According to the leader of the women warriors of Rondonia, fires gave rise to another serious problem in 2019, one of the worst years on record for forest fires in the Amazon. The smoke from the fires made many people sick, suffering from strong headaches, eye irritation, and respiratory problems. The smoke is quite terrible. Especially children and the elderly need to be taken to regional hospitals, which were already full of people from the cities who had also been poisoned.

To reduce damage to Amazon and Cerrado biome vegetation, Brazil’s environmental agency, IBAMA under its National Forest Fire Prevention Combat Center hires indigenous people during fire season to act as firefighters on the indigenous lands where they live. Furthermore, the availability of water equally influences choices on what to plant. Like Manioc and beans don’t need much rain, but rice, pumpkins, corn, and bananas do. That is the reason why they are planting fewer crops. Hopefully, they could survive and revive the land from fires caused by climate change.

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Researcher of National Battery Research Institute, The Climate Reality Leader and Author of 20 Books

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Moh Wahyu Syafi'ul Mubarok

Researcher of National Battery Research Institute, The Climate Reality Leader and Author of 20 Books