The health of people and the health of the world are linked...

The coronavirus epidemic is an example of this.


The pandemic is hitting the world. Everybody's. Like a plague of fate. In reality this crisis is the product of our way of living the world. By extending the limits of our human habitats into the wild world, we have not only destroyed biodiversity, but have also come into unprecedented contact with wildlife that was only too eager to live in peace. By upsetting precious balances, we have awakened hostile organisms. The coronavirus, whose origin is known to be in bats, is the result. Our equilibrium is now upset and our lives are threatened all over the world. Indigenous peoples have always been aware of this fragile balance. They had warned us. They still remind us of it today in a message they are sending us from New York on March 13.

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This article is published here as part of UP' Magazine's partnership with Covering Climate Nowa global collaboration of more than 400 selected media outlets from around the world to strengthen news coverage of climate change.

On Earth, everything is connected, everything is connected. For life to be sustainable, we must rethink our ways of evolution. For we are more and more numerous for a place that is no longer guaranteed. The way we live and work, particularly in Europe and the United States, is having a devastating impact on biodiversity, which is being felt on the other side of the world, in Africa, South America, Indonesia and the North Pole. We urgently need to move away from our anthropocentric vision and rethink our position in the biosphere.

At a press conference in New York on 13 March, indigenous leaders from Asia and the Americas explained that the destruction of forests not only accelerates climate change and biodiversity loss, but also impacts the health of people around the world. The land and human rights of Indigenous groups are one of the most important - but also most neglected - aspects of climate history. These peoples represent 370 million people around the world, divided into approximately 5,000 groups.

The experts all agree that the most important thing is that the loss of forests and other habitats brings wild animals closer to humans and domestic animals. Failure to protect native lands also allows diseases to cross the barrier between humans and animals. This is known as " the corona-climate link« . We have recently reported that forest devastation has played a major role in the generation and spread of coronavirus.

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A health crisis in response to human aggression on the environment

The protection of these rights is one of the main solutions to the global climate crisis but also to the current health crisis. We must therefore ask ourselves about human aggression on the environment.
"The destruction of forests, which accelerates climate change, can also promote the emergence of diseases such as coronavirus. "said indigenous leaders on 13 March in New York as they criticized Cargill and other multinationals for replacing forests with soy, palm and cattle plantations on their territories.

Levi Sucre Romero - Photo Joel Redman

For Levi Sucre Romero, a BriBri indigenous person from Costa Rica and coordinator of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, "... I am proud to be a member of the Alliance," he said. The coronavirus is now telling the world what we've been saying for thousands of years, that if we don't help protect biodiversity and nature, we will face this and other more serious threats.

All scientific research shows that habitat loss has brought wild animals closer to humans and domestic animals, allowing diseases such as coronavirus to cross the animal-human barrier and spread through human-to-human contact.

Mina Setra - Photo Joel Redman

According to Mina Setra, an indigenous Dayak Pompakng from Indonesia who is also the deputy secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), which represents 17 million indigenous peoples across Indonesia, "It is likely that one animal [is responsible for a virus that] has infected tens of thousands of people around the world with coronavirus and put a strain on the global economy..... If only the world had worked to strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples - who have learned to live in the wild with biodiversity and to protect animal and plant species - we would see fewer epidemics like the one we are facing today."

Dinaman Tuxà - Photo Joel Redman

Brazil, in particular, has seen a growing attack on the rights of indigenous peoples, at some of the highest levels of government, according to Dinamam Tuxá, coordinator and legal advisor of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, where "... the government has been increasingly attacking the rights of indigenous peoples...". our people are criminalized and murdered« . He explains that " One of the main companies that financed the genocide and the destruction of indigenous lands is Cargill.. What we are asking the multinationals is that they do not buy commodities that cause deforestation and conflict and that are produced on indigenous lands. We also ask that bilateral trade agreements require respect for indigenous rights and guarantee that no products related to deforestation enter their countries."

From recent scientific studies peer-reviewed studies concluded that the protection of the land and human rights of indigenous peoples which occupy a large part of the world's forest areas is the best way to keep forests alive, thereby reducing global warming and biodiversity loss.

"Communities living in and around forest areas can play a critical role in successful conservation and restoration, but are too often excluded from forest policy decisions, partly because of unclear and contested land tenure.« wrote some of the world's leading forest experts in a recent blog. " Lack of secure legal rights makes communities and their forests vulnerable"

For us, climate change is not abstract.« said Levi Sucre Romero. « In my little community...we are struggling to produce certain foods because of climate change. The entire Caribbean coast of Central America is facing rising sea levels, and it is impacting the economy..."

In 2019, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called the protection of indigenous peoples' lands and human rights "vital" to addressing the climate crisis. According to the monitoring programme Global Forest Watch of the World Resources Institute, indigenous lands have less than half the rate of forest cover loss as compared to other lands; when indigenous rights are recognized, the the difference will be even greater.

Indigenous territories are increasingly under siege

A recent paper on the situation in the Amazon, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, concluded that "the trend towards the weakening of environmental protections, indigenous land rights and the rule of law ... constitutes an existential threat to [indigenous peoples, local communities] and their territories. Reversing this trend is essential for the future of the Amazon rainforests, which are climate buffers, and for the success of the Paris Accord".

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Protecting the rights of indigenous people and forests can also help the world find medicines to treat coronavirus and possible future pandemics, the indigenous leaders said. But all too often, global corporations are trespassing on indigenous lands and taking over their products and traditional knowledge without compensation.

We know that 25 % of drugs used worldwide come from forests and that by losing forests, we are jeopardizing future solutions.« said Romero Sugar.

The cure for the next pandemic may be on our land, and what is important is that our traditional knowledge be properly recognized.« said Mr. Tuxá. « Insteadhe added, these big pharmaceutical companies come into our communities, extract our traditional knowledge and plants without recognizing our rights ... and take them to the cities and say that they are their own discoveries..."

Our modern societies breed "diseases of civilization"...

As Frederika Van Ingen explains in her latest book (1),These root societies, also known as first peoples, indigenous peoples, have the peculiarity of never having completely severed the link with the land on which they live, even though some of them have had to adopt our modern ways of life over the last few centuries. Through this link with their land, they cultivate balance, "wisdoms" (2), [...]; these wisdoms are much more than an ideal of individual life or a path of personal development. They are much more than a personal quest to try to live a little more coherently. In the vision of these peoples, where everything is connected, they participate in the health of men and the health of the world. They constitute, in a way, the oxygen of thought that flows through the human being to maintain the unity of life. "

As anthropologist Jean Malaurie recalled at the turn of the 21st century (3), The "root peoples" are at the very source of - and therefore part of - the life of humanity being built on our planet; and they are likely to provide the "advanced" nations with the second wind that is indispensable for facing the new century and its formidable challenges. 

Frederika Van Ingen explains that these peoples also give a clear answer to the existential question "Who am I? I am a member and co-responsible guardian of the harmony ». It changes everything about the way they are in the world." They see themselves as part of a living body, belonging to an organ (their group) which has its reason for being and its function, dependent on the external environment, at the service of this great body and kept in balance because at the service of this body. This changes the way we look at life, at the role of the human being in this life, at the meaning of life, of death, at the meaning of illnesses, at the role of those who care, at the role of each one, at the balance of societies, ... And the main thread that connects the individual to this great living body, the one that tells him that yes, he is harmoniously connected, is his health! "






(1) « What the root peoples have to say "by Frederika Van Ingen - Edition Les Liens qui Libèrent (LLL), January 2020
(2) « Wisdom for living today "by Frederika Van Ingen - Editions Les Arènes, 2016
(3) « How to preserve creative diversity? The Lesson of the First Peoples "by Jean Malaurie - Le Monde diplomatique, April 1999

Header photo The indigenous peoples of Brazil are demonstrating on February 13, 2020 against President Bolsonaro's plan to steal their lands and open them up to exploitation. Photo © Mídia Ninja (Source : international survival)

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