Transformation of the Amazon forest must unite tradition and innovation
“Transforming the Amazon isn’t just a matter of financing, it’s necessary to develop policies in an equal way in all nine countries, because the forest is a living organism”. It was with this statement that José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, member of the Wakuenai Kurripako people, originally from the Venezuelan Amazon, and general coordinator of COICA (Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin), began his participation in a panel held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at COP26.
The “Scientific Panel for the Amazon (SPA)”, which included the participation of Mirabal, aimed to launch the first Amazon Assessment Report, which covers the entire region formed by the biome, consisting of nine countries. The debate brought together university professors and scientists, in addition to the existing cultural differences.
The study points out that resource-based development has meant that Amazon countries have moved to the highest levels in global exports of beef, iron, gold, timber, cocoa and soy. These transformations took place in contexts of highly unequal societies, with a large part of the indigenous population without even having citizenship, or the exclusion of local communities from civil society or the right to land, inequities that influence the country’s socioeconomic dynamics.
“To recover and preserve the Amazon, it is necessary to recognize the voice of our people and respect our knowledge”, said Mirabal. “We don’t take care of the forest because of a project, we take care of the forests every day to keep it alive”, he added.
For Marielo Peñas Claro, member of the Science Steering Committee, it is necessary to restore agriculture, through sustainable practice, in order to reduce deforestation, through investments in science, innovation and technology combined with the knowledge of local people and education in schools and colleges . Mercedes Bustamante, member of the Science Steering Committee and professor at the University of Brasília, believes that the process of transforming the Amazon will take place through Bioeconomy. “This will be a strategic pillar for the transformation and development of the region, as long as it includes both rural and urban areas.”
The carbon balance in intact forest areas is negative: the forest sequesters more than 1 billion tCO2e per year (equivalent to half of national emissions), but this rate is decreasing with the destruction of the forest. And the destruction comes through long-term fires and forest degradation, which are reducing soil quality, emitting greenhouse gases, increasing tree mortality, and reducing the Amazon’s ability to function as a carbon sink.
Fires and deforestation
According to Carlos Nobre, a professor at the University of São Paulo, fires are as harmful as deforestation. “If we stop these criminal practices, the degradation will also stop and in this way we will be able to achieve a sustainable future for the Amazon”, he explained.
The Science Director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, Ane Alencar, stated that COP26 was an important chapter to highlight the challenges facing the Amazon and to design the actions that have to be taken to recover degraded territories.
“The speech needs to leave the paper and translate into local actions, engagement with the government, society and technological innovation”, said Alencar. “It is necessary to address the global climate crisis and create value chain governance or else we will declare that this fight does not impact the planet as a whole and that it is okay to export deforestation through illegal products.”