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Earth Day 2020

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As we celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, we recognise that it is an Earth Day like no other. We are living through an unprecedented global crisis, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing tragic widespread loss of life and changes to billions of people’s everyday social lives and economic livelihoods. It is in crises such as this pandemic and climate change that we can learn to show solidarity with the rest of our global community. Acting through this solidarity is crucial for minority and indigenous peoples, who are particularly vulnerable to both the effects of pandemic diseases and our rapidly de-stabilising climate.

Indigenous and minority communities are being hit hardest by the Earth’s increasingly unstable climate. Often forced to live on societies’ geographic and social margins, they are more exposed to rising sea levels, storms, droughts and forest fires as a result. This Earth Day, we reveal the environmental struggles which minorities and indigenous groups are facing – and the steps they are taking to save their, and our, home.

Nevertheless, the theme of this Earth Day – climate action – is one that all of us must act upon: not just indigenous groups. Recently, Alicia Kroemer exchanged correspondence with Kanahus Manual, an indigenous activist from the Secwepemc and Tanaka nations of British Columbia in Canada. She discusses the need for everyone to take a stand on the climate crisis.

“It will take every single person, not just indigenous people, to fight climate change”

Kanahus Manuel is an indigenous activist, author and founding member of the environmental indigenous activist group Tiny House Warriors. The Secwepemc and Tanaka nations of British Columbia in Canada, which border each other on the Rocky Mountains, have for been self-sustaining for millennia, due to their close and unbroken relationship with their lands.

Yet this relationship is now under threat. “One of the biggest threats to our land and livelihood is industry, as it has always been. Resource extraction, in the form of pipelines, logging and mining, continues to threaten our people”, writes Manuel. Most concerning is the Canadian government’s attempts to build the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain Pipeline on Secwepemc territory, which not only threatens thousands of clean glacier creeks, but would actively perpetuate the climate crisis.

In response to this, Manuel and the Tiny House Warriors are establishing ‘tiny houses’ next to Blue River, to prevent male construction workers from setting up camps. This is having dangerous consequences for indigenous women, with sexual violence against them increasing. Nevertheless, Manuel and other indigenous activists remain determined, with further demonstrations planned.

We are the masses that are waking up to climate change, and the urgency is now. I encourage everyone to start thinking and planning for solutions. We are empowered by protest, both indigenous and non-indigenous, to fight for our lands and water to ensure our future survival.”

To read Kanahaus’ full piece, click here.

Other Stories

There are countless stories of indigenous and minority communities who face unprecedented threats due to ever-worsening climate change, and who are taking bold action to raise global awareness.

To read about the Ju|’hoansi people’s efforts to ensure socio-ecological sustainability on their lands in northern Namibia using mobile app technology, visit https://minorityrights.org/namibia-sharing-local-ecological/.

The island of Tuvalu in Oceania is facing unprecedented challenges due to climate change, from rising sea levels to intense tropical storms. Soseala Tinilau, Director of Environment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been using public platforms such as the football World Cup to raise public awareness. Visit https://minorityrights.org/tuvalu-we-have-a-right/ to find out more.

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Post written by Louis Platts-Dunn, Digital Communications Intern.

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Filed Under: Climate change