This month, we are sharing the insights we’ve learned through more than 20 years of partnership with the indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. Most importantly, we’ve learned that what happens in the Amazon affects all life on Earth. Our fates are interconnected—we are all the Amazon.
Today’s message is from the Director of our sister organization in Ecuador, Belén Paez, who is pictured above with her life partner, Manari Ushigua of the Sápara Nation, and their son, Tsamaraw. Belén shares what she has learned working on the ground with the indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon for the past 20 years.
For over two decades, I have worked in partnership with the indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon to protect their lands and culture, as the Director of Pachamama Alliance’s partner organization in Ecuador, Fundación Pachamama.
When I joined in 1998, I was a young biologist with a passion about nature and the rainforest. But now I needed to work not just with nature but with the people of the rainforest. It was very challenging because the work was mostly with men, the indigenous leaders, who were building their organizations and defending their territories.
I grew up fast and learned a lot about myself and to think differently about the Amazon region, about my country, and the world.
Fundación Pachamama’s work is unique and wide-ranging. We provide monthly unrestricted economic support so the indigenous federations can run their offices, cover their living expenses, and travel and meet with their local communities and with the national government. And we provide them with legal training about their rights and legal representation in local, national, and even international courts. We helped the federations make maps of their territories and get legal title to their lands. We’ve helped set up communication networks for their vast territories. Over the years, building upon that constant support, the federations in Ecuador have become strong defenders of their lands and are now recognized as among the most effective indigenous organizations in Latin America.
In these twenty years, this partnership has been successful in preventing extractive industries from breaking ground in the part of the Amazon rainforest where we work. But the threats continue.
One of the most important lessons that I, and the rest of us at Pachamama Alliance have learned by working with our indigenous partners is that simply stopping the individual threats of extraction to the rainforest is not enough. There will always be another oil or mining company in line, waiting for the chance to take from the land. In order to stop these threats once and for all, we must shift humanity’s relationship to nature from one of reckless development and consumption to one of deep reverence and love for our living Earth.
This is an issue that affects each and every one of us on this planet. Protection of the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru alone, a 60-million-acre area more than half the size of California, is critical to global efforts to reverse global warming. Additionally, the destruction of this area would disrupt the entire Earth’s distribution of rain. The rivers within the clouds above our forests are larger and mightier than the Amazon River itself. They drive the planetary weather system and replenish the Earth’s cycle of fresh water. Which means the fresh water that comes out of your faucet—and the long hot showers you enjoy each morning in America or Europe or Asia—are in jeopardy.
Our indigenous partners experience the world through symbiotic coexistence, one universe, and shared perpetual interconnectivity. The Earth is alive, and a part of us—and we are all connected. We are all the Amazon. This is what we all must come to realize to stop the threats to the rainforest, and life on Earth as we know it.
Because of our intimate relationship with our indigenous partners, we are uniquely positioned to share this message from the rainforest. It is our privilege and duty to awaken the world from a trance of separation and domination of nature. Our transformational education programs—Awakening the Dreamer, Game Changer Intensive, the Drawdown Initiative, and our upcoming democracy course—are designed to share these insights and to inspire people around the world to create a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.
Your partnership is necessary to continue to spread this important message, and to stop the destruction of the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon rainforest and the threat that destruction poses to all life on Earth.
Director of Fundación Pachamama