ON the 1st September 2014 Edwin Chota and his 3 companions were murdered trying to protect their home in the Peruvian rainforest. They are not the only indigenous groups to be murdered in the struggle over forests. While we procrastinate and dither about what we personally need to use less of or give up to stop climate change, Edwin Chota made the ultimate sacrifice. There is a war being raged over forests, which protect our climate from the worst of our excesses, and it is happening right now. But do we feel grateful or appreciate those that are on the frontline?
Edwin’s life is detached from ours. He lives far away in a remote forest region and is connected to nature in a way we struggle to imagine. But why did he embark on a journey to make his life better and to improve the world around him? How do we get to a point where we decide we need to act to solve climate change just as Edwin decided to act to stop the destruction of the forests around him? I think we need to get to a personal tipping point. And this can only happen when we start to feel this loss ourselves. When we get to the stage of life of Harry Beale from Sydney Lumet’s classic, The Network:
‘We’re mad as hell and we are not going to take this anymore’
At what point do we get to this moment? With forest communities it is simple – The Babassu nut breakers in Brazil were getting threatened and abused whilst working in their forests; the Mayangna people were getting their community forests converted into farmland; in Podumaan and Sipahuta the trees that are the main source of income for the whole village were being flattened and converted into plantations. When you lose your ability to feed your family, when the rivers which are your only water supply start to run dry, when people with guns enter your land and take over, the decisions are instant and without thought for the personal consequences. But what must occur before we decide to act to save our climate? A drought in California? A hurricane in New Orleans? A polar Vortex? Flooding in the Somerset Levels? What catastrophe do we need to witness to make us act?
Rather than sit around waiting for this major environmental catastrophe, there is one simple thing we can do. Understand. Not just glance and ‘like’ something on Facebook but think about it with our intellect and think about it emotionally. Empathize and fight banality, fight ignorance, explore and get to the root of what is happening.
This is what we aim to do with, ‘If not us then who?’ We want to find practical answers to the questions that are bothering us. Ignore the politics, and the endless unfulfilled promises on climate change and begin with the basics: Who is protecting our forests now, today, as you sit here reading? How are they protecting our forests? Why are they protecting our forests” ‘How can we support them and encourage them’. Sometimes there are more questions than answers but that is ok. Because questions themselves make us find reason. Reason leads to motivation and motivation leads to action. So I am asking a question to see where it takes me, ‘If not us then who?’