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I’d like to tell you about the real rainforest guardians – the indigenous peoples who call the Amazon their home, the people who know the Amazon intimately as a kindred being, not just a place of far off beauty and power. I’d like to tell you why it is important that I, Amazon Watch, and everyone promoting an environmentalist agenda, make the foundation of our activism a strong partnership with the indigenous peoples who still retain an authentic, sustainable connection to the ecosystems we hope to save, nurture and preserve. It helps if we begin by acknowledging our own relationship with the Amazon out here in the blogosphere: It is as distant as a Google Earth satellite view of South America. As it turns out, however, even miles above the planet, we can deduce the important role indigenous peoples of the Amazon play in preserving the rainforest. If we look at a satellite picture of the Amazon rainforest basin overlaid with a map of indigenous owned land in the Amazon, it is hard not to notice that the indigenous-held land is green with forest while much of the surrounding land is deforested and brown. Fortunately, indigenous territories comprise more than a quarter of the Amazon basin, which means that all this land is in the hands of environmentally competent stewards. Without the many successes in the growing indigenous rights movement establishing indigenous title to many important ancestral territories, the outlook for the preservation of the Amazon might be significantly gloomier than it is today.
John Hank Edson is an attorney, author and environmental activist living in Palo Alto, California with his wife and son. He is the author of several books, including The Declaration of the Democratic Worldview (Democracy Press, 2008). His books are featured at http://democracypress.net.