Protecting Forests and the People Who Protect Trees
Emily J. Gertz - TakePart
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May 1, 2016

Organized criminal gangs have helped make Mexico one of the worst victims of deforestation in the world. However, a small community is now taking on illegal loggers who used to be supported by gangs to protect their trees. (Al Jazeera)

Conserving forests and protecting forest activists need to become priorities in the global fight against climate change, says a coalition of activists, scientists, and nongovernmental groups.

“We cannot stop the rising fever that our planet is already running without giving more attention to preserving forests,” said Mina Setra, the deputy secretary general of Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago. “Forests are indispensable to protecting climate, and the role of indigenous people in protecting those forests needs to be acknowledged and supported.”

Setra, along with indigenous leaders from Peru, Panama, the United States, and Guatemala, an array of policy and scientific experts, and actor Alec Baldwin, spoke to reporters in New York on the eve of the signing of the Paris climate accord at the United Nations.

The gathering included Diana Rios, an Asheninka leader from Peru, whose father, Jorge Rios, was murdered by illegal loggers in 2014, along with three other environmental activists, just weeks before that year’s U.N. climate conference in Lima.

“What can we do in order to face this problem of deforestation?” she said. “This has cost the life of my father and other leaders…but this is my duty. This is my home.”

The Peruvian government gave the Asheninka title to about 198,000 acres of Amazon rainforest in the wake of the murders, but illegal logging has continued, and Rios’ life remains under threat.

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