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Indigenous Environmental Network @ Klimaforum

December 1, 2010

Located on the outskirts of Cancun, Klimaforum is an alternative venue for discussions. Workshops are scheduled every day from different sources ranging from Brahma Kumaris to indigenous people.  Organic vegan food is cooked everyday for lunch at economical prices and frappes are free of dairy products but lip-smacking delectable. Tents being pitched in a large field provide the perfect atmosphere for reconnecting with nature. It is a steady reminder of what we as a collective community want to conserve.

Wen Yun and I went for a workshop organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network which discussed false solutions to climate change yesterday.

The Indigenous Environmental Network is a non-profit organization established in 1990. It provides resources for grassroots community who want to push back corporate control and the usage of fossil fuels which detriment their communities. Two members of the indigenous people, one from North Dakota, one from Arizona, gave passionate accounts of the reason they are opposing REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation + Conservation). REDD+ includes a provision for the Clean Development Mechanism which allows developed countries to offset their carbon emissions through funding projects in developing countries that reduce carbon emissions. An unwanted implication of this is that developed countries have reduced incentives to turn inward to make changes domestically. Activities that displace indigenous peoples to make way for nuclear power plants, and oil refineries then perpetuate. An example of such an activity is hydrolytic fracturing process which is the creation of mini earthquakes. This utilizes massive amounts of water, depriving indigenous people of their water resources. It also contaminates oil wells.

“It is the commodification of the air and privatization of the sacred.”

This writer was wondering about having regulations in place such that REDD+ can still take place, reducing the unwanted implication of little domestic change. Still obstacles like “our leaders are sold to the industry” with false promises of jobs (that go to foreigners kept under inhumane conditions in mancamps) and money exist.


  1. Contraction of diseases

Such as Asthma, cancers and strokes. Both speakers gave emotive accounts of loved ones who have died due to such diseases. One of them, Candy almost did not come because she had to attend the funeral of a mother’s friend.

  1. Loss of cultural heritage

Mountains are cleared to make way for corporate companies to assess minerals. These mountains provide the setting for storytelling and teaching of values such as sustainability to the children in the community. In fact, reality today has been prophesized since ancient times and their accuracy gives the speakers “the chills.”

  1. Loss of territory

REDD++ has extra details that deny indigenous people access to forests. Small scale slash and burn which are not responsible for the bulk of climate change, are refused.

 “Who says we want to develop?”

It is ironic that these community who have sustained themselves over hundreds of years and have thrived are now impressed upon to ‘develop’ when the current economic model is the unsustainable one.

What then is a “real solution?”
It requires a paradigm shift from the current economic model of capitalism to one based with on the community. The extraction of fossil fuels must stop. A real solution must respect indigenous rights, prior consent, and a localized sustainable economy. A real solution arrives with the realization that we can’t “grow, grow, grow” in the terms of today, people knowing where their food comes from and a reconnecting to nature.

That being said, REDD+ still intends to conserve the forests and its intention is right. If a paradigm shift cannot occur, I think our next best option is to iron out details to prevent the exploitation of indigenous people. Much emphasis has been placed and will be placed on REDD+ in Cancun because it seeks to prevent the clearing of forests which would reduce carbon emissions significantly. Look out for that!

Find out more about the Indigenous Environmental Network here:

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