Telma Taurepang is fighting for the lives of indigenous peoples across the Amazon. As the general coordinator of the Union of Indigenous Women of the Amazon (UMIAB) she develops projects supporting indigenous communities that are campaigning for land and working for self-sustainability, health and education.
“It is the women who suffer the greatest impacts of climate change, which are happening today on Mother Earth,” says Telma. “She [Mother Earth] has the first perception, meaning she feels firsthand what is happening on planet Earth.
She feels when people are seeking for fruit in the woods, when they’re seeking the seed to make their crafts, when they’re planting and harvesting, and when they’re seeking water to make their food. The water and food of our planet Earth are RUNNING OUT.”
According to the United Nations, 80% of people displaced by climate change are women, and their roles as primary caregiver make them more vulnerable when flood and drought occur. Regarding the Amazon rainforest fire that’s been ravaging the land for three consecutive weeks, Telma says destruction for more than her people is inevitable if collective action around the world doesn’t transpire.
“To have the knowledge of our ancestors if a catastrophe happens in the Big City, only she [a woman] knows where there is water and food to give to those who survive this catastrophe,” says Telma. “Only she [a woman] has this knowledge of survival and her ancestry.”
While Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, reportedly declined $20 million in aid from G7 world leaders, Telma and the UMIAB are using their voices to seek assistance on behalf of the indigenous peoples.
“We need financial support and support to tell the world that we are alive, that we are resistant indigenous women,” says Telma. “We resist colonization.
We resist capitalism, and we will continue to resist, in order to exist. Innocent people are dying, and our running water will cease. It is already evaporating and going in other directions.
A big catastrophe will happen. Human beings cannot be selfish when we talk about life. For us indigenous women, it is not only the lives of indigenous peoples, but all life on Mother Earth. Everything has life including the fire. The white man is playing with fire.”
Telma and the UMIAB want governments and the private sector to know that if there is no end to deforestation, polluting the water with mercury, and destroying wood in the forest, all will die—not just indigenous peoples.
According to a statement about the Amazon fires by Greenpeace, fire is one of the primary means of deforestation, including by farmers. And as the number of fires increase, greenhouse gas emissions rise, increasing the planet’s temperature.
When viewing the Amazon from space, scientists at NASA are reportedly seeing that the activities fueling the fire are rooted in economics, not drought. This is precisely what Telma is saying.
As many of you have likely seen across the internet, the Amazon generates more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and is home to 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, an ecosystem the indigenous peoples of the region know inside and out.
It’s always the people and creatures who live and eat from the land that are most impacted by disaster, and they are always the ones heard last. This needs to change because as Telma said above, our resources and time are running out.