The Protectors of Forests

Forests are a life source for humanity. They provide us with various things that keep us alive, including air, water, food, shelter, and medicine (Nerger, 2022). Despite the importance of forests to humans, trees are going extinct at an accelerated rate because of us. Human-caused climate change is the second most prevalent threat to the extinction of trees (“Up to 135 U.S. tree species face extinction,” n.d.). Deforestation and degradation are also large contributors to tree extinction and a decrease in forest functionality. Deforestation is clearing forested lands on purpose, whereas degradation is when a forest no longer functions well. Deforestation is usually caused by unsustainable and illegal agriculture. Degradation is caused by climate change and illegal logging. Although humans cause the many problems forests are facing, humans can also be the solution to these problems. Indigenous people set the example of how forests should be treated by humans. Forests on Indigenous lands are much healthier than other forests because of how indigenous people care for their lands.

According to Jocelyne Sze (2022), forests on protected Indigenous lands were found to be the healthiest, highest functioning, most diverse, and most ecologically resilient. To evaluate forest health, Sze and her team looked at four categories of land, including non-protected lands, Indigenous lands, protected forests overlapping Indigenous lands, and protected forests not found on Indigenous lands. Deforestation and degradation rates were discovered to be the lowest in Indigenous lands when compared to non-protected areas. It was also found that protected lands overlapping with Indigenous lands had the highest forest integrity (the degree to which forest structure and composition are free from human modifications) than any other category because of how Indigenous people interact with the forests (Sze, 2022).

Indigenous people treat the forests on their lands with lots of respect. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is the coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and the co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change. As an Indigenous person, Ibrahim offers insight as to the reasons why indigenous people do so well in protecting their forests. She states, “all indigenous people have in common a deep connection to the natural environments in which they live.” She explains that Indigenous people view nature in a sort of religious way. Nature inspires their culture, traditions, science, and even their identity. Indigenous people care very much about preserving the balance of the ecosystem. Because of how important nature is to the Indigenous people, they fiercely protect the forests on their land leading them to be healthier than forests not on Indigenous lands.

Joseph Lee (2022) stated that “Years of research has shown that Indigenous peoples are the world’s best land stewards and a crucial part of protecting biodiversity.”

 Joseph Lee (2022) describes research that suggests that “protecting Indigenous and human rights is not only compatible with climate conservation goals but the key to future efforts.” It is important for people to support Indigenous environmental organizations since Indigenous people are the best stewards of nature in the world.

The following link provides six Indigenous environmental organizations to support.

References

Lee, J. (2022, October 27). The world’s healthiest forests are on indigenous land. here’s why. Grist. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://grist.org/global-indigenous-affairs-desk/the-worlds-healthiest-forests-are-on-indigenous-land-heres-why/

Nerger, M. (2022, October 25). Our mission to protect the world’s forests. Rainforest Alliance. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/insights/our-mission-to-protect-the-worlds-forests/#:~:text=Forests%20are%20life.,every%20living%20thing%20on%20Earth.

Sze, J. (2022, October 26). Forests in protected indigenous lands are healthier, scientists find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221026114054.htm

Up to 135 U.S. tree species face extinction-and just eight enjoy federal protection. Science. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.science.org/content/article/135-u-s-tree-species-face-extinction-and-just-eight-enjoy-federal-protection

Picture credit

Bourseiller, P. (n.d.) Congo, East, Lobeke, Baka women grow plants, such as plantains, cassavas and bananas, and practice beekeeping. https://www.alamy.com/image-details-popup.asp?aref=2A3H5WP

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