Twenty years ago today, our founder Atossa Soltani stood face to face with Fernando Cardoso, then the president of Brazil. Surrounded by international media, she denounced his proposed “plan for the Amazon” that called for roads and power lines to criss-cross and dissect the continental-size biome. Such plans would be devastating not only for the rainforest, but also the indigenous peoples who call it home. Atossa knew then that while indigenous peoples represent only four percent of the world’s population, they are the guardians and stewards of 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity. That’s why she founded Amazon Watch on March 11th, 1996, to both protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples.
Since that time, we have worked in partnership with indigenous peoples across the Amazon Basin and with allies around the world to achieve some astonishing victories over powerful dirty energy corporations and corruption-plagued governments that seek to profit from the Amazon’s destruction. For two decades, we have stood in solidarity with forest and river peoples to protect their rainforest homes, advance their rights, and support indigenous solutions to climate change.
Supporting indigenous peoples’ rights in the Amazon isn’t just a moral imperative; it is also the most effective way to protect the rainforest. Recent scientific studies confirm that extending legal rights to indigenous communities is a fundamental method to maintain forests’ carbon storage capacity while lowering carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation. Thus, Amazon Watch prioritizes activities that amplify these crucial indigenous voices and movements, providing communications, campaigning, logistical, and financial support to increase their impact.
To celebrate our 20th anniversary we’ve produced a new video outlining the importance of the Amazon and why we believe in the power of our strategy to forge positive change and lasting solutions that protect the rainforest and preserve our global climate. Please watch and share it with your friends. Let’s grow this movement for another twenty, successful years for the Amazon and the rights of its indigenous peoples.
(This article originally appeared on Amazon Watch. It has been reprinted here with permission.)