Inuit stand with the Indigenous peoples of the Amazon: ICC
“We recognize our critical part as Inuit, alongside our Indigenous brothers and sisters”
The international circumpolar organization representing Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Chukotka and Greenland has sent a message of solidarity to Indigenous peoples living in the Amazon basin, and expressing concern for what the fires now burning in the region’s rainforests mean for the global climate system.
“Transformation of the Arctic landscape, and of Inuit lives and livelihoods that are intricately tied to this landscape, will only be accelerated and further devastated by the raging forest fires in the Amazon that are raising global temperatures and fueling further melting of sea ice and glaciers,” the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s president for Canada, Monica Ell-Kanayuk, said on Tuesday, Aug. 27, in a press release.
“What happens in one part of the planet has impact on us all.”
Inuit Nunangat homelands are already experiencing “catastrophic climate change,” she said.
The 7.4-million-square-kilometre Amazon basin is home to one million Indigenous people, and about three million species of plants and animals, said the ICC, pointing out that the region is critical for regulating climate change, as its forests absorb millions of tonnes of climate-warming carbon emissions each year.
But during rainforest fires, the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, and the rainforest’s ability to absorb carbon is diminished.
“The massive impact on the planet’s carbon balance will have consequences for regions far from the Amazon, including the Arctic,” the ICC release said.
The ICC international chair, Dalee Sambo Dorough, said the ICC is “very concerned” about reports from Indigenous leaders in Brazil about the government of Jair Bolsonaro.
“It’s unconscionable to hear that his government has unleashed an assault on Indigenous peoples by turning a blind eye, allowing farmers, ranchers, and miners to exploit deep into the Amazon rainforest—their homelands,” she said.
Many are uncontacted tribes that have no firefighters, no means to put out these devastating fires.”
Due to the fires, Amazonas, the largest state in Brazil, has declared a state of emergency. Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru have also reported thousands of forest fires.
“Countries which tout the importance of Indigenous rights have an obligation to press Brazil to change its current path,” Sambo Dorough said.
“We applaud the French government for putting it on the agenda of the G7 Summit in Biarritz, and calling it an international crisis.”
At the G7, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States announced they would provide US$20 million to fight the fires, with France sending military assistance.
Canada plans to send an additional C$15 million and water bombers, the ICC noted.
The ICC also praised actions such as online petitions urging the European Union and the United Nations to put sanctions in place forcing the Brazilian government to address the problems related to deforestation.
“We believe that other countries, including Canada, can also play a strong role,” said Ell-Kanayuk. “Canada has a duty to speak out.”
With the UN Climate Action Summit now less than a month away and the annual UN Climate Change conference set for December, she said “there is no better time, indeed no more urgent time, to raise ambition and increase climate action internationally.”
“We recognize our critical part as Inuit, alongside our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and we call on governments to support Indigenous peoples and to respond as an emergency like this requires.”
Fires have also been burning in Alaska and Greenland over the summer, such as the one in Qeqqata, smouldering since early July.