By Jessica Schofield-Wood

On 22nd April 2017 the world will celebrate the 47th Earth Day, which is held every year on the anniversary of the world’s first major environmental protest, which is recognised as the birth of the modern environmental movement. Earth Day is a global celebration where people come together and take part in different events to show their support for environmental protection.

This year, arguably, Earth Day is more important than ever. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he believes global warming to be a myth, and the Unites States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, which was ratified on last year’s Earth Day, currently hangs in the balance. Therefore, with climate change skepticism having a much stronger voice in global discourse than before, it is crucial to show our support for the protection of the environment.

For most of us, earth day comes around once a year and it reminds us that we must work together to help protect the Earth and that our commitment is imperative. However, it can be said that for many of the world’s Indigenous communities, every day is earth day, because it is around this very idea that Indigenous communities live their way of life. In contrast to the developed world where most of our everyday actions contribute to CO2 emissions, everyday Indigenous behaviors are ones which nurture and care for the planet.

In Peru, for example, Indigenous communities make a significant contribution to the sustainability of biodiversity. Huanchaco is a biodiversity hotspot, with many different species of birds and fish that cannot be found elsewhere, and this is largely due to the sustainable practices of the Mochica Chimu people. The cultivation of totora reeds contributes to the balance of groundwater, which helps to enhance biodiversity. Quechua communities in the Cusco region have been working to preserve hundreds of different potato varieties.

Indigenous rights and the fight against climate change are heavily interconnected, and should not be treated as separate issues. Climate change presents a threat to the human rights of Indigenous communities, as changes in their environment puts their knowledge and culture at risk of dissapearing. Likewise, when the human rights of Indigenous communities are threatened by land evictions and descrimination, they are unable to continue with and promote their sustainable practices, which are so important in the fight against climate change.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon have both expressed the viewpoint that human rights of Indigenous peoples are essential in combatting climate change. At the 2011 United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues Ban Ki-Moon stated that protecting and promoting the rights on Indigenous peoples benefit us all. At the COP21 summit of 2015 Trudeau claimed that Indigenous peoples know how to care for our planet, and can teach the world. However, in the face of climate change sceptics such as Trump, we need more world leaders to recognise the connection between Indigenous rights and sustainable development, and speak out in favor of protecting them.

Happy Earth Day from the Habitat Pro team. Let Earth Day 2017 be an opportunity to reflect on the contribution of Indigenous communities in protecting the planet with their sustainable living, and appreciate their input in preserving biodiversity. Let’s all try to learn from them, and make every day Earth Day.

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