By: Josh Catalano
Worcester State University students listened intently Tuesday October 5, 2019, as Patricia Gualinga spoke about climate change and the Amazon. Gualinga is the leader of the Sarayaku people, indigenous to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Gualinga spoke in Spanish and WSU professor Carlos Fontes translated for her.
The event began with Gualinga describing growing up in the Amazon and how her people viewed and interacted with their environment. She explained how the destruction of the forest motivated her to begin speaking up against it. Gualinga created the “Living Forest” proposal that she has brought to the Paris Climate Summit.
“This is an urgent time, a time to alert people everywhere, so scientists have a time to catch up,” Gualinga said. “[There is] no need to struggle in silence, but to reach out.”
The “Living Forest” proposal states that ecosystems have rights as natural living beings. There are spaces within spaces on the planet that regenerate.
Gualinga explained that governments only think of climate change in market terms, and that it is very difficult to deal with governments in these terms. Young people will suffer the consequences.
“I had no power in [my] village, no one knew me… when one makes a decision, a goal, one can start in one’s immediate space. Actions of solidarity,” Gualinga responded when asked what a student could do. “[This is] the responsibility of everyone, not just the Sarayuka.” Gualinga included the protection of sacred spaces with this. Sacred spaces are forests with an abundance of flora and fauna, and rare and unique plants and animals. These spaces connect to primary forests, such as the Amazon.
Gualinga emphasized that this is the time for others to take on this responsibility, take on this mantle, this struggle with them. There are many things an individual can do, she told attendees, and no one should feel hopeless or powerless if their achievements are not global. Everything little bit helps.