Home Science The deadly costs for Mexico’s indigenous communities in the fight against climate...

The deadly costs for Mexico’s indigenous communities in the fight against climate change

Mexico’s indigenous communities are working hard to protect their environment. They still live on their traditional lands and actively oppose projects that could harm the world’s most precious ecosystems they inhabit. To resist, these communities have been organizing protests, blocking roads and occupying government buildings.

Through grassroots organizations, we receive information about the struggle of indigenous communities against climate change, which they carry out from the grassroots. Also a wealth of information on how to protect the plants, wildlife and local species in your areas.

Sadly, Mexico has earned the title of the most dangerous place for people trying to protect the environment or indigenous territories. The situation is critical, according to the non-profit organization Global Witness, Reports suggest that in 2021, 54 people who protect the environment and land rights were killed in Mexico. We need to save indigenous peoples and their habitats from all the damage that is being done; otherwise we will not have a healthy planet.

defend the water

As reporters, we are direct witnesses to the struggles of various communities. We recently visited Paso de la Reina, a town where six indigenous activists have been murdered in recent years for defending their beautiful Rio Verde. Activists rebelled against the construction of a hydroelectric dam and the excessive extraction of sand and gravel from the riverbed. They blocked the road to their town and the Verde River to make their voices heard.

This indigenous area in Oaxaca, not far from Puerto Escondido, is where some activists have apparently been targeted in their conservation efforts. The Public Prosecutor’s Office did not investigate the murders and the indigenous community only spoke to some media, but did not reveal who committed it for fear of reprisals.

Indigenous peoples, responsible for the protection of nature

Indigenous advocates are stepping up and taking the lead in Mexico when it comes to preserving biodiversity. Without them, it would be almost impossible to protect the environment. They have become a crucial part of the mission to keep nature safe. It’s crazy to think that indigenous peoples make up only 5% of the world’s population, yet they are responsible for protecting 80% of the planet’s biodiversity! This is according to the WWF. Mexico is one of the seven American counterparts of the United States that have a large amount of biodiversity, along with Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Of the different nations, Mexico has the most land in the hands of its indigenous and local groups.

Land tenure of indigenous communities in Mexico

According to the Rights and Resources Initiative, more than half of Mexico’s land belongs to indigenous peoples and local communities. Mexico has certain ejido and communal land laws that make it possible for communities to collectively own land, often belonging to indigenous groups who are exercising their political right to autonomy as set out in the Constitution.

Despite progressive political reforms, indigenous groups in Mexico still face attacks. More than 19% of the Mexican population (about 24 million people) belong to this group and it has been threatened for centuries. The sad part is that the indigenous peoples of Mexico had to face many evils that were done to them both by the Spanish occupiers and by their own government, such as mass massacres, forced miscegenation and the erasure of their culture.

native communities, indigenous peoples, defense of territories, defense of waters, interoceanic corridor, natural resources

The depredation of territories

The long-term exclusion of indigenous peoples continued to prevent them from protecting the environment. People are now trying to make use of the natural resources of these ecosystems to increase economic growth, develop industry and create renewable energy such as wind farms and hydroelectric plants.

Indigenous activists in Mexico are constantly under threat from the government, big business and criminal gangs, which contributes to making the country so dangerous for journalists. The Mexican press rarely reports on indigenous rights defenders in the country.

On the indigenous land we recently visited on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, the Mexican government wants to build an “Interoceanic Corridor”. A huge project comparable to the Panama Canal was proposed, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with highways, railways, pipelines and industrial complexes. These complexes would be used for importing and exporting products during the journey. US leaders such as US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar have spoken of this project as a replacement for Trump’s notorious “wall”: a secure, industrialized, militarized border would not only give Central and South American migrants the opportunity to find work, but would also prevent them from crossing into the US illegally.

Interoceanic corridor threatens Mexico’s indigenous communities

The Mexican government recently announced that it is receiving bids from US, Mexican and multinational companies for its industrial park project. It is a huge task that will require a lot of contribution and cooperation. But the area encompassed by the Interoceanic Corridor is home to a dozen different indigenous communities, many of whom claim much of the disputed land as communal territory that collectively belongs to them.

The Interoceanic Corridor is home to diverse indigenous communities, each with its own culture and traditions. These communities have long claimed large tracts of disputed land as communal territory, asserting their right to live and work on the land. Unfortunately, this has often led to conflicts between them and developers looking to exploit the area’s resources.

Indigenous activists, who sometimes only have machetes, are not sure they can stand up to the Mexican Navy, which has been protecting the Interoceanic mega-project since October and is backed by US economic interests. Despite facing much opposition and hardship, they remain committed to protecting what is important to them: their homes, values ​​and lifestyle that are deeply intertwined.

they deserve respect

Indigenous peoples who protect the earth’s resources must be heard and taken into account when formulating Mexican policies that influence their lands. Indigenous peoples must be respected not only for their legal rights as owners of their lands, but also for the knowledge they possess. They have protected public goods like clean water, clean air and biodiversity for many generations. We have a lot to learn from them.

Some areas have managed to protect their natural habitats from decay and preserve their land. Magdalena Teitipac’s Zapotecs held a protest to oppose the installation of a Canadian-run gold and silver mine in the central valleys of Oaxaca, protecting the valuable groundwater supplies in this increasingly dry region. The Purépecha people of Cherán, Michoacán, fought illegal logging and took charge, managing the forests and setting the rules about who can enter. They are replanting trees and taking over their land.

It is essential to listen to indigenous voices and safeguard its existence, otherwise we will all suffer the serious repercussions of damaging our environment.

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