GEORGETOWN, Guyana, January 17 (IPS) – If the ocean is the lifeblood of the Commonwealth, then the forest is the life-breathing lung for its entire system. From the vast swaths of the forest in Canada to the rich primeval forests of Papua New Guinea, the Commonwealth covers nearly a quarter of the world’s forested land – an estimated 900 million hectares. Not only are these biodiverse havens home to about half of the animals on earth, they also provide us with clean air, water and food, supporting the livelihoods of millions of people. while dealing with climate change.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of hiking through Guyana’s beautiful Amazonian rainforest. This is the second time I have done this since visit Iwokrama . Reserve in 2016, but I’m still awestruck by the sight of jungle-covered mountains stretching as far as the eye can see, home to jaguars, anacondas, and hundreds of exotic birds. Listening to the thunderous vibrations of the Potaro River cascading down 250 meters in the world’s smallest waterfall, Kaieteur Falls, I wondered how many human beings have become so alienated from these wonders of nature.
Globally, forests like the Amazon are being destroyed at an alarming rate, putting increasing pressure on wildlife and driving many species to extinction. UN estimate 420 million hectares of forest – roughly the size of the entire European Union – has been lost since 1990, although the rate of deforestation has decreased in recent years. The main driver is not surprising: the need to rapidly expand agriculture to meet the needs of a growing global population, whether through large-scale commercial farming or subsistence agriculture. locally.
Fortunately, in Guyana, where more than 80% of the total land area is forested, the rate of deforestation is extremely low – less than one percent – thanks to strong government policies and international support. However, lucrative bauxite and gold mining and the recent oil discovery, which have catapulted the country into one of the fastest growing economies on the planet, still pose a dilemma. common dilemma for developing countries. It is a balancing act between delivering a healthy economy, social cohesion and equality, while protecting the environment and combating climate change driven by fossil fuel burning.
Just a few months ago, I went to Glasgow to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference known as COP26, meeting with countless negotiators, experts and world leaders on how communities international response to the climate crisis. In a world where we are grappling with the terrifying effects of a warming planet, I have observed that decision-makers are increasingly aware of the need to move to sustainability to human civilization exists. At the same time, it is clear that most countries are also driven by the dynamics of their economic growth, job creation, and improvement in living standards.
In this respect, it is a statement of Guyana President Irfaan Ali during a high-level event held at the Commonwealth Gallery at COP26 resonated with me: “Whatever plan we put in place at the national, regional level and international must be comprehensive in its outlook. We can’t just look at climate change without looking at food security, debt security or national prosperity. We had to find an integrated way that led to an integrated solution. ”
It is this line of thought that has prompted more and more Commonwealth member states to support the ‘Call to Action on Living Lands’, which I announced more than a year ago. This call to action lays the groundwork for a Commonwealth Living Lands Charter to be proposed for adoption at the upcoming meeting of Commonwealth heads of government scheduled for late. this year in Kigali, Rwanda. The proposed Charter recognizes these valuable links between the different and sometimes conflicting interests of the Member States. It will seek to foster global political momentum to address climate action and resilience, biodiversity loss and land degradation, in a coordinated and cohesive approach. Commonwealth countries will be able to share learning and collaborate in the development and implementation of solutions. When successfully implemented, this will change climate, biodiversity and development programs.
But what does that mean for ordinary citizens of the Commonwealth? In a word, hope. Live Soil Action enables governments to collaborate and pave the way to learn and access more sustainable, inclusive, innovative and efficient ways of growing food, earning a living from the land and adapting to it. Climate Change. Areas of focus to be explored in the Charter include climate-resilient agriculture, land and water conservation and management, sustainable green cover and biodiversity, and active human participation indigenous people. These are the topics of constant discussion when I meet with Commonwealth leaders, including Guyana’s top decision-makers, whom I convened this week.
My visit to Guyana was both rewarding and deeply emotional. However, when I appealed to the community of Santa Aratak, a village of some 3,000 indigenous Arawak people located 25 miles from the capital, Georgetown, the meaning of the trip became full. Like most indigenous groups, the Amerindians make the best land stewards because of their traditional values and principles around living sustainably, understanding natural ecosystems, and maintaining the pristine state. profile of the environment. Their worldview is similar to that of indigenous cultures elsewhere in the Commonwealth, including parts of Africa and the Pacific islands. Perhaps as we embark on this new year, we should take their vision as inspiration – we should all see ourselves as stewards of our living land.
Venerable Scottish Patricia was the sixth Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and the first woman to hold the position. She leads an organization of 54 countries working together to promote democracy, peace and sustainable development. Born in Dominica and raised in the United Kingdom, she was also the first woman to be appointed Attorney General for England and Wales and to hold various ministerial roles.
This work was first published on Sunday Stabroek.
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