Major Victory for Indigenous Movement in Ecuador
On Sunday, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno agreed to repeal an austerity package that ignited 11 days of protests led by an indigenous movement that also wants to end mining and oil extraction, Amazon Watch explained.
"I'm so happy I don't know what to say. I don't have words, I'm so emotional. At least God touched the president's heart," protester Rosa Matango said in an Associated Press story published by The Guardian. "I am happy as a mother, happy for our future. We indigenous people fought and lost so many brothers, but we'll keep going forward."
#EyeOnTheAmazon by @kevinmkoenig - Ecuador's Indigenous Movement Achieves Important Victory as Violence Stopped and… https://t.co/tDOkgJG1sf— AMAZON WATCH (@AMAZON WATCH)1571089381.0
The protests began when the government announced Decree 883, a set of spending cuts agreed to with the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a loan. That package included an end to fuel subsidies, which caused gas prices to skyrocket, BBC News explained. The harm would have extended beyond gas, Quito-based activist Kevin Koenig explained for Amazon Watch. Ending the subsidies "would have resulted in immediate and massive increases in the prices of all basic goods and services, creating an excessive burden on Ecuador's poorest populations," he wrote.
The protests rocked the capital of Quito and even forced Moreno to move his government to the coastal city of Guayaquil. Seven people died, more than 1,300 were injured and 1,152 were detained, according to official numbers reported by BBC News.
The protests also majorly disrupted Ecuador's oil production, the Associated Press reported further. Because of protests at oil fields in the Amazon, the country's production more than halved, falling from 430,000 to 176,029 barrels a day.
In exchange for the government withdrawing Decree 883, indigenous leaders will call for an end to the protests. The two groups will then work to draft a new agreement to reduce government debt and spending.
BREAKING NEWS: @Lenin accepts indigenous movements’ demand to reinstate fuel subsidies. Indigenous leaders call fo… https://t.co/RnBswB7jhb— Amazon Frontlines (@Amazon Frontlines)1571023602.0
While thousands of non-Indigenous Ecuadorians also participated in the protests, the Indigenous community was widely credited with the win.
"More than a celebration it is an appreciation of the indigenous people who represented us and helped because this is a win for everyone," Quito resident Cristina Vasquez told Reuters, as BBC News reported.
The Associated Press noted that the victory strengthens the Indigenous movement relative to the government in Ecuador. Indigenous protests have historically played a major role in the country's politics, toppling three governments since the 1990s, according to BBC News. But the movement had been weakened by former President Rafael Correa, who restricted protests and jailed leaders, The Associated Press said.
"I think they've taken back a political space that had practically disappeared under Correa," Santiago Basabe, an analyst at the Latin American Institute of Social Sciences in Quito, told The Associated Press. "They've shown the country that they're here and they're a force to be reckoned with."
On #IndigenousPeoplesDay: #Ecuador's Historic Indigenous Mobilization & Victory In Photos Take a glimpse into the… https://t.co/H0lYhduZwi— Amazon Frontlines (@Amazon Frontlines)1571082981.0
Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza, a member of the Panzaleo Quichua group, told the Associated Press that the country could even see an Indigenous president in the near future.
"It's not a dream, it's a reality that we can take on," Iza said. "What we have proposed to the Ecuadorian people, even though we're not government officials, is that we need to construct a new economic model that's really decided on by the Ecuadorians."
According to Koenig, a win for this Indigenous movement would also be a win for the environment.
"The indigenous uprising against austerity measures and new oil and mining extraction is a call for a new model of development, similar to a Green New Deal, that puts Indigenous rights, life plans, and solutions at the forefront, along with other visionary concepts guaranteed by their constitution, including the rights of nature and (buen vivir) which all lay the groundwork for a just transition to a post petroleum economy," he said.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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