Climate Partnership: Protecting the Rainforest
Rainforest conservation is of great ecological and humanitarian importance. Its progressive deforestation not only causes increasing global warming but also deprives the indigenous peoples living there of their livelihood. This is why our regional capital Munich maintains an intensive partnership with the Asháninka, an indigenous people in Peru, to drive forward local environmental protection and to support the people in asserting their rights.
The Amazon forests
The 6.7 million km2 of the Amazon rainforest extends across nine states of the South American continent. Its plant biomass not only absorbs currently released carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, but also represents a gigantic storage reservoir for the carbon of recent millennia. We are also looking at an enormous air-conditioning system: the high evaporation rate creates moist air masses that secure the region’s water balance to the extent of 75% while exerting a cooling effect on the world’s climate at the same time. Not least this rainforest, the biggest on earth, displays an impressive species diversity, partly still undiscovered, and provides living space for approx. 320 indigenous native peoples.
The Asháninka people
The Asháninka people, with a population of around 80,000, are the largest indigenous community in the Peruvian rainforest. “Asháninka” means “brothers and sisters, people with the same language”. Most of the small settlements are near a river. The most important organisation unit is the village community, whose characteristic feature is self-sufficiency. The families live mainly from fishing, from animals and plants from the forest, and from manioc, bananas and medicinal herbs which they cultivate in their small gardens. Income from farming (coffee and cocoa) is rather small. A cooperative of Asháninka women finances their family upkeep through the sale of jewellery made from rainforest materials. This jewellery is also sold in Munich. One very big problem is the defence of land rights. Where there is a lack of official title to land, the Asháninka are increasingly at the mercy of economic interests.
The fatal consequences of rainforest destruction
Many hectares of rainforest disappear on a daily basis. The main causes of the destruction are:
- massive forest clearance by tropical wood companies
- land reclamation for palm oil plantations
- mining raw materials, which not only destroys forests but also poisons rivers
- big infrastructure projects such as building hydroelectric power plants on the banks of the Amazon river.
The consequences of the logging operations are disastrous: organic carbon escapes and combines with oxygen to form the greenhouse gas CO2. As we know, its increasing accumulation in the atmosphere makes a significant contribution to global climate warming. However, fewer trees also transpire less. Evaporation and precipitation decrease, seriously upsetting both the local and the global water cycle. The result is dramatic climate change. In addition to that, reckless greed for profit also violates human rights. Not only are the indigenous people ignored when forest exploitation rights are agreed, they are also increasingly robbed of their culture and livelihood. This is why the state capital Munich supports the Asháninka people both at a political level and also in the implementation of concrete educational and environmental projects
The Climate Partnership
As early as 1991, the State Capital of Munich joined the 'Climate Alliance of European Cities with Indigenous Rainforest Peoples’ network. With more than 1,600 member municipalities from 24 European cities, its aim is to protect the world’s climate through the following measures:
- Reduction of CO2 emissions by ten percent every five years
- Halving per capita emissions by 2013 at the latest (base year 1990)
- Protecting tropical rainforests by renouncing the use of tropical woods
- Supporting the projects and initiatives of indigenous partners
In the context of this Climate Alliance, Munich entered into a project partnership with the Peruvian Asháninka people in 1997. This is based on the following three pillars:
- Educational and information work to make people in Munich aware of the global importance of the rainforest.
- Supporting concrete projects in the Peruvian rainforest in accordance with priority areas defined by the Asháninka.
- Political support to protect the rainforest and its inhabitants.
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