The Amazon is Being Burned in a Climate Crisis we Can’t Ignore

“Someday the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you too will die.”
– Hollow Horn Bear, Brulé Lakota

Over the past three weeks, Brazil has been battling 9,500 fires. So far, they have shrunk the Amazon by 332,356 acres. 1 acre is equivalent to 150 cars parked in a square.

Smoke has turned the sky dark above the city of Sao Paulo – 3,300 kilometers away from the flames.

According to researcher Alberto Setzer, “the dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”

There are many reports of increased illegal deforestation of the area by big corporations. As well as drought, erosion, flooding and landslides, deforestation can lead to the loss of biodiversity.

Deforestation is not new. For the last few decades, there have been fires in the Amazon every year. This year these fires are so big that the world is finally paying attention.

The fires pose a risk to millions of plants and animals and more than 400 Indigenous tribes.

More specifically, the Amazon rainforest is home to 2.5 million plant species, 1,300 bird species, 400 mammals, 400 amphibians and 3,000 edible fruits. It is also the ancestral home of 1 million Indigenous people.

Failure to preserve the Amazon rainforest will have severe consequences for climate change since it is so vital in the fight against global warming.

By absorbing global emissions of carbon dioxide, it produces large amounts of oxygen (20% of all of the world’s oxygen). According to Greenpeace, the wildfires are making a “tremendous contribution to climate change” because the carbon released as a smoke is making the warming effect worse.

Brazil’s far-right President, Jair Bolsonaro, doesn’t seem to take environmental concerns seriously.

He has been encouraging capitalization of the Amazon and has dismantled governmental efforts to protect the rainforest. He recently fired Ricardo Galvão, the director of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), after a report was released showing an 88% increase in deforestation since last year.

In a statement regarding the wildfires, Bolsonaro claimed that NGOs are responsible for the fires. Some also believe that the current Amazon fire may be linked to the recent lawsuit against Big Oil that was won by an Amazon tribe. Indigenous people are the biggest barrier to Amazon deforestation and this win was a huge step towards ensuring the protection of vast acres from extractive projects.

Women play a huge role in the leadership of Indigenous communities. On August 13, hundreds of Indigenous women marched together in Brazil to protest the policies of President Bolsonaro. With lots of singing and dancing, and the motto “Territory: Our Bodies Our Spirits”, they demanded respect for Indigenous rights and denounced the invasions of their territories. They also protested against alarming Amazon deforestation rates.

This is not an isolated problem.

We are losing forests all over the world. Most of the burning areas experienced extreme heat last month – with temperatures higher than the long-term averages. In Alaska, 2.5 million acres have been burned so far. In the Canary Islands, a fire which started on August 17 has already destroyed 25,000 acres and forced over 8,000 people to evacuate.

Siberia has been experiencing its worst wildfire season on record during the past month. It has been reported that the smoke clouds are covering an area bigger than the size of Europe and that the blazes are close to cities. 

This is a life-threatening international emergency which lacks media coverage. It’s a climate crisis provoked by the ignorance and ambition of human activity. We continue to exploit earth even as we witness more and more natural disasters caused by climate change.

How many more cries for help does our planet need to give until we listen? It is about time we take environmental issues seriously. It’s about time we wake up and realise that we humans are endangered too.

What can we do? 

“Why is it taking so long to believe that if we hurt nature, we hurt ourselves? We are not watching the world from without. We are not separate from it.”
– Davi Kopenawa Yanomami

I believe that ecology can be revolutionary because in order to be able to protect nature, we will have to make changes on a social level. We, as humans, must understand that the environment is our home. This is an issue that should not be forgotten once the media stops talking about it. We have to create and maintain awareness by educating ourselves and others.

We should also condemn the insane global soy industry and other agricultural activities that require the deforestation of the Amazon by avoiding companies that import cheap meat from tropical rainforest areas. One tenth of our global emissions come from deforestation. The importance of the rainforest should not be overlooked in favor of short term profit and, therefore, stopping deforestation must be a priority.

The personal reason this superwoman has dedicated her life to Indigenous midwifery

This blog post was originally posted on as part of a project with Girls’ Globe, Upworthy and Johnson & Johnson.

Claire Dion Fletcher was taking a class in Women’s Studies as part of her undergraduate program when she first realized she wanted to become a midwife.

She was writing a paper on the decline of midwifery and the medicalization of birth in Ontario, when she started thinking about whether or not midwifery was even practiced anymore. It didn’t take long before Claire found that the answer was ‘yes’ along with a lot more information on the subject from the Association of Ontario Midwives and the Ryerson Midwifery Education programme.

The more she read, the more confident she became about wanting to become a midwife herself. She had always been interested in health care, and especially women taking an active role in their health, so midwifery seemed like the perfect fit.

But it wasn’t just an academic interest — Claire also had a personal connection to health care and midwifery.

Claire is Potawatomi-Lenape, and she wanted to help Indigenous women like herself take an active role in their health care. She thinks that Indigenous women should have access to an Indigenous midwife if they want, because their Aboriginal identity is something that “cannot be replicated or taught”.

Despite the differences in experiences of Indigenous people, Claire explains that they share an ongoing experience of assimilation. Indigenous people also typically don’t have access to as comprehensive health care as other groups in Canada.

But one of the biggest challenges Indigenous people face is that “[they] have the poorest health outcomes compared to any other group in Canada”, Claire explains.

And there are studies to support Claire’s claim. In a report by the National Collaboration for Aboriginal Health, health indicators show a higher burden of disease or health disparities among Indigenous people than among non-Aboriginal Canadians. And there isn’t just a gap in health outcomes, there is also a gap in data which makes it more difficult to address the situation.

What’s more, women often get the shortest end of the proverbial stick, “due to the intersecting effects of colonization, race, sex and gender,” notes Claire.

This is why people like her are so important — Claire recognizes that there’s a lot about the state of maternal health that needs to change.

“Our families deserve Indigenous midwifery care that meets all their health needs, our people deserve access to health care in a place where they feel safe and respected, where they will be listened to and their concerns taken seriously.”

Thankfully, Claire found a way to actively work towards that change – she became a registered midwife who specifically caters to Indigenous women.

Claire Dion-Fletcher receiving the Iewirokwas Cape Award for Midwifery Heroes from the Toronto Birth Centre on February 16. Photo via Ryerson University.

But she does much more than deliver babies.Claire holds several other positions that help propel her mission forward.

She sits on the core leadership of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, where she works on several projects to expand Indigenous midwifery and enhance midwifery education. She also supports increased access to culturally safe educational opportunities through her role as an Aboriginal student coordinator at the Ryerson Midwifery Education Program, which is also where she got her midwifery certificate.

And Claire’s constantly researching decolonized health care and Indigenous midwifery, too. One of her most interesting findings so far is the unique approach that Indigenous midwives bring to health care.

“Indigenous midwifery provides clinically excellent care that incorporates an Indigenous understanding of health and world view,” writes Claire.

Ultimately her mission is to recover Indigenous practices while trying to improve overall health and wellbeing of Indigenous people and fight against the ongoing impacts of colonization and assimilation.

Photo by Claire Dion Fletcher @cgdionfletch

And Claire and the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives share another important goal — to have at least one Aboriginal midwife in each Aboriginal community.

That’s why she lobbies for the expansion of Indigenous content in university programs and the growth of Indigenous midwifery in Ontario.

“I see all of these as a part of Indigenous midwifery and part of our responsibility as Indigenous midwives to serve our communities,” she notes.

Since she’s involved  with so many projects, it’s impressive that Claire finds the energy to keep up her work, but the strength and resiliency of her Indigenous clients help her stay motivated.

And her goal for the future of Indigenous health care in Canada is a powerful motivator as well.

She wants to help build a health care system that is focused on the clients, in order to meet the needs of the people actually using the system. She also wants to make Indigenous midwifery is more accessible, and make it easier for Indigenous people to become midwives themselves.

To achieve this, she will keep lobbying for a fairer health care system and increased recognition for Indigenous midwifery. She hopes her research will also provide her with more tools to improve the situation and spread information about the most pressing issues associated with Indigenous health today.

There’s still a long way to go before we see the necessary changes in place, but with people like Claire in the mix, the chances are good that they’ll happen a lot sooner.

Tilde Holm co-authored this post with Ally Hirschlag.

An Indigenous Woman is Running for President of Mexico

As 2017 unfolds, different candidates have emerged for the big run for Mexico’s presidency in 2018. Among them is María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, a Nahua woman from Jalisco.

Mexican politics have always been a controversial topic. After 70 years of rule by the same party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), Vicente Fox landed the presidency in 2000 – opening the door to the opposition party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN). In 2006, Felipe Calderón (PAN) ran the country for 6 years and implemented one of the least popular plans in the history of Mexico, which ended the life of thousands of Mexicans. The war against drugs faced a severe backlash and people wanted to get things back to “normal”, even if that meant electing a corrupt, inexperienced, privileged young candidate from PRI. People just didn’t want more encounters between the warlords and the military in our streets, where our children played, where we had our businesses. People didn’t want to end up dead on the street.

Mexico has a system within which a President rules for 6 years with no opportunity for re-election, and I swear this past 6 years have been the longest of our lives. President Enrique Peña Nieto has smeared our dignity to the ground, but since this article is not about him, you can read information here on why we want him out. If anything good has come out of his presidency, it is that we want to take control of our country again. We have a lot of options for 2018, many very bad, but some that could create a change.

Among the people who are angered and want to lead the country are the National Indigenous Council. They, supported by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, are endorsing María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, a traditional doctor and member of the Nahua People. She is the first indigenous women candidate for Mexico’s presidency, and her decision to run has been sparked by numerous human rights violations in Mexico and Guatemala, as well as the migration crisis that has affected several countries in the world.

Although they have rejected a political classification, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation is a horizontal, autonomous, anti-neoliberal social movement, with an Indigenous Council which protects the rights of 58 indigenous peoples, as well as the Women’s Revolutionary Law, the environment and communities.

In October of 2016 the Council said that the candidate would be ruled by seven principles:

To serve and not to serve, to build and not to destroy, to obey and not to command, to propose and not to impose, to convince and not to overcome, to descend and not to rise, to represent and not to supplant”.

Even if many believe Maria de Jesús doesn’t stand a chance, even if the mainstream media won’t report on her candidacy, here is why I am writing this blog about her: Maria de Jesús will be the voice of minorities. She will represent the indigenous people who, after colonization, have been exploited, violated, murdered, and segregated below poverty lines. She will be the voice of women in a country where violence against women and girls remains endemic. She will be the voice of the powerless, and for that she needs to be heard. She needs to be recognized in Mexico and in the international arena.

Please share this news. Let the world know that an indigenous woman and the indigenous people in Mexico are raising their voices, and that we need to support them.