Amazon_Watch_logoThe Runanga o Ngai Tahu and the Hilary Institute hosted a visit of Atossa Soltani to Dunedin.  I received an email for the event from one of the University Chaplains.  The Hilary Institute was established by Sir Edmund Hilary in his last years on the planet to support leadership in mid-career leading to change.  The event was held at the Centre for Innovation Indigeneity.  While the group was small and fitted comfortably in the room there was a good representation of the local iwi.  I recognised that I was sitting among people with whom I don’t interact regularly.

Atossa Soltani is an Iranian migrant living in America, the founder and executive director of Amazon Watch.  Iran is a country with only 2% of its original rainforest left.  Modern Iran is a dry country.  20% of the world’s rainforests are in the Amazon basin.  The Amazon  rainforest isn’t just the lungs of the earth’s biosphere.  It also releases fresh water into the atmosphere to circulate around the planet as rain.  20% of the rainforest in the south Amazon has been deforested.  It’s turning into savannah.  This deforestation is pushing  more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than US car emissions as plant life from the deforestation decomposes.

The parts of the Amazon that are surviving are under indigenous title.  That’s a quarter of the Amazon basin.  It holds 80% of the diversity found there.  There are oil reserves we can’t afford to burn.  50% of known oil reserves and 80% of coal need to stay in the ground to keep our climate safely below 2°c of global warming.  We have 10 years, the years around the date 2017, to move beyond a carbon fueled culture that will decide our climate for the next milennium.  Seven Quechua tribes under women leadership kept the oil companies out of their tribal lands for 10 years.  The projects always come back.  We can elect our governments, we can’t un-elect our plutocrats, we are stuck with them.  The oil companies will fight to exploit until hell freezes over, and then they will continue the fight on its icy landscape.

There are people who are sitting alongside the indigenous people.  They are waiting on them to make their decisions and support them into protecting their tribal lands.  They sound like interesting people to watch.

As soon as you awaken to the power you have, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage.  Then you can dream bravely; letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears.

Atossa Soltani