In “‘Protecting forests is crucial to cure pandemics,’ indigenous leaders say,” Melissa Vida (for Global Voices) has a conversation with Bribri leader Levi Sucre Romero about climate change, deforestation, and other serious issues brought about by predatory development models in Costa Rica and the Americas in general. Sucre Romero is leader of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB). Vida writes:
Indigenous leaders from Costa Rica, Brazil, and Indonesia who recently attended a conference in the United States have said that pandemics like COVID-19 will become increasingly common if forests are not preserved. The leaders gave a press briefing in New York on March 13 organized by Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation.
At least a quarter of medicine molecules derive from plants; 80 percent of people worldwide rely on botanical drugs, and biodiversity is crucial to finding new medicine. Yet, deforestation in the world’s most biodiverse forests is advancing fast.
A growing body of scientific research suggests that indigenous peoples are key to protect forests, but those peoples are increasingly victimized by violent land conflict. In Costa Rica alone, two Bribri leaders have been killed in the past 12 months and so far no one has been prosecuted. At the press briefing, the leaders also blamed large multinationals such as Cargill and Unilever for not respecting their land rights.
To find out more, I interviewed Levi Sucre Romero, from the Bribri community in Costa Rica and leader of the Coordinator of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB). The interview has been translated and edited for brevity.
Melissa Vida (MV): What’s the link between COVID-19 and our way of life?
Levi Sucre Romero (LSR): Reading about the origins of the coronavirus, we can see that human activities have invaded and reduced the space available for animals. Not only has it been reduced, but we are in such a predatory development model that humans are encroaching their space too much – that is what is happening with the soybean plans in the Amazon forest. All these animals are gathering in one place… and who knows what effects pollution and chemicals have on these species, which are vulnerable. It’s a mismanagement of our so-called development. [. . .]
[Photo above by Joel Redman/If Not Us Then, accessed via Global Voices. “Levi Sucre Romero, BriBri indigenous person from Costa Rica and the Coordinator of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB).”]
Also see Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.