I went to a talk today on Brazilian indigenous protests against deforestation, and the Belo Monte hydroelectric project. The highlight was seeing Chief Raoni Metuktire (with his famous lip disk) and Chief Megaron Txucarramãe of the Kayapó talking about their history of protest. In the 1980s and 1990s they were instrumental in highlighting the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon (most famously Chief Raoni with Sting) and pushing for the successful demarcation of indigenous lands. Today their vast indigenous territories are an island of green forest in an ocean of extensive deforestation. In a single astonishing lifetime Chief Raoni has gone from a young boy in an uncontacted Amazonian tribe to national and international activist and successful champion of Amazonian indigenous peoples.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University