Article | 08 Aoû, 2023

Youth Voices of the Colombian Amazon

Paola Margarita Chindoy, Kamentsa Indigenous woman

The Amazon needs to be heard and protected. Ensuring the active and effective  participation of Indigenous youth from the territories is the way to ensure that decisions represent  the communities that fight daily against inequalities, recognize capabilities and enhance  leadership to face the climate crisis.

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Territory of Indigenous Communities Inga and Kamëntša Putumayo in Colombia.

Photo: Paola Margarita Chindoy

Currently, the reality that humanity must understand and talk about is that we are facing a  climate crisis. Our grandmothers and grandfathers noticed this a few years ago and as arrogant children we ignored them, and apparently we still don’t listen to Mother Earth and the voice of  the grandmothers and grandfathers who are still with us. 

With this I want to share the difficulties that youth still face to have an active and  effective participation in the different scenarios where decisions are made, because these  generally don’t represent the needs of most of the civil society, moving away from the real  contexts that they live in daily in the territories. 

It is important to mention and highlight the impact that social and environmental  problems have presented for the Amazon. Access to information is not guaranteed. Most of the  society is unaware of the decisions and agreements that are made about our territories, and of greater concern is the high level of ignorance of the impacts that they represent for humanity  itself.  

With this, I don’t want to say that everything that is done and decided is bad, but that is not enough. For example, the importance of the Amazon for the balance and regulation of the planet's climate patterns is recognized, but licenses for extractivist activities continue to be  granted. Rivers are polluted, large ecosystems have been lost and can no longer be recovered,  young people have no territory because land use is limited, and in many cases with Indigenous communities the spirituality and importance of sacred sites are not known.

We have initiated an active and autonomous training exercise to raise our voices for the  Amazon and try to make visible the problems of the territory, but these forces and interests weaken when we don’t have support. It is important to recognize the leadership capacity of youth in different spheres, the power and strength to positively transform the system by which power structures are being operated. There is concern about what will happen in the future, but there is no effective exercise of intergenerational knowledge splicing. 

It is important to have training spaces and assign exclusive spaces to guarantee the participation of young people, take into account the great diversity, promote the dissemination of information as a universal right, and rethink the education system as the basis for the formation of generations that will make decisions in the future. In a responsible manner, environmental issues should be addressed as a priority and as the starting point for developing and implementing other ideas and social, economic, and political processes, among others. 

The planet and the Amazon are reaching the point of no return. Have we thought about  what will happen to the lives of future generations? If we experience a social decomposition, we still have a chance to save humanity. Time for the planet is no longer infinite. Strategies must be taught with civil society, with youth, men and women, girls and boys from different places. Actions must be decentralized and expanded, and the resources destined for the communities and territories must be effectively supervised so that the resources are allocated to the territories and communities, to prohibit extractive activities in territories such as Putumayo, and to stop seeing the Amazon and its inhabitants with eyes blinded by ambition. 

The climate crisis is a transversal problem; it is not only the responsibility of Indigenous  peoples. It calls on all of humanity to be aware of the major problems we face. We must combat  inequalities and demand climate justice for those who inhabit the planet and those who will  inhabit it.  

Finally, society must know that, as Indigenous peoples, we feel vulnerable due to the loss  of our own knowledge and wisdom due to social, political and extractivist pressure on sacred territories. We have an interest in being an active part of the different decision-making scenarios,  seeking to save the planet, the home of all.