Possible Futures was officially launched in November 2022 with an exciting programme co-curated by advisor Nina Gualinga at the COP27 UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The initiative was born of a collaboration between the Yawanawá communities of Aldeia Sagrada and Nova Esperança and Impact One, along with Therme Group and the One Health Research Centre (OHRC), who joined forces to bring Possible Futures to life.
The programme featured a series of participatory activations, performances and panels, inviting key Indigenous leaders, environmental rights campaigners and figures in urban development, architecture and environmentalist industries.These events were designed to spark conversations around collective responsibility, Indigenous autonomy, and integrative futures.
On 9 November 2022, Indigenous representatives from Amazonian communities came together with Impact One, inviting urban development leaders and industry innovators to participate in its Forest One event. The discussion was centred on examining current modes of development, seeking to generate fresh perspectives on environmental protection, health and wellbeing in the context of urbanisation and city infrastructure. Forest One was hosted in partnership with Future of Cities, Amazon Watch, The New York Times and Extreme Hangouts.
Stephen Dunbar Johnson, president, International of the New York Times Company, initiated the event with opening remarks, followed by a prayer by chief and spiritual leader of the Amazonian Yawanawá tribe, Rasu Yawanawá.
We are here to talk about what we could do with Indigenous communities in this special space, and how we could use this space to connect with Indigenous communities and have a moment of reflection. There’s so much to learn from Indigenous communities — what we’ve inherited and what we’ve lost. So how can we spend time reflecting and thinking in this special environment?
- Stephen Dunbar Johnson (CEO of The New York Times)
AYA EARTH PARTNERS: “THE AMAZON’S MARATHON” REPORT PRESENTATION
As part of the Forest One programme, The Amazon's Marathon: Race to Zero and to Resilience was presented by AYA Earth Partners. Featuring the research and perspectives of prominent scientists, activists and advocates throughout the region, the report examines the potential of Brazil and the Amazon to become the first large economy to reach net zero carbon emissions while also encouraging economic development.
One of the big projects that we have inside of AYA is to show that unlike treating Amazonia as a problem, we have to treat Amazonia as the solution, as an economic solution, as a way to drive prosperity.
- Alexandre Allard (Co-Founder of Aya Earth Partners)
The report carefully details a blueprint for a new economic model that could enable Brazil to spearhead a global transition to sustainability. Issues addressed include responsible land use and commodity production, socially inclusive education, bioeconomic development and rainforest restoration The framework features 11 pathways and is committed to ecosystem preservation, climate change mitigation and supporting all of those that live in the region.
This project is exactly what José Bonifácio wanted to do 200 years ago; education, science and technology, respecting Indigenous people and local community knowledge and bringing innovation - that’s the very idea of the project we are proposing for the Amazon, which is how to merge nature based and science based knowledge with Indigenous knowledge and bringing technological innovation for a new economy, a bio-economy in Brasil.
- Carlos Nobre (Earth Systems scientist)
A panel developed further on the report, with the conversation expanded on improving governance and enabling sustainable initiatives that involve local communities, governments, civil society, and the private sector. A key concern addressed was how to bridge the gap between Indigenous cosmologies, communities and Western development. Panellists included: Co-founder of AYA Patricia Ellen, MATA founder and urban developer Alexandre Allard, social entrepreneur and teacher Vanda Witoto, Earth systems scientist Carlos Nobre and political scientist and civic entrepreneur Ilona Szabó.
If we listen to the Indigenous voices, we will hear the calling of Mother Earth.
- Vanda Witoto
NINA GUALINGA “LIVING FOREST: KICHWA PEOPLE OF SARAYAKU, AMAZON BASIN ECUADOR” KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Possible Futures advisor Nina Gualinga, of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku, presented Living Forest: Kichwa People of Sarayaku, Amazon Basin Ecuador. A long time activist and climate advocate, Gualinga highlighted the consistent exploitation of Indigenous lands, which results in the devastation of the environment and the people living in the Amazon. Indigenous communities are constantly under threat, facing the potential loss of forests, biodiversity, language, culture, and tradition as they battle to maintain their right to exist. Western societies must confront the destructive industries that have been imposed around the world, who continue to exploit these resource rich environments and ancestral territories. The global community has an obligation to safeguard the Amazon and its inhabitants, while also developing more sustainable, equitable and cooperative modes of development.
We have different value systems and understandings of what development means, what wellbeing means; in my community it means fertile soil, it means clean water, fresh air and it means the solidarity of our people.
- Nina Gualinga (Environmental and Indigenous rights activist)
Indigenous communities play an absolutely vital role in the safeguarding of biodiversity and environmental stewardship. This is exemplified by a report from MapBiomas, outlining that over the last three decades, 170 million acres of native vegetation have been lost in Brazil. Yet, only 1.6% of this was on indigenous territory, and 70% was on private land. Protecting Indigenous lands and supporting self-governance and representation in these communities is one of the most effective ways to slow the devastation of natural habitats.
“INDIGENOUS YOUTH: COLLECTIVE ACTIONS FOR OUR FUTURE” PANEL DISCUSSION
Indigenous youth are at the forefront of discussions on possible futures, as a generation inheriting the cost of extractive industries and ecological breakdown both in their ancestral lands and on a wider scale, young people are assuming leadership roles and driving the fight for rights, inclusion and solutions.
Indigenous Youth: Collective Actions For Our Future was a discussion that invited youth leaders from communities in Amazonic regions to share their experiences. The panel was curated and moderated by Nina Gualinga, and centred on the responsibility of protecting their territory, as well as preserving their communities’ ancient knowledge, cultures and languages. The panel included activist and Indigenous rights defender from the Kichwa community Leo Cerda, visionary young Yawanawá Leader Isku Kua, Kichwa activist and defender Alexis Grefa, Indigenous advocate from the Kichwa community Maria Jose Andrade and activist from the Terena community Taily Terena.
With this collective, we understand the importance of the youth to keep our tradition alive, how it is important to listen to our elders, to keep our ancestors alive. Yes, we are living in the city, yes we are going to university, yes we are going outside to work, but this doesn't mean that we are losing our identity. It's actually the opposite, we are getting stronger. Because when we understand who we are, it is not upon the other to decide it.
- Taily Terena (Climate advocate and Terena representative)
Faced with the enormous responsibility of safeguarding some of the planet’s most biodiverse regions, as well as conserving their culture and traditions, this generation of committed and inspiring Indigenous youth leaders are paving the way for systemic change and autonomy for their communities.
Today the Yawanawá people are living a new phase of development within our territories, seeking out new ways of working with our own knowledge, systems and development within our territories.
- Isku Kua (Yawanawá Leader)
The Forest One programme was drawn to a close by Yawanawá representatives, leaders and youths, who held traditional ceremonies composed of music and chant rituals.
STEFANO BOERI ARCHITETTI’S “GREEN OBSESSION: TREES TOWARDS CITIES, HUMANS TOWARDS FORESTS” EVENT—BLUE ZONE, ITALIAN PAVILION, 07.11.2022
Held in the Blue Zone of the Italian Pavilion, Stefano Boeri Architetti’s event Green Obsession: Trees Towards Cities, Humans Towards Forests on November 7, provided an ideal platform for Impact One and Therme Group a wellbeing city concept for Dubai that is currently in development with Stefano Boeri Architetti. The “Green Obsession” event centred on discussions around integrative urban planning, sustainable city living and biodiversity.
A mature tree in the city produces 110 kg of oxygen each year, and absorbs about 400 kg of carbon dioxide. Bringing nature to the cities of the world is no longer just a gesture of good intention by a small minority. These are necessary choices if we want our cities to become the protagonists of change.
- Stefano Boeri (Principal Architect and Founder of Stefano Boeri Architetti)
“ANCESTRAL WISDOM AND POSSIBLE FUTURES” PANEL—HOPE HOUSE, FOUR SEASONS RESORT, 11.11.2022
Ancestral Wisdom and Possible Futures reflected on a range of important topics in indigenous communities, from pedagogy and linguistic preservation to environmental activism. The event was held on November 11 at Hope House in Sharm El Sheikh’s Four Seasons Resort, and invited contributions from an esteemed group of leaders to share their perspectives.
The territory that is guarded by Indigenous communities is the most important remaining territory on our planet.
- Mikolaj Sekutowicz
When you want to create in harmony with an ecosystem and the larger net or web that we're all related to, we have to start by listening before we start to weave.
- Jeanne de Kroon (Social and Environmental Activist)
Rasu Yawanawá, Kenetsaini Yawanawá and Isku Kua Yawanawá initiated the event, performing traditional music and chanting of the Yawanawá community in an opening ceremony.
Isku Kua and Nina Gualinga then took to the stage for Ancestral Knowledge as the Fundamental of Contemporary Education. The engaging conversation expounded on the importance of language in retaining culture, heritage and identity, as well as prioritising schools and education programmes for Indigenous children that allows for ancestral knowledge as a cornerstone in developing holistic worldviews.
Indigenous Women on The Frontlines on How To Be a Good Ally was a listening session in which the participants shared their experiences, perspectives and positions from various Indigenous communities across the American continent. Women have historically been key figures in the political and environmental movements in these communities, and have tirelessly fought for representation and protection of their peoples’ and territories. This conversation held space for each speaker to share their work and stories.
Panellists included: Patricia Gualinga of the Kichwa community; Celia Xakriabá and Sônia Guajajara, recently elected as the first Indigenous congresswomen respectively for the States of Minas Gerais and São Paulo, as part of Brasil’s new government; and Casey Camp-Horinek from the Ponca Nation.
We work on our healing and collective healing because we are hurt and we have to heal. Our planet, our Mother Earth, our land is hurt, and when the earth hurts we also hurt and when we hurt the land hurts. That is us as women, we are connected to the land.
- Patricia Gualinga (Indigenous Leader and Defender of Native Rights from the Kichwa People)
Indigenous women's rich knowledge about the natural world, health, ancient rites and rituals, amongst other significant cultural expressions, are vital in the development of effective solutions to counter colonial legacies, such as cultural hegemony, ecosystem destruction and unequal power structures. Only through intersectional, interdisciplinary and intentional methodologies can we cede epistemological space in the world to Indigenous ways of knowing and being without intervention, assimilation, or appropriation.
It’s time to ensure security for the real guardians of Mother Earth (…) it’s also important that global funding foresees the implementation of global policies, it is only by ensuring the rights of Mother Earth that it is possible to save humanity.
- Sônja Guajajara (Politician and Indigenous Environmentalist from the Guajajara community)
In this time of prophecy, we understand that it is our honour, our responsibility and our duty to speak on behalf of the one true mother we all share, the Mother Earth, of the one true father we all share, the father sky and to move into that position as an elected official for my people, one of the first acts that we enacted, that I brought to the council, was to put a moratorium on fracking and injection wells within our territory.
- Casey Camp-Horinek (Native Rights Activist and Environmentalist of the Ponca Community)
The launch of Possible Futures at COP27 was an exciting moment of collective enquiry and cultural exchange, with essential contributions from Indigenous thought-leaders representing communities across North America, along with experts in science, architecture and urban planning. This powerful programme called for serious consideration of the rift between Indigenous and Western ideologies, seeking to forge new connections, create open communication and address these issues collaboratively. The events were met with thoughtful and innovative engagement, supported by Therme Group and the One Health Research Centre.
Our participation in COP27 anticipates our involvement at COP28, where we look forward to joining the UN Climate Change Conference again.