The mainstream conservation industry has long been pursuing a model of ‘fortress conservation’ that throws Indigenous Peoples off their land in order to create so-called ‘Protected Areas’. Rooted in racist and colonial ideology, it is now beginning to draw from a new and potentially huge source of funding: millions of dollars generated by the sale of carbon credits. Big conservation NGOs, corporate bosses and even world leaders have claimed that Protected Areas and so-called ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ like carbon credits are the solution to climate change and biodiversity loss. But if left unchecked, these schemes will make things worse.
In April 2023, Survival International is holding a ground-breaking conference, Our Land Our Nature, in New York City to challenge this narrative, oppose false solutions and push back against colonialist conservation. This conference will give a platform to those who have suffered from supposed “green solutions”, and who have seen their lands stolen, their families abused and destroyed and their livelihoods devastated by the increasing militarization of conservation.
Experience makes clear that mainstream conservation models, backed by new “solutions” that commodify Indigenous land, will lead to even more human rights violations and to the biggest land grab in history. This is being perpetuated at the expense of those who are least responsible for these crises: Indigenous Peoples, who already protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and other local peoples, predominantly in the global South.
By far the most effective and just way to fight against biodiversity loss and climate change is to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their lands, and put them at the heart of conservation and climate action. This fact is acknowledged in many policies and declarations, but conservation projects around the world continue to dispossess and mistreat them.
The Our Land, Our Nature conference will present an alternative vision of conservation, one which is already working, where Indigenous Peoples are in control of their own lands. This alternative relies on human diversity and protects and enhances biodiversity. It is anti-racist, anti-colonialist, and rooted in real social and climate justice. For real and practical solutions to the biodiversity and climate crises, we must listen to Indigenous Peoples and decolonize conservation.
The objectives for this conference include:
• to offer a platform to Indigenous peoples and local communities whose lives have been devastated by fortress conservation, and to communities and movements with an alternative vision of conservation
• to raise public awareness about rights abuses in order to foment social change
• to establish a strong counter-narrative to false solutions to ecological crises pushed by governments, corporations and some big conservation NGOs that fail to address the root causes of environmental issues
• to demonstrate that another way is possible, and allowing Indigenous people themselves to put forward a vision for protection of Earth’s biological and cultural diversity
This will be the third Our Land Our Nature conference, following on from conferences in Marseille, France in September 2021 and Berlin, Germany in April 2022. The Marseille conference - a counter-congress to the IUCN World Conservation Congress happening days later - led to the creation of the Our Land Our Nature manifesto.
The Our Land, Our Nature conference will be followed on April 15th by a public demonstration at the Bronx Zoo, protesting against Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoo’s owner, which is complicit in human rights abuses at parks and reserves in Africa and Asia.