Protecting the Land from Oil Extraction
Helena Gualinga had always felt a deep connection to her ancestral land in the Amazon rainforest and her Kichwa Sarayaku community’s way of life. She grew up hearing stories about how her ancestors had protected their land from companies who wanted to exploit it and extract oil and other resources from it. Determined to protect the land, Helena participated in community organized protests alongside her family.
When Helena was just 14 years old, she decided to speak out about climate change, the importance of protecting Indigenous lands, and learning from Indigenous wisdom how to care for the land in a loving and respectful way. Her voice was clear and powerful. She inspired so many people which is why she became a spokesperson and raised awareness about the destructive industries that were wreaking havoc on the Amazon and Indigenous communities.
Helena became a leading youth climate activist in Ecuador. Her activism brought her to the attention of the Arctic Base Camp, a science advocacy group that invited her to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos as a youth ambassador. Helena was excited to represent her people in front of world leaders and be a voice to advocate for positive change to protect Mother Earth.
Helena advocates in Ecuador and internationally for meaningful participation for Indigenous peoples in decision-making and governance. She has called for corporations to take responsibility for their role in the climate crisis and to stop further extractions from the land. She knows that the road ahead is long and may even be difficult at times, but she is determined to bring about positive change in the world and to protect Indigenous people’s rights and lands, and spread their wisdom for a better future for the world.
The Amazon rainforest, often referred to as “the lungs of the Earth,” plays a crucial role in regulating the global climate by absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Preserving this rich biodiversity hotspot also safeguards countless plant and animal species yet to be discovered, holding potential for scientific advancements and medical breakthroughs.
Additionally, the Amazon sustains the livelihoods and cultures of numerous Indigenous communities who possess invaluable traditional knowledge about sustainable practices and coexistence with nature. Defending their rights and territories not only preserves their way of life but also helps prevent destructive activities like illegal logging and mining that contribute to deforestation and climate change.
Consider these tips:
Explore the youth-led movements that are dedicated to caring for people and the planet. Keep an open mind and listen to the requests that young people are making to the generations before them. Remember that positive environmental actions that you take now will influence the future planet that young people will inherit. Make one change to your daily routine today—whether that is using a reusable coffee mug, switching to a plastic-free toothpaste, or ditching plastic wrap for a reusable beeswax wrap.
Explore how the work of youth activists shows up in your community—climate change demands that we all do something, regardless of our generation. Consider striking up a conversation with a young person in your community about theirs hopes and fears for the planet. Allow your conversation to inspire you to continue making everyday shifts in your life to protect our shared Earth.