Jessica: Campus B Indigenous Rights & History in Brazil (January 2021)

Let’s talk about something that defines the apocalypse we live in: the idea of humanity separated from nature, a “humanity that doesn’t recognize that the river in a coma is also our grandfather”. Take the Rio Doco in Brazil, just one of the many examples of environmental degradation whose ecology has been deeply affected by mining activity. This thought comes from Ailton Krenak – an Indigenous philosopher and activist who wrote the book “Ideas to Postpone the End of the World”, the welcoming gift sent by Campus B to set the program’s tone and unite us students from all over the globe. The program took place over two weeks, with guest lectures from many inspiring Brazilian Indigenous activists, leaders and NGOs genuinely passionate about advancing Indigenous rights and sharing their knowledge’s with us students, both Brazilian and New Zealanders from all walks of life.

One of the key highlights was virtually meeting and cooking with Kalymaracaya Nogueira, an Indigenous chef from Campo Grande who promotes her culture through food and culinary arts. We got the unique opportunity to learn how to cook traditional food and ask her questions (through a translator) about her work and childhood, broadening our cultural understanding immensely and wouldn’t have been possible without Campus B facilitating the experience. Overarching our 1.5-hour virtual meetings was our project, where we were split into multicultural (and multi-time zoned) teams to tackle a key issue faced by the Indigenous community today. My group was assigned the Amazon rainforest, which is threatened by illegal deforestation and the rise of strategically set fires to clear Indigenous land away for farmers and land grabs. One of our Brazilian team members introduced us to Google Sites, where we created a blog to raise public awareness (linked below). Not only did the project strengthen my digital literacy, but working within such a diverse team who all had different academic strengths and interests also improved patience, flexibility, and independence. We were fortunate enough to receive feedback from members from Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a Brazilian NGO that focuses on advocacy work for the Amazon, Indigenous rights and conflicts in the use of resources.

On the board included Paloma Costa, who has a lifetime experience of being an environmental defender, and was the Brazilian representative for the Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change for the United Nations Secretary-General in 2020. Paloma represents what most of the guest speakers stood for – while not shying away from reality, everyone was stubbornly optimistic about the future of Brazilian policies and attitudes to Indigenous land, demarcation and autonomy. We can all take a lesson from the Indigenous fight in Brazil – with over 200 different communities and languages, Indigenous resistance comes from not accepting the idea that we are all the same. Only recognizing our diversity and rejecting the idea that human beings are superior to nature can give real meaning to our existence, and help reverse climate change. If you get the opportunity, I recommend taking this course to broaden your understanding of global citizenship, which will encourage you to think deeply and critically about what is equitable and just. Taking part in this virtual program will also help strengthen independence, time management, adaptability and cultural awareness, which are all skills pursued by employers but can best be learned beyond the traditional classroom setting.

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