Battle Rages Over Indigenous Rights and REDD at Climate Talks

12/06/10 Kelly Benjamin
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The UN climate talks in Cancun are heating up this week with a clear division emerging on the issue of Forests and Indigenous Rights

WMNF´s Kelly Benjamin is at summit in Mexico and files this report.

You’re listening to the sound of a Machete held by a Mayan villager chopping the bark of off of a several hundred year old sapodilla or chicle tree … or as we would call it in the US, a bubble gum tree.

I'm about 4 hours south of Cancun in the jungle outside the Mayan village of San Antonio Tuk. The locals are showing me how for they make a living off of the forest, sustainably.

"We welcome you and we want to show you how we Mayan people preserve our forests."

San Antonio Tuk is in the state of Quintana Roo, the most deforested state in Mexico. Mining, cattle farming, tourism and commercial agriculture have all contributed to the loss of the natural jungle here. But now, the people of this village are getting money to preserve their forests from the Mexican government.

"We can live in the forest and we can take advantage of it but it in old ways."

That’s Miguel Cante Chuk, speaking through a translator, he’s the chief of the environmental services network that is hoping to benefit from something called REDD That’s REDD and it’s the most commonly used acronym at this year’s UN climate talks.

"REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation."

Rolf Skar is with Greenpeace.

"There's a lot of climate pollution that comes from the burning, slashing and destroying of tropical rain forests. The idea behind REDD is a simple one; that northern countries, rich nations, help developing countries with those tropical rain forests where they would otherwise destroy all of those rain forests. So they provide financial aid to do something better, to develop sustainably instead of destroying all of those forests."

The goal of the UN talks in Cancun is to reduce global greenhouse emissions that are causing climate change. About 15 to 20% of emissions come from deforestation. So a potential REDD agreement is being held up as the best hope for any deal coming out the Climate talks in Cancun. But not everyone feels that way.

“When I say no, you say REDD. NO REDD!! NO REDD!!”

Over the weekend, Via Campesina, an international movement of peasants and indigenous people, staged a march through downtown Cancun.

Over 2,000 people from Mexico and several other countries took part. Kandi Mossett is a Native American from North Dakota. She’s not a fan of REDD.

"What it can do is create toxic ... in the United States because what it's allowing is countries like the United States, rather than reducing their emissions at the source, they are able to continue to do it by starting new projects in other countries. And it's already making it possible for indigenous people's rights to be slowly dwindled away. Indigenous people and forest dwelling peoples, when they sign these contracts, they're no longer to even go into their own lands and manage them like they've been doing for years and years and years. They're not able to go get their berries and their food. The other problem with REDD is that it doesn't differentiate between plantations and forests so that what they can do is actually remove forests and plant monoculture plantations of Eucalyptus and Palm Oil and these are all things that are not going to be sustainable for us or our future and that is why REDD is not ready and why we're strongly opposed."

But Louis Vercot, Senior Scientist for the Center for International Forestry Research disagrees. He says REDD could help indigenous communities by creating financial possibilities.

"REDD could be done in a way that would benefit local communities by creating financial incentives or financial possibilities for them to move from unsustainable forest management practices to sustainable forest management practices."

Rather than a mechanism that allows the first world exploit the third, Vercot says that REDD is something that developing nations came up with.

"First of all we need to remember that this REDD mechanism was a proposal by developing countries for how they wanted to begin approaching reducing their emissions and they asked for support from northern countries to do that."

But Clayton Thomas-Mueller with the Indigenous Environmental Network doesn’t buy it.

"The World Bank has co-opted the United Nations framework convention on climate change and other international instruments, with the gall of creating a new market bubble. A new neo-liberal plan that they're imposing on people in the global south, primarily indigenous peoples and forest dependent peoples. It's nothing more than a privatization scheme aimed at commodifying over 60 million indigenous peoples and forest dependent peoples lands in the global south to become commodities to be bought and sold from the international forest carbon facility."

In the middle of this debate is Vicki Tauli-Corpuz of the United Nations forum on Indigenous Issues. She says there’s a lot of misunderstandings about REDD and how it will work.

"The reason why they are so opposed is they think that it's a market mechanism, but actually if you take a look at the REDD agreement it's not a market mechanism. It says that ... implementing REDD will really be funded by public funds. Even in the agreement that you see now, there is hardly any reference to the market. So I think there's widespread misinformation or misunderstanding of what REDD is all about."

Meanwhile, back in San Antonio Tuk in the southern Yucatan, the Mayans are still harvesting gum from the chicle trees, but not nearly as much as they used.

"Fifty years ago we were able to extract 5 kilos of chicle, but nowadays with the global warming we only are able to extract 1 kilo and a half."

Kelly Benjamin is in Mexico on a fellowship with Earth Journalism News. Tune in to the Evening News the rest of this week for his daily reports from the UN Climate Summit in Cancun.

Previous WMNF coverage of COP 16

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Scary… isn’t it???

Dude… what is it with that international movement of peasants and those indigenous people??? Haven’t they read the articles… watched the television… or Googled “global warming”??? All they have to do is listen to… “the qualified scientists”!!! Jeez… they’re just a bunch of deniers… who think that they know better than the scientists… they sound just like a bunch of … Republicans!!!


Umm, once again Glenn, you succeed in thoroughly not getting it and coming up with a completely clueless comment. Listen to the story again. These folks don't deny the existence of global warming. They are feeling the effects the most. They just take issue with the UN's market based method of dealing with it.

My bad...

Listen??? I was just reading it… hold on… hmmm… ohhh yeah… you’re right!!! They do sound softer towards the UN… just like Al Jazerra does when they’re after something. Thanks for pointing that out.


From a social and human rights perspective, REDD criminalises the Peoples who protect and rely on forests. There are no enforceable REDD safeguards at the national or sub-national level that would guarantee protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities. Meanwhile, carbon traders eager for the large sums of money offered by REDD schemes are already forcing Indigenous and forest-dependent Peoples to sign away their land rights. Several examples of how this is already happening are highlighted in the No REDD, A Reader:

WHAT THE--------

"We used to harvest 5 kilos, now, thanks to global warming, we get one and a half." What a load of crap. This year's harvest is delayed and may be smaller because of an unusually cool spring and a hot spell. It's call weather and it's different every year. Sometimes it helps produce a bumper crop. Sometimes there's not much rain and our crops shrivel. But I bet these indians believe "global warming" is causing it because activists have lied to them and said your problems are due to the gringos and their effect on the weather. What a pity.

I Need a Hat Like THAT

Where can I get a hat like the lady in the picture? Very fashionable.

can't get it

Glenn, you the kind of person that can be shown an apple and call it a banana. You're capacity to miss the point is truly amazing! How you can surmise that indigenous groups, who appear to be staging the largest protests against the UN talks in Cancun, are soft on the UN is pretty telling. Do you get paid to post stupid comments on blogs?


I really appreciate your in depth coverage of weather patterns. But I highly doubt they're protesting after just one bad harvest. It's been getting steadily worse and worse over the years. But with your obvious knowledge of "the weather is different every year" you should be a meteorologist..You obviously know a lot about the conditions in which different weather patterns are formed. Or maybe you just think it's all random and happens by chance or divine intervention. Which is pretty ignorant.

Show me the money!!!

Dude… I had it right the 1st time. Those indigenous people don’t want REDD… because they know what a “middleman” is… and they’re not going back to the IMPEXNAL days. Also… just because they’re vested in “sustainable farming” from the forest… doesn’t mean that what they’re farming has a sustainable market or future… they’re Republicans!!! From RES-143-25-0007 - Chewing Gum: Transnational Histories of Consumption and Production…. Sustainability of the chewing gum industry in contemporary Mexico…. (A) Two main obstacles for the development of the market have been identified: the illegal smuggling of chicle and the bureaucratic burden. At least seven regulations and export licenses have to be in place in order for chicle shipping to take place. (B) The main demand for natural chewing gum is from Japan and East Asia. The National Chicle Producer’s Union has been working to optimize production and capture a bigger share of the market. Natural gum is superior in quality to synthetic gums but difficult for consumers to obtain. To further improve quality, the Union has introduced quality control during the re-hydration process, but the marketing of natural chewing gum is precarious since unlike some organic ‘natural’ products, it is not well known to most consumers. (C) Earlier this year the Union began a merger with PPC (Pilot Chicle Plan) to provide a further boost to the development of marketing strategies. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will contribute to the development of a buoyant market for natural chewing gum outside Mexico. Right now… the Mexican states of Campeche and Quintana Roo produce an average of 300 tons of chicle a year, enough to help support about 2,700 chicle farming families (or about 100 kilos per family, per year). Each tapping only yields about 2.5 pounds (1 kilo) of gum over a six-hour period, and a farmer will tap 6-12 trees a day. Farmers will harvest chicle from September to January… during the rainy season… and if the rains are low the yields are low. Has anyone checked on the weather patterns in this region during “La Niña” years??? Or is that man-made too???


I'm proud that you know how to use google. Maybe you should have looked up the weather patterns you mentioned. Instead of a whole wall of random "facts" about the industry. Which are irrelevent to the above story.


Hello, I should mention that when the people of San Antonio Tuk told me that their gum harvest from the Sapodilla trees had been greatly reduced over the last several decades, we asked them why. They mentioned that factories and air pollution were probable contributors to the loss of harvest.

Tools and opposable thumbs…

Sis… I thought that REDD, indigenous people, and gum harvesting WAS the story!!! What did I miss... this time???

Tell us more...

What’s up Kelly… I gotta ask… since the Sapodilla trees only do well in a “jungle environment” (not tree farmed… “another random fact”)… how did the rest of the indigenous forest look… as a result of the factories and air pollution???

Is there a doctor in the house???

Hay Sam… we need a 2nd opinion!!! Remember when you said… “If you felt like you had a lump that might be a cancerous tumor, would you just ask for your neighbor's diagnosis and go with that, cuz hey, he's a nice guy, or would you ask your doctor?” ( …Which do you think Kelly did in his above “clarification”… did he ask a doctor or ask a nice guy???


Glenn, I asked the best source I could find, the people who have been living there for generations. The jungle was not a tree farm. It looked like a jungle.

That's what I'm talking about

dude, your response has no substance. I disagree with the story and provide valid criticism and you do nothing but pile on the sarcasm and insults. But no valid argument. It speaks well for you and WMNF. You need to open your mind to outside opinions and stop being so narrow-minded. --------------------------------- I really appreciate your in depth coverage of weather patterns. But I highly doubt they're protesting after just one bad harvest. It's been getting steadily worse and worse over the years. But with your obvious knowledge of "the weather is different every year" you should be a meteorologist..You obviously know a lot about the conditions in which different weather patterns are formed. Or maybe you just think it's all random and happens by chance or divine intervention. Which is pretty ignorant.

Valid criticism?

Johnny S, What exactly is valid about calling the statement of these Mayans "a load of crap?" To quote the Dude, "that's just, like, your opinion man." I'd put my money on the people who harvest the same crop year after year to know what they're talking about (and if their is a trend in the reduction of their harvest) over the uninformed opinion of some guy who makes ignorant comments on the internet. But that's just me. The funny thing is, it's not just the Mayans saying this. It's people the world over who are experiencing different weather patterns than they've historically had. The weather is odd worldwide and there IS scientific consensus on the subject: The current rise in global temperatures that is causing erratic climate change, IS man-made. You can believe the fossil fuel funded "climategate" propaganda all you want- but the fact is, they are scamming people. Climategate was a well timed disinformation campaign funded by people who have the most to lose by a shift towards cleaner energy and stronger emissions reductions. It is easy for them to place the seeds of doubt in people's minds who, like you, aren't educated the on subject, but it's telling that it's in the US, where people are the most stubborn about changing their habits, about acknowledging that greenhouse gases can change our environment, that the climate change denier movement has made strides.

Vague criticism*

I was simply pointing out your vague justification for why you can claim the indigenous people are "full of crap". I apologize for my sarcasm. But you acknowledge that the weather has been "unusually" hot and cool. Yet I can't understand why you're assuming that this is just a natural occurence..When it's being experienced worldwide and has been "unusual" for several years. Also I don't know why you're calling them "indians". They are Mayans. I'm sorry to break it to you but the "gringos" are lying to YOU. Which is a spanish word by the way.. A language the Mayans do not speak.


P.S How are you not being narrow minded yourself in your blatant denial, complete with vague justification for doing so? I don't see myself as a narrow minded person. But when the evidence is pointing ever so obviously in one direction. It's hard to see any other possibilities. Where the evidence is severely lacking.

1 eyed dwarf among blind giants…

Hay… Samm & dude… According to the American Institute of Physics… there is by no means, a consensus in the science community that the current warming trend is entirely “man-made”... see… Also Samm… if Climate-gate was a well timed disinformation campaign funded by people who have the most to lose by a shift towards cleaner energy and stronger emissions reductions... then why didn’t the “real news” station do at least one news article on the “Climate-gate scam”??? “Truth Radio” didn’t do a single article to expose the “well timed disinformation campaign”!!! Yo… dude… there’s your “blatant denial”… and by-the-way… “gringo” is classified as “offensive slang” by The American Heritage Dictionary… please show US the same respect that you would have US show the Mayans.

1000 narrow minded scientists ?

Hey dude are all these scientists "narrow minded" ? They may not have read Al Gores novels or his fantasy movie. Will even bet they don't enrich themselves wheeling and dealing in "carbon credits". Plus`why would the Mayan's even care if the world will be ending in just over two years. LOL tists-Dissent-Over-ManMade-Global-Warming-Claims--Challenge-UN-IPCC--Gore

The end is near...

Yo... Rush H... that's why We’re only getting a 2 year extension of the Bush tax rates…

the global warmees are brainwashed

dude --you are hopelessly brainwashed and beyond reaching. But that's OK --you're entitled to your opinion. Just please don't support legislation that will affect ME and other sane people. If you feel so strongly about it, drive less, grow your own food, and eat soap or whatever it is that you think is necessary. As for me, turn up the AC, brother!

Fair Warning: Morons may be offended

Johnny S. In your world, placing a degree of trust in science to explain the world around us is "brainwashing." Listening to baseless fanatical climate change deniers and the gibberish of the far right TV pundits is sane. I can only assume by this that you live in a tiny bubble and have very little time to make sense of things around you so gain your understanding of the world by taking the lazy way out: listening to one or two crappy news outlets that make you feel good about yourself and your place here and end up basing your world view on things like ignorance and bigotry. I'm sorry, but reality is not in your corner friend. Glenn, You appear to be somewhat adept at using google and the cut and paste feature of your keyboard, but not at actually reading material you attempt to cherry pick to support your ludicrous and tired arguments. I bothered to read through the link you posted. Not much there that denies the validity of man made climate change I'm afraid. Just a broad overview of the history of climate science through the years. If you would like, I could assist you in finding better sources to support your stupid arguments if you want, and help you learn the art of advanced google searches so you would be less likely to make a fool out of yourself in these silly comment sections in the future, but I charge $$. As I too want to impress those reading this with my ability to use google let me provide these solid links: 1. This one is a link to the Journal Science. Your previous comments lead me to believe you may be unfamiliar so let me explain: it happens to be the world's leading outfit for Scientific News. Surprising, yes? It also happens to be published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the leading voice for the interests of scientists worldwide. The article is called "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change." Give it a read will you? But be careful guys! Judging from the peabrained things you've written here, it might just blow your mind. 2. Here's another one for you. This one is from NASA. You know, those guys that send rockets and stuff into space? They said last week that 2010 was the warmest year (Meteorological) Ever. Both on land and over the oceans. Ouch. Maybe you should try and contact these guys and tell them they are full of it. Or go turn up the AC, click on America's Top Model and maybe fire up the bong. Why not? You can't have many more brain cells to lose!

Ha! Too Rich!

and it case you've missed it (which I imagine you have since you two guys seem to miss a lot!). Here is the article that OUTS the climate denier movement. which is reported that "the Climate Depot," which Johnny S. likes to read because it reinforces his worldview, is revealed as a product of Marc Morano and funded by Richard Mellon Scaife; former producer for Rush Limbaugh...HA! Talk about creditable source.


check it!

Doctors huffin NO2… he so funny!!!

Why doctor… I appreciate the fact that you “bothered” to read through the link I posted. Unlike you, I will take the “time”… to read the links you’ve suggested. And, you are right… there is nothing in the study that “denies the validity of manmade climate change…” I never said it did. What the study did say… “It was highly LIKELY that the strong global warming seen since the 1970s was in large part the work of humanity.” And there were still concerns about the data being used to come to that conclusion. Did you notice in the Temperature Anomaly chart… the range of uncertainty… where some of the spikes between 1000AD and 1300AD (the medieval warm period) are as high as today’s readings??? Also… why doesn’t evidence of the medieval warm period show-up in data collected from the southern hemisphere??? Much like you… I too will help people find better sources of information. Unlike you, Al Gore and the MANY “global warming profiteers”, I don’t charge for it. Now… let me checkout this “” you seem to be so “high” on.


It also drops downward on about the same scale as it spikes upward. I guess that's why it's called the range of uncertainty? Also it states that there is no consensus on a medieval warm period at all. "A "Medieval Warm Period" around 1000 AD is found in some studies but not others". What those graphs DO show, in the areas of the greatest consensus. Is that the temperature does dramatically rise around this past mid century..Oh and Climate Depot? Yes those "scientists" are absolutely narrow minded. Or they just love all the funding from oil money they receive. Who knows..