Between Desolation and Hope
Seoul, Republic of Korea
2023, Junior, Creative Writing
Climate Hero: Gregorio Mirabal, FSC Indigenous Foundation; Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin
As I opened my eyes, I was greeted by a vast, scorching desert. The dry heat parched my throat, stung my eyes, and burnt my skin under the relentless sun. My heart pounded in response to the extreme heat, possibly exceeding 50°C. Sand dunes stretched as far as I could see, prompting the dreadful question: What had happened to the Earth?
In the distance, I spotted a kneeling figure. Despite my shouts, he didn’t respond. Driven by desperation, I trudged through the sweltering heat towards him. As I neared, the sound of his sorrowful cries reached me. Recognizing the aging figure as Gregorio Mirabal, the former President of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon Basin, I understood his tears were for the desolate landscape before him and his seemingly fruitless efforts against climate change.
If we had followed climate change campaigns, if we had sought solutions for climate change quicker, if we had recognized the efforts of climate change activists like Gregorio Mirabal, would things have been different? If we hadn’t cut down or burned the trees in the rainforest, would I still be looking at this desert?
The abrupt clamor of bells shattered the stillness. It was my alarm clock, wrenching me from the disturbing vision. Blinking in the dim light of my room, I found myself back in the familiar confines of my bed. Despite the reassurance of reality, the stark images from my dream left a residual terror. I could feel my heart beating faster. Trying to calm myself, I drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I told myself that it was only a nightmare, but I knew deep down in my heart that it was a portrayal of the probable future.
My eyes landed on a newspaper clipping pinned to my wall, a comforting reminder of reality. Its title stood out in bold letters: “The Guardians of the Future.” Among them was the very man who haunted my dream: Gregorio Mirabal. Re-reading the article, I was reminded of the indigenous people in the Amazon threatened by deforestation, extractivism, and mining. Experts have warned that these human activities are causing climate change, and that the Amazon is nearly at a point of no return. Its climate is changing, surface water is being lost, rivers are becoming polluted and disconnected, and forests are being cut or burned down.1
Gregorio Mirabal, as the current General Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin and member of the Council of the FSC Indigenous Foundation, tirelessly campaigned to gain support for indigenous people’s climate change mitigation efforts. Faced with the indifference of the Brazilian government and the global community, he advocated at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. His persuasion resulted in a significant victory: the United Nations allocated $1.7 billion to support indigenous people and their climate efforts. But Gregorio knew that was not enough. He understood that without a system to effectively channel this support to the native communities, the Amazon – and by extension, the world – remained in peril. He stood by the belief, shared by many scientists, that indigenous people are pivotal in our global fight against climate change.2
Gregorio Mirabal’s efforts didn’t stop there. In the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president of Brazil, spoke about efforts in fighting climate change. Regarding the Amazon and climate change, he said, “We will spare no efforts to have zero deforestation and the degradation of our biomes [by] 2030. We are going to rigorously punish those responsible for any illegal activity, whether it’s mining, extraction, or agricultural occupation. These crimes affect mostly the indigenous people so that is why we will create the ministry of indigenous people, so that indigenous people present to the government policies that guarantee them their survival, security, peace, and sustainability. The second initiative is to be increasingly assertive in facing the challenges of climate change.” Indeed, Gregorio Mirabal’s relentless advocacy was not in vain.3
Clipping the article back to its original position, I let its message sink in. I closed my eyes, replacing the desolate desert from my dream with a lush, thriving rainforest that extended to the horizon. I saw Gregorio Mirabal there, too, his position unchanged but his demeanor transformed. Instead of despair, his face radiated pride as he gazed at the marvelous Amazon Forest before him.
Now, I no longer feel petrified or shocked. Instead, hope has taken root within me. I’ve come to comprehend the vividly contrasting visions I’ve witnessed: two potential futures determined by our response to climate change. We must heed the call of environmental activists like Gregorio Mirabal, and swiftly address this escalating climate crisis. The environment hangs in the balance; now, more than ever, we require powerful, enduring, and impactful action. We need transformative change.
I had two primary objectives when I composed my essay. Not only did I wish to underscore the significant accomplishments of Gregorio Mirabal in the fight against climate change, but I also sought to depict two potential future worlds, primarily a dire one, dictated by our commitment, or lack thereof, to mitigating climate change. This portrayal, symbolized through a dream sequence, underlines the horrifying consequences of failing to combat climate change, with Gregorio Mirabal encapsulating the melancholy feelings of dedicated climate activists when their efforts to curb this calamity falter. On another note, I selected Gregorio Mirabal as a focus due to my awe at his extraordinary dedication to this global issue. I was deeply moved witnessing him and his indigenous community exert their utmost effort and energy to address this serious concern, ultimately for the betterment of the world. Gregorio Mirabal, along with many environmentalists, contends that indigenous communities are the true custodians of the Amazon—they are the individuals who understand and cherish nature the most. In essence, my intention was to shed light on the importance of our contributions in arresting climate change and to highlight the dire consequences if we fail to take necessary action.