The day Amazonian tribes came to help protect Argyll’s rainforests

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Lochgoilhead is not the first place you’d expect to meet tribespeople from the Amazonian rainforest, but they are here for COP26, to help save Scotland’s own vanishing rainforest.

The ceremony in Cormonachan Community Woodland and Lochgoilhead Village Hall on November 7, organised by Raleigh International and the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest, brought together environmental activists from Scotland and the Amazon ‘to share in a sacred blessing of Scotland’s rainforest by indigenous representatives from Association Jiboiana’.

Jiboiana, a South American environmental conservation group, supported a delegation of five indigenous leaders from five different tribes to travel from the heart of the Amazon to speak to world leaders at COP26, and ‘most importantly, to thousands of people in Europe about the tragic situation of the Amazon and of its guardians’, it said.

‘They are frontline populations: among the first to be confronted with climate change and related environmental disasters, but also the first to be on the front to mitigate related crisis. Since they have been preserving and living in harmony within the Amazon for thousands of years, we believe it is time that they have their voices and ancestral wisdom heard – reminding us that humanity is neither superior nor separated from Nature, but an integral part of it.

‘Their knowledge of nature and understanding of its sacredness may help us find other possible ways of co-existing on Earth: Voices for a post-modern world as an alternative to a system that seeks endlessly profit and encourages the reckless exploitation of ecosystems.

‘Co-creating humanitarian and environmental projects with indigenous peoples is both wonderful and necessary, but clearly insufficient to change the roots of why these projects are called for in the first place: racism, discrimination, poverty, lack of recognition for their role of guardians of Nature.

‘Indigenous peoples represent only five per cent of the global population yet they protect 80 per cent of the biodiversity on Earth. Just these two numbers show us the incredible extent of their importance in what is the greatest challenge of our time: changing our way of thinking in the hopes of living and thriving in harmony with the Earth, as an alternative to destructive and extractive practices.

‘The symbolism of this event will be very powerful, as these leaders from the Amazon will be there to show that all forests need to be protected. Because Scotland’s forests have been dramatically damaged over the centuries, they would see what the Amazon could become if we don’t act altogether.’

Scotland’s rainforest is a rare and endangered habitat. It’s as important as tropical rainforest, but even rarer. The conditions to support this coastal temperate rainforest occur on less than one per cent of the globe’s surface.

Scotland’s rainforest, also known as Atlantic woodland and Celtic rainforest, is a special kind of woodland, containing trees dripping with lichens and rocks clad with abundant mosses. These native woodlands are found on our west coast where there are high levels of rainfall and relatively mild, year-round temperatures.

But Scotland’s rainforest is in trouble. As little as 30,000 hectares remain – a mere two per cent of Scotland’s woodland cover and only one fifth of the area that has climatic conditions suitable for rainforest.

The remnant oak, birch, ash, native pine and hazel woodlands are small, fragmented and isolated from each other. Almost all show little or no regeneration due to high levels of grazing; almost half are being choked with Rhododendron ponticum and a fifth have been planted up with exotic conifer plantations. They also face threats from diseases like ash dieback; as well as nitrogen pollution, infrastructure development and climate change.

You can discover Scotland’s rainforests by visiting the National Nature Reserves at Taynish, Glasdrum Wood, Ariundle Oakwood and Beinn Eighe.