2015-12-06-16-23-25-image-(8)“You see with your satellites, I see with my eyes,” said Mundiya Kepanga, a Papuan Chief from Papua New Guinea through his translator.

Greenhouse gases cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Climate change itself can not be seen by the masses. Someone who does not have an intimate relationship with land or nature has to rely on on the less intimate satellites for their information. I worry that Mundiya’s stories will not have the effect they need to. I do not completely depend on the land around me to survive. Most Americans don’t. Mundiya has a real connection nature. Food, water, shelter all come from the forest that Mundiya’s tribe lives in. He can see climate change.

In Paris today, Mundiya talked at an event, An Afternoon with Robert Redford- Storytelling for Global Action, along with Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands and Mina Setra from Indonesia, all supporting Indigenous rights at the negotiations. Each of the three panelists spoke with power, as their way of life is being threatened by climate change. Mundiya talked about the exploitation of his Papua New Guinea forests, Kathy spoke of the the sea rising up and displacing people from the Marshall Islands, and, with tears in her eyes, Mina passionately spoke about how Indigenous People do not have a voice at the negotiations table.

The people who depend solely on nature for their way of life are most affected by climate change. They are also the people who have the least amount of power or political clout at these climate conferences. But this is not just “their” problem. We can’t just ignore their pleas to slow human-caused climate change. The last thing Mundiya said was, “the forests of Papua New Guinea are not your forests, they are not my forests, they are our forests.” We must steward the tropical rainforests and the global environment like it is our own backyard… because that is exactly what they are.

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