Nemonte Nenquimo is an Indigenous leader of the Waorani peoples in Ecuador. She is a founder of the non-profits Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines, both of which strive to defend Indigenous rights, culture, and land. Nenquimo has been instrumental in supporting calls to end oil extraction in the Amazon, and in August 2023 Ecuador successfully voted to block oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
Just months ago, we won a major climate victory in Ecuador where citizens massively voted in a historic referendum to protect the Yasuní rainforest, one of our world’s most biodiverse places and home to two of the world’s last isolated peoples, from oil extraction. Indigenous peoples and youth activists mobilized, and this model of climate action shows us the power that we have as people when we stand united. Together, we can protect our world’s largest rainforest, and together, we can take action to solve our climate crisis. Now we have a major opportunity to ensure that the Ecuadorian Government and oil company Petroecuador fully comply with the outcome of the referendum by halting their operations and leaving Yasuni, and keeping millions of barrels of oil in the ground.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
I’d love to see people from the industrialized world take action to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels and plastics. This is an important step forward to preserving biodiversity and some of our world’s most vital Indigenous territories and carbon sinks. The funds saved from this reduced consumption of petroleum products could be redirected to supporting Indigenous communities who are fighting to protect our world’s largest rainforest and climate. It’s not just a matter of shifting to cleaner sources of energy, it’s about people from the industrialized world waking up and respecting Mother Earth. I’m calling on people from around the world to unite with Indigenous peoples so that we can build a healthy future for generations to come.
What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?
We, Indigenous peoples, have been protecting Mother Earth for thousands of years. Now, we are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Climate legislators need to take urgent action to recognize and enforce Indigenous peoples’ internationally recognized right to self-determination and free, prior, and informed consent. Many governments worldwide, including the Ecuadorian government, violate this right time and time again. They continue to place profit over people and the environment by failing to consult and receive the consent of Indigenous peoples over activities that gravely affect our ancestral territories and lives. Respecting and implementing Indigenous peoples’ right to decide over the future of our territories is a key climate solution to protect our world’s most biodiverse places and our shared future.
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