Given Half a Chance: Ten Ways to Save the World

By Edward Davey

How to address the world’s environmental challenges and make life better and more peaceful for people, nature, and the planet

Friday, 4 November 2016

An interview with Colombian anthropologist Martin von Hildebrand

Dear All,

Please find below a link to a 38 minute interview with the celebrated Colombian anthropologist Martin von Hildebrand, recorded yesterday (Thursday 3rd November 2016).

Martin has worked with the indigenous peoples of the Colombian Amazon since the early 1970s, and was responsible (as he recounts in the interview) for a friendship with the Colombian President Virgilio Barco which culminated in Barco designating over 20 million hectares of the Colombian Amazon as territorial reserves in perpetuity for the indigenous peoples of Colombia. 

Barco, at a difficult time in Colombia's recent history, would summon Martin in to the Presidential Palace for conversations about the indigenous people, for whom he had a real sympathy; and in those conversations (which I had originally remembered from Martin as taking place over whisky late in the evening) Martin won him round to the course of he action that he subsequently took.

Barco's declaration of the indigenous reserves was a far-sighted commitment which gained international recognition at the time (The Prince of Wales welcomed the news in a speech at Kew Gardens in 1991), and one which has led to high levels of cultural and biological conservation in a vitally important part of the Amazon biome.

The challenge now is for the commitment to endure in the context of Colombia's much hoped for peace, and as the pressures of economic development, agricultural expansion and resource extraction in the Amazon and the Orinoco region continue to increase. 

Indefatigable, and as committed as ever, Martin now seeks to convince all nine governments of the Amazon region to agree to an ambitious new Andes - Amazon - Atlantic Cultural and Ecological Corridor, combining protected areas and indigenous reserves, and appears to be making good progress.

Martin and I spoke about what he had achieved in the Amazon over all these years, and how it had all begun; about his plans for the future; about his relationship with the indigenous people; and about what inspires him and gives him optimism to keep  fighting.  I hope you enjoy it; and there will be more about Martin and the Colombian Amazon in the book.

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