2020 in review: Against COVID and social inequality, Indigenous peoples persevered

© Flavio Forner/Conservation International

Nature saw its ups and downs in 2020, and Conservation News was there for it all. This month, we are revisiting some of the most interesting and significant stories and issues we covered in the past year. 

Despite being hit unduly hard by the pandemic, Indigenous peoples around the world made their presence felt in the fight against climate change and the destruction of nature. Some of our most-read stories of 2020 highlighted the critical role Indigenous communities played in protecting nature, and explored how the pandemic and civil rights protests highlighted the need to recognize Indigenous peoples as equal partners in conservation.  

“Until Indigenous peoples have a seat at the table when it comes to how their lands are used or managed, they will continue to be subjected to racism.” In a conversation with Conservation News, two Indigenous leaders who work at Conservation International shared insights into how their communities are fighting for the rights to their lands, while addressing deep-rooted racial inequalities. 

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Excluded from most national COVID-19 response measures and government relief packages, Indigenous peoples face particular challenges from the coronavirus — and society’s responses to it. According to Conservation International’s Minnie Degawan, a member of the Kankanaey-Igorot Indigenous peoples, the key to helping these communities cope with the pandemic is to make it easier for them to help themselves.

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From forming a seed-sharing network in the Amazon to creating a unique turtle sanctuary in Fiji, Indigenous peoples around the world are using traditional knowledge and partnerships to protect nature. Here are three recent conservation success stories you should know about. 

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The civil rights protests that swept across America — and the globe — this year laid bare the deep racial inequalities permeating society. And as Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan said recently, “the conservation community is not exempt from this legacy.” With that in mind, here is a list of books, podcasts and more recommended by Conservation International staff that explores the link between race and the environment.

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Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A member of the Pataxó tribe in Brazil (© Flavio Forner/Conservation International)

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