Conservation Hero: Txai Suruí

Image credit: Creative Commons

Conservation Hero: Txai Suruí

Txai Suruí’s lineage is to be an activist. Born of the Suruí people in Rondônia, Brazil, she has been inspired by both of her parents. Her father is the great chief Almir Suruí and, her mother is the legendary activist Ivaneide Suruí, who are best known for their work fighting deforestation in the Amazon.

Rondônia is one of Brazil’s 26 states located in the country’s northern division. It has been affected by the climate crisis more than anywhere else in the Amazon, as deforestation has been expanding there for decades at an alarming rate. Contributors are agricultural and road development, cattle ranching, timber extraction, and mining. These industries have caused biodiversity to disappear and rivers to run dry. Although there are still thriving areas where Suruí feels at peace, it’s becoming increasingly evident that global changes are needed to save her home. She is dedicating her life to making sure this happens.

Suruí is the founder and coordinator of the Movement of Indigenous Youth of Rondônia. Previously studying law, she now works with the Kanindé legal team to preserve the rights and land of Indigenous tribes. Her work centers around climate justice, as the crisis is affecting their territories and lives. She is one of six young climate activists suing the Brazilian government for changing its 2005 carbon baseline to fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement’s carbon reduction objectives.

On opening day at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26), Suruí addressed world leaders. She conveyed the devastating deforestation happening in the Amazon and stressed the importance of having Indigenous peoples at the center of policymaking. Boldly, she told the heads of state, “you’re closing your eyes to reality.” Further on she declared, that their timetables for reducing carbon emissions and scaling back fossil fuels were severely lacking.

Her speech covered the extreme loss of biodiversity and the many Indigenous activists who have been killed for defending their ancestral lands. Suruí has received death threats because of her work. One of her childhood friends was even killed while trying to protect the forest. Despite this, Suruí also stated her belief in a new world where people work with nature.

Giving voices to Indigenous communities and supporting their cause is at the heart of Suruí’s mission. Her work stresses that change cannot happen in 2030 or 2050 but needs to happen now. She feels the earth is speaking, and it is telling us we do not have more time. Protecting the forest and Indigenous communities is essential to safeguarding our future.