Part II of this series: The Yarsuisuit Collective
Part III of this series: Passing Down Traditions
The island-dwelling Guna people of Panama are one of the most sovereign indigenous communities in the world, being endowed with extensive land tenure and self-governance rights. And like many of the world’s traditional cultures, they have a tiny carbon footprint. The Guna also possess some of Central America’s best preserved forests, which they have utilized and managed collectively and sustainably for the past two hundred years.
But now severe weather and sea level rise are causing regular flooding on many of the islands, and will likely force the Guna to have to abandon their island homes for the mainland. This multimedia piece offers an introduction to everyday life and customs in Guna Yala and touches upon the uncertain future the Guna are now facing thanks to the impacts of climate change.
OTHER PHOTOS BY ROBERTO (BEAR) GUERRA
Ustupu Island’s chief saila, or cultural leader, Leodomiro Paredes (with his wife, Imelda). Photo by Roberto (Bear) Guerra.
As the sun rises, clouds and mist begin to clear over some of the tree-covered mountains in the mainland forest in Kuna Yala. Panama’s indigenous Kuna have managed their forests communally and utilized them sustainably for several hundred years, and today possess some of the best preserved old growth forests in all of Central America. Photo by Roberto (Bear) Guerra.
One of Kuna Yala’s densely populated islands seen from the air, and beyond, the Kuna’s sacred forest – some of the best preserved in Central America. Situated along Panama’s northeastern coast, the Kuna’s islands are frequently flooding due to severe storms and rising sea levels, forcing the Kuna to consider relocating entire communities to the mainland. Photo by Roberto (Bear) Guerra.
(10/03/2014) Jesús Smith is sitting at his old wooden desk facing the entrance to his house. He’s hunched over, shirtless, and wearing his chunky reading glasses while writing copious notes by hand — a favorite pastime. When he sees the profile of one of his students, Julio, walking past his doorway, he yells, ‘Hey! I’ll see you in class tomorrow!’
(09/04/2014) There isn’t a word or phrase in the Kuna language for “carbon trading,” and much less for something as complex as REDD+. Standing for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, REDD+ is the worldwide UN-backed climate change mitigation scheme that relies on carbon trading within forest landscapes to fund forest conservation programs. And yet, since 2008, the Kuna people have been hearing lots about it and referring to it often in their private conversations.