Born in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the 24-year-old Txai Surui environmental activist left her small village in the state of Rondonia (Brazil) to advocate for the indigenous people in Glasgow and warn of the deforestation taking place. in his country. Portrait of a new face in the climate struggle.
The succession of the famous indigenous leader Raoni seems to be in very good hands. The new face of the defense of the Amazonian lands is called Txai SuruiHe is only 24 years old, but his words sound as strong as those of the great chief of the Kayapó people in his heyday.
Invited to speak at the opening ceremony of COP26, on October 31, the young law student did not moderate her words before the heads of state in front of her.
“Today, the climate is warming, animals are disappearing, rivers are dying, and our plants are not flourishing like they used to.” And he continued to affirm with more force, still in English: “The Earth speaks. It tells us that we do not have more time. Indigenous peoples are on the front lines of the climate emergency, and we must be at the center of the decisions made here. (…) It is not in 2030 or 2050, it is now! “, He sentenced, wearing an ornament of indigenous feathers, a traditional poncho and colored pearl necklaces. “Let’s stop making false and irresponsible promises; let’s stop polluting with empty words and fight for a livable present and future. May our utopia be a future on Earth,” he concluded, remembering Greta Thunberg.
Since her resounding statement about the urgency of the situation in the Amazon, the media has noticed the young woman, who has not stopped giving interviews. The ministers of the rich countries asked to meet with her; he even got calls from the Vatican. But in the corridors of the COP26 headquarters, the young woman known as ‘Walela’ kept it simple. With a smile on his face – which can be seen when he removes his mask for television interviews – and always wearing the traditional attire of his people, his face is serene. A face that Brazilians know well.
Lawsuit against the Brazilian State
It must be said that the young activist has stomped this year. In April, she and five other young people filed a lawsuit against the Brazilian state in the Sao Paulo court for failing to meet its climate goals. Specifically, the objective is to annul a law that came into force in December and that allows Brazil to emit more greenhouse gases than promised by 2030. Txai Surui leads the initiative and has the support of eight former Environment Ministers Brazilians.
On his Instagram account there are no, or very few, photos making faces, there are rather selfies taken during environmental demonstrations, photos of environmental slogans and banners against the leaders. In Brazil, Txai Surui is one of the founders of the environmental movement Fridays for Future.
It organizes numerous mobilizations against deforestation and mining on its indigenous lands, or against the pollution of rivers. His name is regularly mentioned in the press.
Txai Surui, whose real name is Walelasoetxeige Paiter Bandeira Surui, did not fall into environmental activism by chance. He comes from a family that fights for the rights of the Surui people in the Brazilian state of Rondonia, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. His father, Almir Narayamoga, a chief of the tribe since he was 17 years old, passed the torch to him. A leading figure in the fight against illegal loggers, the chief had to flee Rondonia with Txai’s mother after insistent death threats.
A family struggle
And like her father, the young woman is being intimidated by those who see her interests threatened. “I am receiving racist and hateful messages, because they (the Brazilian authorities) do not like that I have come to talk about what is happening in Brazil. I am not afraid because the reality of indigenous peoples in Brazil is much more dangerous than the messages on the Internet ”.
The activist’s speech was taken so seriously that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who had rejected the invitation to COP26, spoke out against her speech. “They complain that I didn’t go to Glasgow. They brought in an indigenous woman to replace Chief Raoni to attack Brazil. Has anyone seen a German attacking Germany’s fossil energy? Has anyone seen them attack France because their environmental legislation is nothing like ours? Nobody criticizes his own country. Has anyone seen an American criticizing the California fires? ”Said the president.
Threats and future
The young Walela knows that when she returns to Brazil she will have to be protected, as she explained without giving more details. “The state in which I live is one of the strongholds of Jair Bolsonaro and the defenders of human rights and the environment are in danger there.”
During his inaugural speech at COP26, he did not forget to mention the memory of a recently deceased activist. “I lost a friend to this fight, we have already lost many indigenous leaders to this fight,” he lamented. A recent report by the Indigenous Missionary Council estimates that 182 indigenous people were killed in 2020, a figure 61% higher than in 2019.
It is in this context, far from the media attention that COP26 produced, that Txai will have to continue his law studies at the Brazilian university of Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia. He is about to graduate. Whats Next? The impetuous activist plans to get married and would like to return to her home village, Lapetanha. With your title in hand, you can use the law as a weapon to subdue the powerful.
The lawsuit against the Brazilian state is perhaps the first of many. As for returning to the next COPs, the young Brazilian does not want to return. He enjoyed his trip to Glasgow, but does not expect to return. “I hope I don’t have to go back. I hope that soon people will gather here (at the COP) to talk about the beautiful things they have achieved, about climate justice,” he told AFP. Precisely, “it is very cold,” concluded the activist.
This article was adapted from its original in French