A Message from the Heart of the Amazon

05/25/2011 01:00 pm ET

This year, for the first time ever, the World Social Forum is being held in the Amazon, featuring the largest indigenous delegation in the history of the Forum. In an extraordinary and inspirational demonstration, more than one thousand indigenous leaders from throughout the Amazon and around the world gathered yeseterday to form a giant "human banner," using their bodies to spell out the words, "SALVE AMAZONIA" ("Save the Amazon" in Portuguese). Here are some photos.

The demonstration was coordinated with COIAB (the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon), COICA (Indigenous Organization of the Amazon Basin), Amazon Alliance, Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network, among others. Before the event, Marcos Apurina, the vice coordinator of COIAB issued a formal statement urging others to join in protecting our planet:

With the permission of our ancestors' spirits, we indigenous peoples are here with our friends from all corners of the earth. With our bodies we build this symbol as the cry of living beings from this green forest, this planet, for our continuity as humans and diverse creatures. The symbol of the bow and arrow has three meanings: The first, our aim that every man, woman, and child will decide to care for our planet; The second, the position of defending the rights of indigenous peoples, of nature, of the planet, and of our home the Amazon; The third, to send a message to the world so that each of us helps to protect our home, our air, our water, our food; The Datsiparabu ceremony is the purification of our minds, our spirit, our soul, our hearts. Save the Amazon!

Each year, 20-25% of global greenhouse gas emissions are a result of deforestation, mostly in tropical rainforests. And almost 20 percent of the Amazon wilderness area has been deforested over the past four decades, and each year between 11,000 and 27,000 square kilometers of additional forest are destroyed. If development plans for the Amazon continue unchecked, scientists predict that the entire Amazon region - recognized as a key to climate stability - will be at the brink of permanent ecological collapse within the next 10 to 20 years. We simply can't curb climate change without protecting rainforests, nor can we fully protect rainforests without stopping climate change. Check out Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch to get involved.