The River Above Us
Asia and Oceania comprise diverse geographical biomes, from Himalaya, the Ganges on through the Indian sub-continent, the Mekong basin and connected lands, on to the tropical forests and waters of archipelagos, islands, and atolls that are all intricately woven into the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The winds and the water of the Pacific move always west to Asia, affecting all seasons and all lives. Every farmer and fisher works according to the sky. This is how oceans, forests and peoples are intricately linked.
Forests, Oceans and Cultures
Forests are vital to the well-being of rural populations, particularly indigenous communities, smallholders, those living in close proximity to forests, and those who make use of trees outside forests. In Oceania, forests comprise 70% of the limited land area of small island states. Over 450 million Asians live in or around tropical forests and savannahs, and of them, 84 million live in extreme poverty.
An estimated 210 to 260 million people living in Asia and Oceania identify as indigenous or tribal. Indigenous cultures typically aspire to remain distinct culturally, institutionally and geographically. They usually live within or maintain an attachment to geographically distinct ancestral territories. Their traditional knowledge is locally adapted and deeply connected with nature. Indigenous livelihoods respect and protect natural resources. As they represent a small portion of the region’s population, many are struggling to sustain their socio-cultural integrity.
Diversity, Divides and Disasters
The region faces threats from expansive economic interests that convert our forests to agriculture, mining and logging areas; contaminate our soil and water with plastics and other solid non-biodegradable waste, sediments, agro-toxins, oil spills, and mine tailings; and displace our rural peoples to rapidly expanding cities. Ongoing sea level rise is displacing coastal peoples of Pacific small island states from their homes. Apart from these ‘slow-onset disasters’, people in the region are highly exposed and vulnerable to more intense storms, droughts, floods and landslide hazards.