Colin Firth Asks: Will You Save These People? (Video)

One man stands between Brazil’s Awá tribe and extinction. Tell him to step in.

Actor Colin Firth moves out of his comfort zone, and urges you to implore Brazilian Minister of Justice José Eduardo Cardozo to move out of his comfort zone as well. It's easy to do. (Photo: © Survival)

May 8, 2012
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

Actor Colin Firth has joined Survival International to rally support to save Brazil’s last “uncontacted” indigenous people, the Awá. The Awá have thrived in the Amazonian rainforest for generations, passing down a sustainable, harmonious way of life that predates and, so far, has been totally separate from Western civilization.

Produced by Survival International and narrated by Colin Firth, the above video is like a cross between Tree of Life and Apocalypto. It shows a people and a way of life on the verge of being exterminated by the greed and materialism of outsiders.

Current Brazilian laws designate the Awá tribal grounds as protected forestland, and a federal mechanism is in place to preserve both the habitat and the traditional Awá way of life.

Of course there is a hitch.

Global demand for Brazilian lumber far outstrips the ethical restraints of Western civilization’s illegal logging industry. The Awá homelands are being cleared by criminals. Loggers have been repeatedly accused of murdering individual Awá rather than accommodating the tribe’s established human rights.

“One man has the power to stop the loggers,” says Colin Firth, “Brazil’s Minister of Justice. But it’s just not his priority. Let’s push it up his list.”

Unlike so many of the globe’s intractable dilemmas, the attack upon the Awá has a remedy, and it is a relatively simple one:

“One man has the power to stop the loggers,” says Colin Firth, “Brazil’s Minister of Justice. But it’s just not his priority. Let’s push it up his list.”

Survival International’s campaign to save the Awá consists of one direct action: Send an email to Brazil’s Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, and implore him to remove illegal loggers, ranchers and settlers from the Awá tribal grounds.

Survival makes sending that email easy. Click and add your voice to Colin Firth’s and nearly 17,000 others.

To dispel any doubt that some good can be done by that simple action, Ghislain Pascal of Survival International gave TakePart a progress report on the campaign to save the Awá. He also pinpoints the place on the globe where Survival International’s passion and expertise will be most needed next.

TakePart: So far, how much response have you had to the campaign to contact Brazil’s Minister of Justice?

Survival International: There has been a huge response, and one that’s growing by the hundreds each day. At the moment, nearly 17,000 people have sent protest emails to Brazil’s Minister of Justice, urging him to act. That, coupled with a broad and international media response to news of the campaign, means saving Brazil’s Awá could be within reach, as long as pressure is kept up.

TakePart: Do you see any movement in Brazil?

Survival International: The campaign has definitely been noticed in Brazil. The Minister of Justice’s office confirmed it has received an overwhelming number of emails. Similarly, José Eduardo Cardozo faced questions on the Awá when he attended an inauguration for the new head of FUNAI (Brazil’s National Indian Foundation) last week. If enough pressure is kept on the government to do more to protect the rights of the Awá, whose land has been demarcated, then Brazil will be forced to uphold its own laws.

An Awá family grocery shopping in the rainforest. (Photo: Domenico Puglisese/Survival)

TakePart: Where are some other places around the globe that Survival International is at work?

Survival International: Survival works across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia—wherever there are threatened tribal peoples.  

TakePart: Where is the next place that will need Survival International’s help?

Survival International: Survival runs several high profile campaigns in unison. It has a strong team of campaigners who specialize in specific regions. All areas are in need of help—but Ethiopia is a particularly urgent case. Human rights abuses are being committed there daily as tribal peoples are forcibly resettled in the name of “land grabbing” by private and foreign investors in the Lower Omo Valley.

Now is the first time in history that a vast, worldwide population has been granted the power to contribute to saving an indigenous tribe with a flick of a mouse. How else can we exercise our new powers for good? Leave your suggestions in comments.

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