Culture is

combating the climate crisis

This is the story of an indigenous people turned cyber-activists in the fight to protect their jungle. 

07 June 2024

A story by Misha Vallejo Prut

The Kichwa people of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest have always held a physical and spiritual connection with the jungle and its Supreme Beings in order to maintain equilibrium within their world. They believe in the Kawsak Sacha or Living Forest. The Kawsak Sacha is based on the idea that the jungle is a living, conscious and rights-bearing entity in which all elements, including the plants, animals, humans, rivers, wind, stars, etc., are alive, have a spirit and are interconnected. If one aspect of this is damaged, it will trigger a chain reaction affecting all other parts of the jungle. Thus, the Kichwa take from the jungle only what they need to survive and nothing more. They believe that protecting their home is fundamental not only to their own survival, but to that of humanity. By documenting their everyday life, this transmedia project offers a reinterpretation of their worldview.  

...the jungle is a living, conscious and rights-bearing entity in which all elements, including the plants, animals, humans, rivers, wind, stars, etc., are alive, have a spirit and are interconnected. 

At first glance, this story may appear too insignificant to affect life on the planet at large, but not according to the worldview of the Kichwa. The Kichwa people believe we are all part of this big and complex organism that we call Earth. Everything that affects the Kichwa affects all of us. Everything is connected.  

In emphasis of this connection, the Sarayaku have used social media to become cyber-activists: they spread their environmental message and connect with supporters across the globe via a satellite internet connection. The community is convinced that by sharing their life in the jungle, they will inspire people around the globe to implement different strategies in the fight against climate change. By raising awareness of their values, they also pressure the Ecuadorian government and big oil companies to not intervene in their territory again, as they did a couple of years ago, causing a major social conflict. Nevertheless, this internet connection with the ‘outside world’ is a double-edged sword and has resulted in an ever-greater presence of Western culture within their everyday life.  

...the Sarayaku have used social media to become cyber-activists: they spread their environmental message and connect with supporters across the globe via a satellite internet connection. 

The worldview of the Sarayaku is not linear. It resembles a circle with hundreds of nodes and internal connections. This documentary uses that concept as a starting point, for which reason several elements within this project are accessible both individually and as a whole. The elements of this project consist of a web documentary, book, exhibition and podcast. 

Everything is connected. 

This transmedia project is an invitation to explore this jungle of information where Western contemporary knowledge merges with the knowledge of the ancestral indigenous community. Furthermore, this documentary opens the debate on how we can keep our planet alive. The Sarayaku are at the forefront of the fight to mitigate climate change; the question is, where are we?