A last-minute personal donation from a climate-concerned British farmer enabled the meeting of hundreds of Brazil’s Indigenous people to go ahead in the Amazon rainforest last week.

Hylton Murray-Philipson, an Eton-educated landowner from Leicestershire, covered a gap in funding of more than £100,000 after another sponsor pulled out of the gathering, which was called by the Kayapo chief Raoni Metuktire.

Murray-Philipson said the amount was 10 times more than he had ever given in a single charitable donation before, but he felt this was necessary to respond to the growing threat of climate breakdown. “We’re in an emergency and we need to act appropriately,” he told the Guardian during the meeting of hundreds of forest guardians in Piaraçu village. “People with money need to react to the level of concern we have now globally.”

His decision was shaped by worsening signs of climate instability, he said: the world’s hottest month in recorded history, evacuations caused by forest fires in southern Europe, devastating droughts in Uruguay, shockingly low records of Antarctic ice and growing fears for harvests in many countries.

He compared the threat to that of Nazi Germany at the start of the second world war, when his family accepted that the railings outside their home could be ripped up and melted into bullets. Today, he said, sacrifices and support needed to be focused on the fight against carbon emissions and destruction of the environment.

“The world needs Indigenous people as never before,” he said. “We should be grateful to them. They teach us that the Amazon is not just a store of carbon, it is one of the great rainfall-making machines in the world. Without that, there will be more drought and worse soil. I am a farmer. I know what that means.”

Murray-Philipson is the grandson of a Conservative MP and a former investment banker who opened the Brazil office for Morgan Grenfell. More recently, he worked for King Charles’s Rainforest Project, and introduced Raoni to the then prince at Clarence House. He is chair of the trustees of the environmental group Global Canopy, which also contributed to the event along with the British embassy.

He has stepped up his environmental work since the pandemic, when he spent several days on a respirator and nearly died of Covid. Combined with his Christian faith and awareness of the climate risks, this experience had changed his priorities, he said. “My fund manager tells me that his job is to take me out of a mini and to put me into a Rolls-Royce. I tell him: ‘What is the point of that if it is just to drive off a cliff?’”

His private contribution helped pay for three meals a day and logistical support for hundreds of participants at the meeting, which aims to amplify the voice of forest people who have the best proven record of maintaining forests and protecting biodiversity.

“What needs to happen urgently is for Indigenous people to be given a seat at the top table,” he said. “This decade is absolutely crucial.”

Original source: https://www.theguardian.com