Liz Hosken, Gaia’s Co-Founder and Director, and Grace Souza, convenor of the Alliance for the Amazon and Beyond, recount a summer spent reaffirming affectionate alliances…

Gaia’s story of origin is rooted in relationships, human and more-than-human. We weave ourselves together to heal the fractures in Earth’s rich tapestry. These relationships transcend the idea of time and space, being based on a commitment to long term ‘affectionate alliances’ through the cycles of life.

It has been over twenty years since Gaia‘s advisor, friend and mentor, the Indigenous philosopher Ailton Krenak from Brazil, came to stay at Gaia House in London. As if time had never passed, Ailton and Gaia’s founders, Liz Hosken and Ed Posey, met again this summer in the city.

With friends old and new, we shared memories of the early days. Together we recalled how collaborative cycles between the UK and Brazil had emerged with the ancestors Jose Lutzenberger, recognised as the father of Brazil’s environment and regenerative agriculture movement,  and Chico Mendes, rubber tapper leader who established the Forest Peoples Alliance with Ailton back in the 1980s. These alliances unfurled into work with initiatives such as the Forest Peoples Alliance, the National Union of Indigenous People (UNI), and the Indigenous Peoples’ Research Centre.

And even now, the founding stories of affection between Ailton, Forest Peoples, the Amazon rainforest, Gaia and friends, inspire contemporary collaborations such as the Alliance for the Amazon and Beyond. From seeds sown over thirty years ago grew a garden that still flourishes today, inspiring a new generation of activists.

Ailton was in London accompanied by the Selvagem collective, at the invitation of Flourishing Diversity, Where the Leaves Fall, Synchronicity Earth, and OmVed Gardens to co-host the Meeting at the River event series.

Carlos Papa and Christine Takua from Selvagem, who accompanied Ailton from Brazil, London 2023 © Will Hearle

Carlos Papa and Cristine Takuá from Selvagem, who accompanied Ailton from Brazil, London 2023 © Will Hearle

Last summer, Angela Mendes, the daughter of the late rubber tapper, trade-union leader, and world renowned environmentalist Chico Mendes, also came to London for the first time. Following in the footsteps of her father up to Gaia House’s yellow door, Angela is now the President of the Chico Mendes Committee. She is a champion of her father’s work and a great enthusiast and promoter of intergenerational exchange between elders and youth in Acre, Brazil. Angela is also one of the voices and promoters of the revival of the Forest Peoples Alliance.

In August this year, we welcomed Martin von Hildebrand and Silvia Gomez from Gaia Amazonas, long-time friends and partners working with Indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon. Together with the Gaia team, we trawled through the archives from Gaia House, affectionately remembering the people, communities, rivers and forests who participated in envisioning the protection of Indigenous territories in the Colombian Amazon. Thirty-five years later, 28 million hectares of rainforest are still protected under indigenous governance and our affectionate alliance continues to navigate the ongoing challenges together.

As with Ailton and Selvagem, we also explored the shape of our collaboration in the next cycle, as Earth faces the moment Indigenous peoples and allies have been warning about for decades – severe disequilibrium which destabilises life as we know it. With gratitude, we shared in that great wisdom of our planet: that new life cycles are nourished by what came before. In evoking our stories of origin, our ancestors,  and our affectionate alliances, we drew inspiration to sustain our collaboration across continents in these times.