Indigenous Leader Nemonte Nenquimo Calls for Listening to Mother Earth’s Message

Nemonte Nenquimo believes that Mother Nature is sending a message that needs to be heard.

“She’s crying out. She’s shouting. She’s screaming. She’s communicating that sea levels and river levels are rising. There are droughts. And this is her language. This is her alarm to you.”

, an Indigenous leader of the Waorani peoples in Ecuador and founder of the nonprofits Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines, has focused much of her activism on preserving the Amazon from deforestation and oil extraction.

The warning signs of the climate crisis are a reminder of our collective responsibility to the Earth, she said in her TIME Earth Award acceptance speech on Wednesday evening, after the honor was presented to her by Peter Seligmann, CEO of nonprofit Nia Tero and chairman of Conservation International.

“My people are closely listening to Mother Earth, and they know that Mother Earth isn’t asking for much from us,” Nenquimo said. “She’s not asking to be saved. She’s asking something very simple. She’s asking that we respect her.”

In 2019, Nenquimo led a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government that resulted in the protection of 500,000 acres of the Amazonian rainforest from oil drilling and set a legal precedent for Indigenous communities across the country.

She believes that meaningful action will require support from everyone—not just communities at the front line of the climate crisis. “What gives me hope is being here together with all of you, and knowing that we can fight together,” she said. “I’m not asking you all to wait for Indigenous people to lead this fight against the climate crisis. What I’m asking is for all of us to join together and battle the climate crisis together. The water, the earth, the air needs our support.”

TIME Earth Awards was presented by Galvanize Climate Solutions, Amazon, Deloitte, Delta Air Lines.