by Rona Fried
We’ve been watching the news about the World Cup, taking place in Brazil, and while we’ve seen coverage of protests around economic issues, we also expected Amazon’s tribal leaders to make their plight known to the world.
It turns out they are using the glare of publicity to make an impassioned plea for recognition of their lands and an end to dam building and deforestation, reports Climate News Network. But they are not protesting in their homeland, they are making the rounds in Europe.
Why? Because when they protested in Brasilia, they were met by the Army, looming with full body armor and tear gas.
According to Climate News Network:
Chief Raoni Metuktire and his nephew of the Kayapò tribe asked for help from Prince Albert of Monaco, Prince Charles in London and the royal family of Norway.
"I ask for your help. Our land is being threatened. I would like to ask the world to pay attention to our problems and help us. In the past, we didn’t knock down the trees, destroy the land and build dams, but now all that is happening. The climate in the forest is changing: it is a lot hotter than it used to be, and the pattern of the winds is altering."
After the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as deforestation dived in the Amazon, logging is rising again, and tribes have less and less say over what happens on their land. "Our lands and those of other indigenous tribes should be properly demarcated, but the Brazilian government is seeking to alter the constitution and undermine our land rights, giving more power to loggers, dam builders and mining companies.
If you read our news, you know that Brazil is in the midst of a short-sighted, destructive mega-dam building spree, already polluting rivers and even changing weather patterns. There is less rain and the lush Amazon is in drought.
Amazingly, in severe drought, there isn’t enough water to produce hydroelectricity.
Belo Monte dam, for example, will divert 62 miles of the Xingu River and its reservoirs will flood more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements. In total, 20 dams threaten 2500 square miles of Amazon rainforest and the lives of thousands of people who live there.
After reaching the lowest deforestation levels ever in 2012, logging rose 28% in 2013, to 2,255 square miles – about the size of Delaware. Farms are expanding to take advantage of high commodity prices (soybeans), and people are rushing to exploit land around big infrastructure projects under construction in the Amazon, reports The Guardian. Besides dams, roads, railroad tracks and transmission infrastructure are being built.
Increased logging also coincides with a weakened Forest Code, pushed through by agribusiness.
This has all happened since President Dilma Rousseff took office – she’s up for re-election in October.
Some Good News
The World Wildlife Fund announced a $215 million fund that will provide the long-term financing needed to protect 90 key areas of the Amazon – spread out over 148 million acres (a fifth larger than Spain).
Brazil’s government has agreed to the fund’s conditions: audits and proper staffing of the government agency that administers the fund. The money will be used for basic conservation measures, such as patrol vehicles and fences and signs that clearly indicate protected areas.
To be paid out over 25 years, funders include the German government, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, philanthropists and Norway’s Amazon Fund.
Chief Raoni Metuktire explains the situation:
You can see the deforestation for yourself at Global Forest Watch: