The Amazon is an ancient forest, home to incredible animals and unknown species. Indigenous peoples, traditional communities and environmental activists are among those working to protect it from grave dangers. It may seem cinematic at times, but this is real life.
In the south of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, very close to where the columns of trees meet the fences of the pastures, a coffee-colored river meanders through a living and throbbing forest. Our story begins there, where thousands of people struggle to secure a thriving future for their piece of the Amazon, and nature is the mother of that resistance.
just beyond a border of forest destruction, the Manicoré region is located in the “AMACRO region”, where the states of Amazonas, Rondônia and Acre converge. The Manicoré region takes its name from the Manicoré River – a tributary of the Madeira River, the largest tributary of the Amazon – which runs through the heart of the region. As of 2015, Manicoré has been the fifth most deforested region in the state. In the last year alone, 134.67 square kilometers (km²) have been deforested there.
The economy of destruction and danger
Threats to the forest and the communities that inhabit it have become ubiquitous. While north of Manicoré, gigantic rafts of mining machinery are spreading by the hundreds along the rivers, contaminating the waters and the fish. Further south, the forest is quickly stolen and destroyed by loggers, land grabbers and cattle ranchers.
These intersecting processes of forest destruction are made possible by an intentional strategy by the Bolsonaro government to sabotage environmental law enforcement, weaken laws and offer leniency to land grabbers and others implicated in crimes. environmental. The future of the Amazon rainforest has been put up for sale by those who prioritize profits over people and the planet. Unless the forest is protected, corporations and politicians will try to profit from it down to the last leaf.
This government’s anti-environmental policies are also increasing violence in the region against traditional communities and indigenous peoples, as well as against activists, inspectors and professionals who dare to speak the truth about this absurd situation. The world has seen a tragic example of what can happen in such an atmosphere of lawlessness with the murders by the Brazilian indigenist Bruno Pereira and the English journalist Dom Phillips earlier this month.
The model of destructive economic development long practiced in the Amazon has been reinforced by the Bolsonaro government. It doesn’t have to be like that. Local communities live in harmony with the forest. They understand sustainable uses of the standing forest – like growing acai fruits or harvesting Brazil nuts. Guaranteeing the rights of communities who want to live with the forest in a sustainable way is a necessary path because the Amazon forest will not exist in the future if mining, burning or destruction of the forest continues.
We don’t really have a choice, there are climate and biodiversity emergencies knocking on our door, and the destruction of the Amazon is only accelerating them. If the Amazon rainforest reaches a point of no return, the Amazon will fail as a rainforest and there will be impacts for all of us. Many people already understand this and are advocating for sustainable development models that understand the science and recognize the issues. Without protecting the Amazon, we can lose it – and much more – completely.
The future of Manicoré – and of the Amazon
In Rio Manicoré, a cluster of communities, home to approximately 4,000 people, have been fighting for 16 years for the creation of a Sustainable Development Reserve (RDS)a type of protected area that exists in Brazil and is designed to protect natural areas of great biological importance, while guaranteeing the sustainable use of natural resources by traditional populations, ensuring their way of life.
Over the years, the communities associated with the Central das Associações Agroextrativistas do Rio Manicoré (Caarim) have sought to prove the need to have their forest protected. This year, Caarim has finally received a government concession for collective use (CDRU), which at least prevents people outside the area from appropriating the land. An area of 3,899.32 km² has been granted for such use, but this document alone does not solve the problem without proper implementation which includes management, definition of permitted activities within its boundaries and enforcement. to avoid illegal activities and land grabbing.
This area is made up of public lands that have not yet been designated for any particular use. There are more than 500,000 km² – larger than the size of Spain – of unclassified public forests in the Brazilian Amazon. These forests belong to the Brazilian people under the auspices of federal, state or local governments; and they are crucial for the global climate. Unfortunately, in practice they are “claimed” or stolen by whoever comes first. When a plan for these lands is not established, they are frequently targeted by land grabbing, which is responsible for 1/3 of all deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. To make matters worse, the agribusiness lobby in Brazil’s Congress is trying to reward this pattern of theft with legislation known as the “land grabbing bill”. However, there is hope because officially designating these areas for sustainable use and conservation could be part of what helps us ensure a safer future climate. Such protected areas could help reduce deforestation in the Amazon, which has increased year on year since 2017.
And, really, that’s what the Amazon needs now: more protection that empowers the people who love and care for it.
The “Amazon We Need” Expedition
We’re at that part of the movie where the scientists go on TV to warn of the deadly tidal wave or virus, and nobody cares. But there are people who are taking action and we must be on their side.
The ‘Amazon We Need’ expedition is Greenpeace Brazil’s way of telling the world about these people, this place, this powerful part of the Amazon, and the dream shared by so many others of a future with forests on foot, dignity, biodiversity and science. .
In order to support the ongoing campaign of the inhabitants of Manicoré, the expedition is also a platform to support the work of researchers from the National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA), and partner institutions in their studies on the rich biodiversity of this little-studied piece of Amazonia. Their findings on biodiversity in this area will help communities advocate for their rights to sustainable forest use to be recognized.
Throughout this journey, we will tell you all the details, each story, each species, each encounter. Because it was only the first chapter of a story that is still being written.
Rosana Villar is a communications analyst at Greenpeace Brazil