International pressure has forced U.S. oil giant
Mobil Corporation to stop prospecting in a part of the Peruvian Amazon
known as Block 77, and home to three groups of indigenous peoples. According
to Jonathan Mazower, campaigns coordinator for Survival for Tribal Peoples,
which organized a series of vigils and protests against the prospecting,
This victory shows that international campaigns can and do succeed.
We are delighted that Mobil have finally done the right thing and withdrawn.
Hopefully now the uncontacted Indians will be left to live on their own
land in peace, he said. Mobil claimed that the decision to withdraw
from the area was based solely on economic reasons.
Fighting mining companies and government officials who
want to exploit some of the richest gold deposits in Latin America, about
400 Pemon Indians in El Dorado, Venezuela have blocked traffic of construction
workers destroying the forest to create a 470-mile high-voltage electricity
line. Despite threats of imprisonment from authorities, the Pemon and
other indigenous peoples continue to protest the $110 million line, which
aims to provide hydroelectric power to communities in northern Brazil
and eastern Venezuela. The Pemon claim the construction of the line will
severely damage their homethe pristine nine million-acre Imataca
rain forest reserve they share with jaguars, pumas, red howler monkeys,
bearded bluebells and the worlds largest eagle.
While 30 percent of Venezuelas land is protected, in May 1997, under
pressure to create jobs and to alleviate its foreign debt, President Rafael
Caldera signed Decree 1850, which opened 40 percent of the Holland-sized
Reserve to multinational mining and logging companies. These companies
are eager to exploit gold and timber reserves in the forest, which was
the destination of 16th-century English pirate and explorer Sir Walter
Raleigh. Also threatened is the Canaima National Park, in the Oronoco
River basin, one of 100 U.N.-designated World Heritage Sites.
Government sources contend that opening the Reserve will create jobs in
one of the poorest parts of the country, as well as regulate the activity
of numerous miners and prospectors which has already caused substantial
damage to the areas ecosystem. The Pemon are not alone in their
protest. Over 20 Venezuelan environmental organizations have protested
the Decree, and it has been investigated by the Venezuelan Supreme Court.
José Luis Gonzalez, coordinator of Pemon resistance, is clear:
The forest is our home, our laboratory, our hospital, our university,
he says. It is the source of the knowledge we need to survive. Our
fight against the Decree is a fight in defense of life.
For more information, please contact: COAMA, P.O. Box 7490, Boulder, CO
80306-7490. Tel.: 303/444-0306, Fax: 303/449-9794. <www.globalresponse.org>.
Also you can contact José Luis Gonzalez of the Indigenous Federation
of Bolivar State at: <email@example.com>.
In the U.S. contact Atossa Soltani of Amazon Watch at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information for this report also came also from the Amazon Coalition at:
The Achuar people of the Southern Ecuadorian Amazon are
engaged in a similar fight as those in Peru [see above]. This time it
is U.S.-based ARCO which was recently allowed by the government to explore
for oil. While the 4,300-strong Achuar hold communal title to nearly two
million acres of intact old growth rain forest, the government owns the
stuff underneath the surface; but the lack of roads has up to now stopped
mining and logging interests penetrating the area. The Achuar are demanding
that both ARCO and the Ecuadorian government respect their land rights.
According to Shannon Wright, Amazon Oil Campaign Director of the Rainforest
Action Network, Oil companies need to invest in renewable sources
of energy that give the world a clear alternative to environmentally and
culturally destructive fossil fuels. The Achuar are in the front line,
but ending new oil exploration is a critical issue for everyone on this
Greenpeace has received a promise from the Ecuadorian
government to ban clearcutting of mangrove stands by the countrys
shrimp farming industry and prosecute illegal mangrove destruction. While
destruction of mangrove standswhich are crucial to conserving water
purity and fish stocks and stopping soil erosionhas been illegal
since 1994, prosecutions have been limited. Greenpeace is working to make
sure that the new government continues the pledge made by the former Environment
Since 1992, the rate of destruction of the Amazonian rain
forests has increased. Indeed, Brazil released data a year ago which showed
that between 1995 and 1997 an area twice the size of Belgium had been
deforested. Deforestation usually occurs through fires set by loggers
and ranchers to clear land. However, unusually low levels of rainfall
in the region last year have meant that the amount of fire-vulnerable
forest grew to a third of the entire forests of Amazonia. The numerous
small fires not set by loggers or ranchers but caused by drought are still
very destructive. Moreover, burning the standing forest can release 10
to 80 percent of forest biomass into the atmosphere as carbon dioxidea
major component of global warming.
Scientists at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in
Edinburgh, Scotland are forecasting that it may already be too late to
save the rain forest. In 50 years time, they say, temperatures in the
Amazon may be as much as seven degrees higher. Along with a decrease in
rainfall of up to 50 centimeters a year, this will destroy the forest
and turn it into grassland or even desert. Part of the problem is that
the Amazonian rain forest will turn from being an absorber into an emitter
of carbon dioxide and accelerate the process of its own destruction. This
doomsday scenario, which would lead to an astonishing 50 percent more
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than currently emitted, sees a very rapid
end to the rain forest beginning in the 2040s, releasing about two billion
tons of carbon every year into the atmosphere.
This report was edited from The Independent newspaper. See <www.independent.co.uk/stories/A0311806.html>
Ban on Mahogany
It is now six months since the Brazilian government
extended for two years its ban on mahogany logging in most of the Amazon.
Since then new rules on sustainable logging of the virola tree have strengthened
the ban. Logging the valuable hard wood has been blamed for much environmental
destruction in the rain forest. Currently, loggers can log 2.3 million
cubic feet of mahogany, less than half the amount they could nine years
Washington State-based forestry company Trillium
S.A. has drastically reduced its staff and will not harvest 398 square
miles of old-growth forest in Tierra del Fuego. Environmental activists
from Greenpeace and 200 environmental groups from Chile and Argentina
joined with Chilean courts to overturn or add additional requirements
to the mandates from the government to allow logging in the forest. Eventually,
Trillium gave up on the $200 million project, and is turning to the Patagonian
forests in neighboring Argentina. For more information, contact Leavenworth
Audubon Adopt-a-Forest, P.O. Box 154, Peshastin, WA 98847. Tel.: 509-548-7640.
In the early 1970s a group of Colombian scientists,
artisans, peasants, former street kids, and Guahibo Indians built a village
called Gaviotas in the extremely inhospitable savanna east of the Andean
mountains. Gaviotas was to be an experiment: to see if human beings could
create a self-sustaining community in an inhospitable climatea desolate
savanna far removed from any town and subject to punishing heat and mosquito
infestation. The founder, Paulo Lugari, was concerned that rising human
populations around the world would soon force human beings to live in
areas such as these. If they could do it here, went his reasoning, they
could do it anywhere.
For the last three decades, as journalist Alan Weisman documents in his
book Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, Gaviotas has been
working a quiet miracle. From the outset, Lugari encouraged the community
to think of ways to solve the harsh challenges presented to them by their
environment. The Gaviotans invented windmills to collect energy, solar
collectors that worked in the rain, pumps that provided clean water, even
a hospital which has since become one of South Americas most celebrated
all-herbal pharmacies. The Gaviotans refused to patent their numerous
inventions and their systems are being used widely throughout villages
in Colombia. The Gaviotans planted a tropical pine tree from Honduras,
which thrived in the barren furnace of the llanos. Not only has this tree
provided the community with a valuable resin which has been exported widely,
but it provides shelter for the re-emerging rain forest that is springing
up in its cooling shadow. Populations of deer, anteater, and capybara
are growing. As Lugari notes, Everywhere else theyre tearing
down the rain forests. Were showing how to put them back.
Writes Weisman, Despite sustained efforts to mobilize all human
wisdom and will in defense of nature and sanity, we have yet to quench
the flames that consume our forests, or to dampen the greed that stokes
our excesses. Yet a place like Gaviotas bears witness to our ability to
get it right, even under seemingly insurmountable circumstances.
Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World is published by Chelsea
Green Publishers, price $22.95. You can read more about the book on www.chelseagreen.com/Gaviotas
Coalition for Amazonian Peoples and Their Environment,
1511 K Street NW, Suite 627, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-637-9718,
fax: 202-637-9719, www.amazoncoalition.org
Rainforest Information Centre, P.O. Box 368, Lismore, NSW 2480,
Australia. Tel.: 011-61-2-66-218505. Email: rainfaus
Rainforest Action Network. 221 Pine Street, Suite 500 San Francisco,
CA 94104. Tel: 415-398-4404, fax: 415-398-2732. Email:email@example.com
Gaia Forest Conservation Archives: http://forests.org/
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