11 Jun 2019

The Amazon tribe battling to save the rainforest

Chief Correspondent

Last month deforestation in the Amazon basin hit record levels. It results from the pro-farming policy being pursued by Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, however today it is shrinking faster than any other.

In the first of two reports from the rainforest, we have been to the Caru Indigenous Reserve in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, where one tribe is resisting the destruction of what could be one of the last natural defences against climate change.

Alex Thomson writes:

Eight days to get there and back.

The Amazon river would go from Rome to New York City. Its forest would swallow up the UK and Ireland 17 times.

But if we go on cutting it down as we are then New York City, London and Tokyo could be underwater. Holland might not exist. Bangladesh may be a sea-bed.

That is the brake that the Amazon is on climate change – storing vast amounts of carbon and emitting colossal oxygen reserves. Its canopy is our future.

But we are wrecking it at the rate of two football pitches an hour. An unmatched biosphere where we encountered monkeys, vultures, giant millipedes, snakes, sloths and bird eating spiders without even trying to look for them.

Brazil’s Président Jair Bolsonaro appears to want five or ten football pitches destroyed an hour. Or more. He says the Amazon forest stands in the way of “development”.

And he thinks Brazil should wipe out its indigenous peoples in the same way the white American settlers did.

Yes, he really did, whilst running in the election. He said he’ll arm ranchers so they can shoot Indian tribes.

He really did.

Indians have (in theory) constitutional rights to protect their forest and use it as they see fit.

So we’ve been with the Guajajara Indians in the eastern Amazon to see how they protect their forest against this onslaught.

It’s a delicate balance of working with the white outsiders in the regional government but in their own way and with their own methods. It isn’t exactly non-violent but it isn’t declaring war on white illegal loggers and poachers either.

It’s bows, arrows and warpaint – but it’s drones, mobiles and GPS locators too.

Is it enough and is it working?