Sunday, December 7, 2014

Continuing Threats to the Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon forests are likened to the lungs of the earth, and we are dangerously close to a tipping point where the forests won’t be able to recover from the large-scale deforestation, often involving burning the trees to make way for agriculture. At the COP this past week, the focus was on the illegal mining of gold and logging.

On Monday the US Center at the COP sponsored a screen of the movie Amazon Gold. The four-minute trailer is worth watching, with the visuals showing the large-scale destruction of the forests in Peru for illegally mined gold.  A less visible danger is from mercury used in the process, which is polluting the rivers. While this film documents the mining in Peru, it is occurring in other parts of the Amazon as well. 

Then, on Thursday, the widows and daughter of four environmental activists from a Peruvian indigenous community spoke at a session sponsored by the trade unions.  In their case, they are trying to protect the land from illegal logging.  This was followed by yesterday’s action of solidarity, where many of the YOUNGOs and ENGOs stood in solidarity with the indigenous: “We are Saweto.”  A recent report argues that the Peruvian government is not doing enough to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples and forest. 

Observing the destruction of the rainforests is becoming very routine – NASA has several satellites which are continually observing our planet.  The organization Global ForestWatch is continually monitoring the forests around the world, and have increased resolution to five meters.  For the last year of data on Peru (2012), they show the largest number of hectares lost since 2001, with 246,130 hectares (608,200 acres) lost.   

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