Zero Deforestation Project Bill Delivery in Brazil. 7 Oct, 2015 © Adriano Machado / Greenpeace

It was an historic moment. After three years of campaigning, a coalition of activists, celebrities and civil society representatives crowded into the Brazilian Congress last week. They were there to submit a bill calling for an end to deforestation – for good.

More than 70 coalition members poured into Congress. Behind them, a mural made up of thousands of photographs of people who were part of the campaign declared “Zero Deforestation Now!” But this group was just a tiny fraction of those behind the bill.

The coalition was there to represent the 1.4 million Brazilians who co-signed in support of Zero Deforestation.

Submitting this legislation to Brazilian Congress marks an important step towards attaining zero deforestation in Brazil. But why is such a mass movement needed?

Zero Deforestation Project Bill Delivery in Brazil. 7 Oct, 2015 © Adriano Machado / Greenpeace

Why we need Zero Deforestation

Even though the Amazon is home to more than 24 million people, including many Indigenous Peoples, it is still being deforested at a rapid rate. Right now, 700,000 football fields-worth of forest trees are cut down every year.

And the effects of deforestation stretch beyond the boundaries of the Amazon. Deforestation can even change rain patterns.

The destruction and degradation of the forest, hand in hand with climate change, could also lead to prolonged droughts. In fact, if deforestation continues at its current pace, agricultural production in Brazil could suffer losses of up to R $7.4 billion (€1.7 billion) by 2020. Rainfall shortages could also affect the supply of water to cities.

There is no need to rip apart this critical ecosystem. Brazil has enough square footage to double agricultural production without cutting down any more trees. And it’s clear the costs are high to farmers and urbanites alike. Still, deforestation continues.

Deforestation in Mato Grosso. A deforested area and planted area. 18 Oct, 2014 © Paulo Pereira / Greenpeace

The future of the Amazon

Despite all the evidence showing the dangers of clearing the Amazon, deforestation is still allowed by law.

But there is hope. This bill symbolises the start of a crucial discussion for Brazil, a unified front from all sectors of society, and an agreement to stop viewing the forest as an obstacle to development but rather as essential for the future the planet, the country and the climate.

Join the 1.4 million Brazilians who co-signed this landmark bill, and support an end to deforestation in the Amazon.

Trees and other foliage seen here are part of the diverse wildlife growing inside Cristalino State Park. 2 Oct, 2007 © Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá

Maïa Booker is a Multimedia Editor for the Americas at Greenpeace.