The Rainbow Warrior is moored in the port city of Belem, here at the mouth of the Amazon river in Brazil. It’s a historic city, over 400 years old, which was established in colonial times and has become a thriving trade center ever since.
The name means Bethlehem in Portuguese and the cathedral, beautiful churches and bright blue buildings are a reflection of a devout and spiritual atmosphere. It’s still a market town as well, where the stalls creak under the weight of giant river fish, translucent shrimp and luscious exotic fruit.
As I write this I can see the line of supporters snaking back to the ice cream vendors and beyond, a great body of people in flip-flops and colorful vests waiting patiently to see Greenpeace’s most famous ship. We’re here for two days of open boats, where people can come visit the Rainbow Warrior and ask questions about Greenpeace.
Some people here find the word a little hard to say, as ‘peace’ is not easily pronounced by the Portuguese tongue. I was a little surprised to hear someone refer to the organization as “Greenpizza”, which sounded delicious. I’m sure my terrible Portuguese sounds pretty funny too.
These people are also a vital part of a campaign which we’re calling Zero Deforestation, or “Desmatamento Zero” (which is definitely a phrase I can’t say properly). That means banning the destruction of large swaths of forest for things like cattle and soya. There’s plenty of suitable land in Brazil but right now companies are trashing ancient forests and converting them to pasture - cutting corners as well as trees.
If enough Brazilians sign our petition then it becomes a bill that requires a formal vote in Congress. So far over 180,000 Brazilians have signed which is a great stride towards the magic figure of 1.4 million. You can help by using our Brazilian friend finder which will help you to, um, find your Brazilian friends and tell them about the campaign.
Events like this weekend in Belem are also a vital tool in reaching this goal, as hundreds of people visit the ship each day and spread word of the campaign to their friends and neighbours across Para.
It’s people power in a very real sense. As the Brazilian team here tells me, the Brazilian Congress is heavily biased towards the ruralistas – the agribusiness lobby – who want to weaken forest protection, even though the majority of Brazilians want to keep the Amazon intact. These people – along with Greenpeace – believe that Brazil’s greatest natural asset must be protected for the country to win long term prosperity and growth. And, although it wasn’t a particularly scientific poll, the people I spoke with here seemed to agree.