International logging companies are plundering the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and causing social chaos for many of the 40 million-odd people who depend on the rainforests for their livelihoods but whose voices are ignored.
While the logging companies trade (often illegally logged) timber, avoid taxes, bribe officials and cheat local people out of invaluable forest resources in exchange for a few bags of salt, the forests themselves – and the many endangered species that live in them – are in jeopardy.
In June, French actress Marion Cotillard took an amazing journey through these threatened rainforests and met the protagonists of this unhappy story. Travelling by pirogue (a small wooden boat), she witnessed the destruction caused by logging first hand.
"I've seen how large-scale timber operations are threatening [some of] the planet’s last intact forests," said Marion. "They’re being eaten away from the inside. This extraordinary ecosystem that supports the lives of tens of millions of people and is the planet’s second largest green lung is in danger.”
"At each meeting, during each discussion with the people living there, I could see the looting that’s unfolding in these remote lands: the industrial loggers arrive, hand out a few ‘crumbs’ and then cut down the most valuable wood. This wood is often exported to the European market where it’s sold at exorbitant prices - while in the Congolese forests, workers risk their lives and are often paid less than a dollar a day."
A video travelogue
We filmed Marion’s journey and, over the next few weeks, you will be able to travel with her through some of the planet’s last intact forests. Four episodes of the film are already available - with three more episodes to be released over the coming weeks. They will be available exclusively online - follow Greenpeace on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube to be alerted of the next episode's release. Especially stay tuned for the next episode of Marion's travelogue - where she first hears about the social conflict caused by industrial logging companies like Sodefor.
Episode 1: Arriving in Oshwe
Episode 2: A powerless administration
Episode 3: Abandoned wood
Episode 4: An ancient tree
At the end of her journey, Marion concludes:
"The only viable solution would be for rich countries to financially help the Congolese to protect their forests. It’s in the interests of all of humanity to preserve this treasure: to save what’s left of biodiversity, to fight against climate change, and to ensure the Democratic Republic of Congo sees genuine development.”
An international forest protection fund
A logger's children stand in front of afrormosia logs
Approximately 40 million people in the DRC depend on the rainforest for their basic needs, such as medicine, food or shelter.
The Congo Basin forest is the second largest rainforest on Earth and it plays a vital role in controlling climate change. The DRC has the fourth largest national store of forest carbon in the world - its forests store as much as 8% of the Earth's carbon contained in living forests. Unless plans to expand industrial logging are scrapped, these forests are in danger.
The DRC is at risk of losing over 40% of its forests by 2050.
Greenpeace is calling for a halt to the expansion of industrial logging in the DRC, especially in intact forests. The 2002 moratorium on allocation or extension of industrial logging permits must be maintained and enforced.
It is urgent that donors and the DRC Government shifts its support away from destructive logging and towards plans that will increase intact forests and climate protection as well as environmentally responsible and socially equitable development.
Greenpeace supports an international forest protection fund that will allow rainforests countries to keep their forests alive, protect livelihoods and biodiversity, and help to save the climate. We’re campaigning for zero deforestation in the world's intact tropical forests by 2020 - and an end to all deforestation, everywhere, by 2020.
Marion will be featured on the cover of Interview magazine in August - inside she talks of her recent trip to the Congo rainforest with Greenpece and of her interest in the environment:
"The first days of my trip the problem seemed really dark. But when I started talking to people, I realized that there was some hope—they want to get their power back. That made me feel like there was hope to make things right. Hopefully I, along with the people at Greenpeace, can be a witness to what is happening over there."
(Read an excerpt of Marion's interview here.)
*Update July 30, 2010:
In Episodes 5 & 6 of her travelogue Marion speaks with local people about the relationship between them and industrial logging companies - who may compensate villagers with things like salt, soap and beer in exchange for years of logging.
Evidence shows that any expansion of the Congo’s logging industry will only exacerbate both social conflict and environmental destruction. Yet, despite this the government seems set on increasing logging in the near future. A recent Greenpeace report 'Forest reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo' outlines the need for sustainable development that is environmentally responsible and socially equitable in the DRC. Industrial logging is not the answer.
Episode 5: Some salt and some soap
Episode 6: Hostages of poverty