Some assume that the Amazon chainsaws have been quiet for the last few years.
In some ways it’s true: over the last ten years deforestation rates have been falling. Pressure from Greenpeace, our supporters and allies has helped broker deals which prevent companies from destroying the forest for leather, beef or soy.
However, the new protections have left agribusiness restless and now agribusiness has launched a new threat to one of Brazil’s most precious treasures-and one of the earth’s “lungs”- the Amazon.
Now, the Brazilian government is poised to decide the fate of the 80 year old ‘Forest Code,’ a crucial tool in protecting the Amazon over the years. Agribusiness and the Brazilian Rural Caucus see the Forest Code (and the rainforests for that matter) as an obstacle for more profits and they have poured millions into a Koch Brothers-style astroturf campaign to weaken the law and grant amnesty to plantations who have violated the law.
Today, (Tuesday, May 10,2011), the Brazilian House is scheduled to vote on the new changes.
A key destructive proposed change in the Forest Code is granting sweeping amnesty to farms and people that have violated the Forest Code. Just the buzz of amnesty over the last few months has spurred a new wave of illegal deforestation. Environmental criminals are so confident in amnesty being granted that they are turning on the chainsaws and clearing forests that are in their way.
It's understandable why these criminals believe amnesty is coming- at least 27 members of the Brazilian Congress have violated the forest code or own property cited for illegal deforestation. Now these members are writing new laws to clear their names.
Staggering amounts of forest are at stake- experts anticipate 850 Million Hectares- twice the size of California would fell under the new code. These forests would release over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide – 5 times the gargantuan annual rate of the U.S.’s emissions.
Brazil has shown itself to be an example of how rainforest nations are able to turn the tide on deforestation without sacrificing economic growth. Through conservation initiatives, sophisticated monitoring, and engaging the industries driving deforestation Brazil has helped to turn the tide. These proposed changes to the Forest Code would erase decades of progress.
A coalition of Brazilian environmentalists, small farm owners, indigenous groups, and social movements such as Via Campesina and the Landless Movement have joined together to resist these drastic changes -changes that benefit agribusiness at the expense of Brazilian forests, forest communities, endangered species and the world at large.
Here is a video of activists unfurling the banner and bringing attention to some of these perverse efforts.