This article originally appeared on Greenpeace Brazil’s website.
On June 3rd, a boat chartered by Greenpeace Brazil left the city of Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, to venture deep into the rainforest. After years of preparation, our expedition for The Amazon We Need was finally becoming a reality. For the next month, this boat would serve as a base for scientists to study Amazonian biodiversity, providing an opportunity to do research in a region that has hardly yet been studied. The expedition would bring top scientists closer to the communities of the Manicoré River in order to support these communities’ longstanding struggle for the protection of their lands and their ways of life.
The expedition had barely begun when Brazilian Indigenist Bruno Araújo Pereira and Guardian journalist Dom Phillips disappeared in the Javari Valley, more than 1000 kilometers to the west of our team’s destination. We designed this project in direct opposition to the crimes that threaten all those who work to defend the forest and its peoples. This expedition aims to promote a vision of a biodiverse Amazon where the rights of Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities are guaranteed. This expedition is meant to show a positive vision of the Amazon that is the exact opposite of the lawless land that the Brazilian government has fostered and forced upon us.
Since the deaths of Dom and Bruno were confirmed, we, between sadness and indignation, also asked ourselves: where do we go from here? How do we talk about “another possible Amazon when such a question can provoke such contempt on the part of the authorities? These same authorities hold contempt for Indigenous Peoples, and do nothing while Indigenous Peoples face systemic violence and threats. These authorities hold contempt for traditional communities who suffer daily from intimidation efforts. These authorities hold contempt for science and innovation as well, even as funding for research dwindles.
We chose to continue in our mission in order to honor the legacies of Bruno, Dom and so many who were killed before them. Let’s talk about the Amazon that we need — as an act of resistance, Let’s talk about the fight for land rights. Let’s talk about traditional cultures that respect the forest, biodiversity, science and everything that is necessary to move forward.
As I have been writing this note, I learned that the group of Ornithologists with us on the expedition had documented a recently identified species of bird known as “Chico’s tyrannulet” (Zimmerius chicomendesi) that was named in honor of the groundbreaking activist Chico Mendes from Acre State. The researchers found this little bird far north of where it had previously been recorded, making this a novel finding that deepened our knowledge of the species and its habitat. They also showed me the etymological explanation of the species name. This explanation ends with the following passage:
If Mendes were alive today, we cannot help but imagine that Brazil would be far ahead of where it is in the development of a truly sustainable Amazonia in reasonable harmony with both Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people. In bringing this obscure little bird to the light of science, we call up the spirit of Chico Mendes to help us all get it right.
We will fight for justice — for Dom, for Bruno and for all those whose lives have been taken by the violent acts or by abandonment of a government that is increasingly friendly towards crime. We will fight alongside the people of Rio Manicoré. We will fight for this forest and for all the species we know — and all those we don’t know yet either. We will keep fighting because what is at stake is the future of all of us, and we cannot stop. We need to get it right.
I invite you to come along and express your support for this cause — each voice adds and amplifies.
You will be able to follow the expedition on Greenpeace channels.
A warm embrace and a thanks!
Carol Pasquali is the Executive Director of Greenpeace Brazil