Last chance for the Xingu River and its people? (video)

June 7th, 2011

Brazil recently announced it was going ahead with building the hugely controversial Belo Monte dam, although the construction is set to flood rainforest, change the character of the Xingu River, and displace at least 16,000 people, although transforming the lives of many tens-of-thousands more. Indigenous people along the Xingu have been fighting the dam for decades.

Mongabay.com has been following the Belo Monte dam closely:

Brazil’s shame

(06/03/2011) As an American I know a lot about shame — the U.S. government and American companies have wrought appalling amounts of damage the world over. But as an admirer of Brazil’s recent progress toward an economy that recognizes the contributions of culture and the environment, this week’s decision to move forward on the Belo Monte dam came as a shock. Belo Monte undermines Brazil’s standing as a global leader on the environment. Recent gains in demarcating indigenous lands, reducing deforestation, developing Earth monitoring technologies, and enforcing environmental laws look more tenuous with a project that runs over indigenous rights and the environment.

Amazon mega-dam gets final approval

(06/01/2011) Brazilian authorities gave final approval to the controversial Belo Monte dam, reports AFP.

Controversial Brazilian mega-dam receives investment of $1.4 billion

(05/02/2011) Brazil’s most controversial mega-dam, Belo Monte, which is moving full steam ahead against massive opposition, has received an extra infusion of cash from Vale, a Brazilian-run mining company.

Bill Clinton takes on Brazil’s megadams, James Cameron backs tribal groups

(03/28/2011) Former US President, Bill Clinton, spoke out against Brazil’s megadams at the 2nd World Sustainability Forum, which was also attended by former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and film director, James Cameron, who has been an outspoken critic of the most famous of the controversial dams, the Belo Monte on the Xingu River.

World’s most controversial dam, Brazil’s Belo Monte, back on

(03/06/2011) A recent injunction against controversial dam, Belo Monte, in Brazil has been overturned, allowing the first phase of construction to go ahead. The ruling by a higher court argued that not all environmental conditions must be met on the dam in order for construction to start.

Indigenous leaders take fight over Amazon dams to Europe

(03/02/2011) Three indigenous Amazonian leaders spent this week touring Europe to raise awareness about the threat that a number of proposed monster dams pose to their people and the Amazon forest. Culminating in a press conference and protests in London, the international trip hopes to build pressure to stop three current hydroelectric projects, one in Peru, including six dams, and two in Brazil, the Madeira basin industrial complex and the massive Belo Monte dam. The indigenous leaders made the trip with the NGO Rainforest Foundation UK, including support from Amazon Watch, International Rivers, and Rainforest Concern.

Judge suspends Brazil’s monster dam: contractor ‘imposing’ its interests

(02/27/2011) Construction on Brazil’s planned mega-dam, the Belo Monte, has been ordered suspended by a federal judge, citing unmet environmental and social conditions. Just last month, the hugely controversial dam, was handed a partial license from Brazil’s Environmental Agency (IBAMA). However, the judge, Ronaldo Destêrro, found that the partial license, the first of its kind in Brazil, was granted under pressure from the dam’s contractor, Norte Energia or NESA.

Activism: save Southeast Asia’s last major primary lowland rainforest

June 2nd, 2011

Note: as a news organization, mongabay.com does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue further.


Villagers from Prey Lang forest area rally in Cambodia’s capital against continuing destruction of their forest. Protestors dressed as ‘avatars’ to gain more attention to their plight. Photo courtesy of: Prey Lang Network.

Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest is one of Southeast Asia’s most important rainforests. Much of the forest has never been logged even though as as a lowland rainforest it should have been one of the first to see the axe. It sustains startling biodiversity including popular animals such as tigers and elephants, and provides vital resources to the surrounding communities. Yet, the Prey Lang forest remains unprotected and the forest is being handed over to corporations for clearcutting piece-by-piece. Locals are working to stop the destruction, but they face an uphill battle, including threats to arrest and intimidation for protesting. For Prey Lang to be protected, pressure may need to come from abroad as well as locally.

According to the petition: “Prey Lang is the last large primary forest of its kind on the Indochinese peninsula. Inclusive of seven distinct ecosystems including unique primordial forest, Prey Lang’s biodiversity is exceptionally high, including almost 40 endangered plant and animal species. As a primary watershed, regulating water and sediment flow to the Tonle Sap Basin, and as an important spawning area for fish, Prey Lang is vital for Cambodia’s long-term environmental sustainability and people’s food and water security. With among the highest carbon sequestration values in the region, it is a powerhouse for fighting global warming. About 200,000 people, mostly indigenous Kuy, live around the forest and our dependent on it for their livelihoods and culture.”

Prey Lang Forest petition: Help Save Cambodia’s Prey Lang Forest.

For more information on Prey Lang:

Photos: Cambodians rally as ‘Avatars’ to save one of the region’s last great rainforests

(05/31/2011) Two hundred Cambodians rallied in Phnom Penh last week to protest the widespread destruction of one of Southeast Asia’s last intact lowland rainforests, known as Prey Lang. In an effort to gain wider media attention, protestors donned dress and make-up inspired by the James Cameron film, Avatar, which depicts the destruction of a forest and its inhabitants on an alien world. The idea worked as the rally received international attention from Reuters, CNN (i-report), MSNBC, and NPR, among other media outlets.

Cambodians prevented from protesting destruction of their forest

(03/10/2011) Cambodian villagers fighting to save their forest from rubber companies have been rebuked by the local government. Two days in a row local authorities prevented some 400 Cambodian villagers from protesting at the offices of the Vietnam-based CRCK Company, which the villagers contend are destroying their livelihoods by bulldozing large swaths of primary forests. Authorities said they feared the villagers would have grown violent while protesting.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron visit indigenous community threatened by mega-dam (video)

April 26th, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron visit an Arara village on the Big Bend of the Xingu River, which is imperiled by Brazil’s mega-dam Belo Monte.

For more information on the Belo Monte:

Bill Clinton takes on Brazil’s megadams, James Cameron backs tribal groups

(03/28/2011) Former US President, Bill Clinton, spoke out against Brazil’s megadams at the 2nd World Sustainability Forum, which was also attended by former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and film director, James Cameron, who has been an outspoken critic of the most famous of the controversial dams, the Belo Monte on the Xingu River.

World’s most controversial dam, Brazil’s Belo Monte, back on

(03/06/2011) A recent injunction against controversial dam, Belo Monte, in Brazil has been overturned, allowing the first phase of construction to go ahead. The ruling by a higher court argued that not all environmental conditions must be met on the dam in order for construction to start.

Half a million people sign petition against Belo Monte, Brazilian mega-dam

(02/08/2011) In a protest today in Brasilia, Brazil, indigenous people delivered a petition to authorities signed by 500,000 people calling on them to cancel the controversial Belo Monte dam. They hope the petition, organized by online activist group Avaaz, will help convince Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, to cancel the project. However, actions by Brazil’s first female president have pushed the dam forward.

Celebrating ten years of the Great Bear Rainforest (video)

April 6th, 2011

Video by Greenpeace chronicling the fight to save the Great Bear Rainforest.

According to the description, the fight to save the Great Bear Rainforest should inspire work to save forests around the world: “The Great Bear Rainforest campaign demonstrates that out of conflict and peaceful resistance, it is possible to work towards solutions. It inspires our work in the Amazon, the Congo and Indonesia today.”

Trailer: When Two World’s Collide (video)

April 5th, 2011

When Two Worlds Collide (trailer) from Yachaywasi Films on Vimeo.

The film follows the struggle of indigenous people to save their Amazonian home from the Peruvian government and industrial corporations, especially focusing on the role of Alberto Pizango, hero and leader to indigenous people, who was arrested last year in Peru for sedition and rebellion.

According to the film’s website: “The hazardous journey of an Amazonian leader confronting rules of the globalization game created by developed countries in order to protect corporate interests. With the rainforest in jeopardy, this apocalyptic story presents two colliding visions that shape the climate future of our world.”

For more information see the film’s website: When Two World’s Collide

The film is currently listed as ‘in production’.

The importance of good tree-climbing skills (video)

April 2nd, 2011

Imagine for a moment that you live in a tropical rain forest and that calorie-rich palm tree fruits are an important part of your diet.

Cutting a palm down for its fruit would be pretty shortsighted, right? Still, you might do just that–if the fruit dangled 20 meters above the rain forest floor, you lacked climbing skills, and you were hungry.

But, if you had climbing skills–and gear when you needed it–and if everyone else was climbing to harvest fruits, that would be a different story. You could climb the palm, harvest only the fruit, and return someday. That’s the way it was for generations in South American rain forests.

Climbing to harvest fruit is a life-sustaining tradition now in steep decline throughout the greater Amazon Basin. At Caura Futures, we are helping to bring climbing back.

Text by Tarek Milleron

Photos: Loita-Purko Masaai in Kenya

February 16th, 2011

Photos from Loita-Purko Masaai communities in the Loita hills of Kenya. On the western edge of the Great Rift Valley, the Loita hills rise to approximately 2600 meters. Including rainforest and rich wildlife, the hills provide the Masaai people with medicinal plants, honey, fresh water, and grazing.  All photos by Rhett A. Butler.

Photos from Loita-Purko Masaai communities in the Loita hills of Kenya. On the western edge of the Great Rift Valley, the Loita hills rise to approximately 2600 meters. Including rainforest and rich wildlife, the hills provide the Masaai people with medicinal plants, honey, fresh water, and grazing. All photos by Rhett A. Butler.

To see more photos of the Loita hills.

Video: uncontacted tribe captured on film from the sky

February 15th, 2011


Filmed by the BBC in collaboration with Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department (FUNAI), new footage shows an uncontacted indigenous tribe from the air. Living on the border of Brazil and Peru the tribe is threatened by illegal Peruvian loggers.

To read more about the tribe: Incredible new photos of uncontacted tribe in the Amazon.

Cultural survival at stake for the rainforest Penan of Borneo

January 26th, 2011

Guest commentary by Pisang and Miriam Ross

The Penan tribe in Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo, are trying to stop logging and palm oil companies destroying their rainforest home. Survival International, the organisation supporting tribal peoples, is campaigning for the Penan’s rights to their land. Survival researcher Miriam Ross traveled to Sarawak to meet some of the tribe. In one nomadic Penan community, Pisang, a Penan hunter, told her his story.


Penan woman. © M. Ross/Survival

When the first logging company came here, the manager promised he would give us development projects and money, and said he would help us Penan. Before development, we wanted to make sure the company would reserve some forest for us. The developments that they promised could come later. Now the company has gone, taking all the forest on this side of the river.

When I heard you were coming, I came back from hunting. I hope you can help us protect the only forest we have left – the bit on the other side of the river. Another company is trying to log there now. The other side of that ridge has been cleared already. I want you to help us protect this part. It’s the only place left for us to hunt, to find animals and food. But there is only a little bit left. That’s why when we go hunting, like I did last night, we come back with nothing. I’m asking you to help us protect this bit of virgin forest, or we will have nothing to eat. Our voices are too small for the companies to hear.

I asked the company to stop, but the workers said, this is a government project. If you fight us, we will shoot you and kill you. We will not be responsible. They said, this is not your area. The government gave it to us. It belongs to us. Go somewhere else.

If people chased you away from your area, how would you feel? We have been here since the time of our great-great grandparents. This is our ancestral land.

The company manager said, ‘Let me build a road to this area, and cut down the trees. I’ll give you a water tank and 45,000 ringgits (£9,000).’ I said, ‘Save your 45,000. Even if you give me hundreds of thousands, I will not take it. I only want the forest and the land. I will fight to protect it. If you give us water tanks, money, and brick houses, that will only kill us. We will not survive on that. The only thing that is important for our survival is the forest.’

The manger said, ‘No matter how many of your people defend your land, we will still continue with the logging.’ And then he walked away and got into his car.

Now we the Penan are asking for help because the company and the government refuse to listen to what we say.

Since the logging companies entered our area, they have polluted our river. Because of that we are always sick. Before, we seldom got sick, we were healthy because the water was clean and clear. Now the river is full of unwanted timber that the loggers throw into the river.


Penan armed with blowpipes block road as Shin Yang logging trucks approach. © Survival

The ‘development’ that we want is for our virgin forest to remain, and not be destroyed. We can still hear many types of sounds from the forest – from the animals, from the birds and from the insects. We want to see the rattan [a plant used to make baskets], the herbs that we use for our medicine, and the sago tree growing naturally in the forest.

We want to keep the fruit trees that provide food for the animals like wild boar, deer and monkey. The trees give them food and also give us food. The noise of the bulldozers and the chainsaws, and the other machines that are used for logging, is the poison in our lives.

Our ancestors lived happily in the forest, and they want us to live happily as they did, with all the jungle produce and the wild animals so that we can eat well and live well. I also want the same thing for future generations of Penan.
…..

Contact Survival to find out more, make a donation or write a letter in support of the Penan.

Activism: CREDO joins the fight against the Belo Monte dam

December 1st, 2010

Note: mongabay.com does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue in comments.



Credo, the progressive for-profit cell phone company, has thrown its hat in the ring in the environmental activists’ battle against the Belo Monte dam, joining International Rivers, Amazon Watch, and James Cameron.

Credo now urges its activists to sign a petition, which states in part that the Belo Monte dam violates the human rights of indigenous tribes in the Amazon. According to Credo: “[The dam] would divert the flow of the Xingu River and flood over 100,000 acres of rainforest, displacing over 40,000 people and threatening the survival of indigenous communities.”


To read more about the Belo Monte dam:

Formal petition filed against Belo Monte dam

Off and on again: Belo Monte dam goes forward, protests planned