The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice: In Brazil, a showdown over rainforest deforestation & Greenpeace blocks Brazil port over Amazon law

In Brazil, a showdown over rainforest deforestation

Brazil’s president is scheduled to sign a reform package today that could retroactively legalize the deforestation of millions of acres in the Amazon.

Environmentalists protest against the adoption of the country’s new Forest Code, during the plenary vote of the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia April 25. The placards on the left and right read: ‘Forest Code, Veto Dilma,’ urging Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to veto the country’s new forestry code, which proposes to relax regulations in the Amazon rainforest and opening up parts of the rainforest to farming.

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

 BRASÍLIA

A throng of students, young professionals, and activists gathered on the lawn as dusk took over the towering parliament and Planalto, Brazil’s executive branch. They took their tambourines and whistles, promising to camp out until midnight and serenaded the president: “Oh Dilma! You can veto it! Brazil will support you!”

Theirs was the latest in a series of nationwide protests in recent months over a proposed reform of the 1965 “Forest Code” that will, as currently written, effectively legalize the deforestation of tens of millions of Amazon jungle after the fact and reduce requirements on landowners to reforest protected areas.

Later today, President Dilma Roussef is expected to sign part of the “amnesty” bill into law, though she’s signaled that some amendments will be made in response to environmental concerns. But whether they go far enough to mollify an angry movement of citizens and environmental activists remains to be seen.

Agricultural industry representatives say their business is economically vital and that Brazil still has massive tracts of preserved land. Brazil hosts about 40 percent of the world’s rainforests, and its Amazon region alone is larger than India.

But the movement to preserve the environmentally-friendly, though oft-flouted, 1965 code has galvanized citizens in a way observers say no sustainability cause has before – and Brazil’s hosting of the Rio+20 United Nations sustainability conference in June has only sharpened their criticisms.

“Without a doubt this is the largest mobilization for the environment you have seen in Brazil – and this in a country where the environment is so important,” says Pedro Abramovay, formerly the National Secretary for Drug Policy and now campaign director for the social media organization Avaaz. On Thursday, Avaaz gave Rousseff a petition with 2 million signatures calling for a veto of the new law.

Social media and activism

“We’ve always had big protests in Brazil, but it was always linked to political parties and unions. Social networking is making it so that you can join outside of these channels,” Mr. Abramovay says, citing the forest code debate along with last year’s nationwide anti-corruption protests.

Ms. Rousseff, who has ridden a wave of steady popularity since she took over from predecessor and mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last January, now faces one of the largest challenges of her government. On one side are first-of-its-kind protests from civil society and pop culture stars. #VetaTudoDilma (Veto it all, Dilma!) has been a trending topic for weeks on Twitter and creative banners have been plastered across Facebook, such as “Run, Forest run! Veto, Dilma, veto!”

Greenpeace blocks Brazil port over Amazon law

This file photo shows a burnt tree lying down on a road along the Amazon rainforest in northen Brazil, in 2008. Greenpeace on Saturday temporarily blocked a freighter from being loaded at a northern Brazilian port in protest over a partial presidential veto of a land-use bill seen as harming the Amazon.

AFP – Greenpeace temporarily blocked a freighter from being loaded at a northern Brazilian port in protest over a partial presidential veto of a land-use bill seen as harming the Amazon.

The environmental group said on its website on Saturday that activists ferried by its Rainbow Warrior vessel occupied a giant pile of pig iron on the dock while another team scaled two cranes to stop them from loading the raw material of iron and steel onto the US-bound Clipper Hope.

The activists then unfurled banners proclaiming “Amazon Crime” and “Dilma’s dirty secret,” in protest at President Dilma Rousseff’s partial veto Friday of 12 controversial articles of the new code regulating the use of land on rural properties.

“The Amazon turns to Charcoal, Brazil Stop the Chainsaw,” said a huge banner tied to a crane by the activists.

Pig iron requires large amounts of charcoal to be produced and this often comes from rainforest trees logged from indigenous lands.

But they suspended the protest eight hours later after the deputy governor of Maranhao state, Washington Luiz de Oliveira, intervened and promised to facilitate talks with the pig iron industry.

A meeting was set for Monday between Greenpeace and industry representatives, Maranhao state officials, the national Bar Association and cargo shipment owner Viena.

The modified forestry policy bill, which is pending ratification from Congress, maintains a requirement to protect 80 percent of the forest in rural areas of the Amazon and 35 percent of the sertao, or arid hinterland of northeastern Brazil.

But it eases restrictions for small landowners who face difficulties in recovering illegally cleared land.

The reform of the 1965 forestry law approved by Congress a month ago had been seen as a victory for a powerful agri-business lobby after years of feuding with environmentalists alarmed at the risk of further deforestation in the Amazon.

Environmentalists who had pushed for a full veto have slammed Rousseff’s move.

Greenpeace has linked the pig iron industry to slave labor and forest destruction in the Amazon.

“In the wake of Dilma’s failure we are taking action and demanding action from the Brazilian government,” Greenpeace said.

It called on Rousseff to “redeem herself by supporting the 80 percent of Brazilians who opposed the changes in the Forest Code.”

Source: AFP

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 

Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

Selvavidasinfronteras.wordpress.com

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 29 May, 2012.

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