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The legacy of Chico Mendes. For the defense of the Amazon

January 9, 2023

The Amazon, a noble cause that engages us all.

Rafael Cartay

To Pat Smith, for his empathy with the preservation of the Amazon.

Human beings are essentially social beings. Without the other, without the help of the other, it is very difficult to develop a successful work and have great achievements. This is the case in the Amazon basin. Mistreated, devastated, deforested at an increasing rate, despite the great importance of the Amazon for the survival of the planet. Not only is the contribution of the large mass of forests valuable for capturing carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases responsible for the accelerated degradation of the biosphere, with major repercussions on climate change on Earth. It is not only necessary for its availability of water, but also for the contribution of the forest and soil to preserve the rich flora Y fauna of the AmazonThe aim is not only to protect it from the extinction of its species, but also to become militantly aware of its role as a protective barrier to defend its invaluable biodiversity, which is one of the clearest expressions of the marvelous life on the planet. Not only because of the need to preserve the scarcity of fresh water on the planet, thanks to the existence of an extensive hydrographic network that constitutes the basin with its innumerable watercourses, among which the longest and most abundant river on Earth, the Amazon, stands out, and secondarily, as a tributary, another fabulous river, the Amazon. Orinoco, which make the vast region a factor of great importance in guaranteeing the availability of fresh water, which is, moreover, only a very small part of the planet’s water, a resource without which life is not possible. But we also need the empathy of all those who are hurt by the progressive and systematic destruction of this natural wonder that is the Amazon basin, on whose safeguarding depends, to a great extent, the life of all of us. But nothing can be firmly achieved without a multinational agreement among the eight countries that make up the vast Amazon Basin to establish a joint strategy for the sustainable development of the Amazon. Nothing can be achieved if each one of us does not raise our voice in solidarity in defense of the Amazon, and of sustainable development, not only of the forest, but also of the people who inhabit it.

norwegian amazon defense
Source: Norad – Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. Some rights reserved. Photo: Ministry of Environment, Ecuador
Norway, Germany and Ecuador sign a $50 million partnership to protect 13.6 million hectares of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests. Date: June 9, 2014.

May I tell you a little story?

It is a story that refers to many of those characters, almost invisible, who fight heroically to protect the Amazon from the abuses of the criminals who destroy it, even at the risk of their own physical integrity. The pursuit of economic profitability at all costs and the excessive ambition of a few companies and criminal groups to get rich has led to the murder of many environmental leaders who defend nature. Not only now, but also in the past, when powerful rubber barons murdered and promoted the displacement of many indigenous communities from their territories of origin.

One of those fighters was Chico Mendes (1944)a young man born in the state of Arce, who came from the poor families of seringueiros, who are the collectors of rubber in the jungleIn 1976, this young man led the first peaceful demonstrations against social exploitation and deforestation by landowners. Those were the tragic times of a cruel military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985. In 1985 he led a peaceful national march to Brasilia calling for an end to deforestation, better living conditions for the seringueiros and a fair agrarian reform for indigenous communities. In 1987 Chico Mendes received the UN Global 500 Award. On December 22, 1988, Chico Mendes was viciously murdered in his own home, when he was 44 years old.

chico mendes route
Source: Midia Ninja Brigada Amazonas – Ruta Chico Mendes – 15 to 20/09/2019 – Acre. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

After Chico Mendes, many environmentalists have been assassinated in Brazil, in the Amazon countries, and in all parts of the world that hold rich environmental treasures. For all of them, in their memory, we must raise our voice in solidarity with life.

Linked to Chico’s heroic story is that of Marina Silva (1958), daughter of poor seringueiros and also born in Arce, a poor and lost state in Amazonian Brazil. Marina learned to read at the age of 16, and has achieved several academic degrees with admirable dedication. Both Chico and Marina joined forces in the protests of the 1980s, and in 1984 founded the Central Única de Trabajadores (CUT), which has played an active role in defense of the Amazon. Marina inherited Chico’s flag, and has raised it every time she has been close to power, not for her own benefit, but in defense of the noble cause of the Amazon. She has been Brazil’s environment minister during the first presidencies of Lula da Silva, and separated from him and the Workers’ Party (PT) when she observed that Lula was giving in to the dark interests of the profiteers and destroyers of the Amazon. Now they have reconciled. Lula has just promised the reconstruction of Brazil and the defense of the Amazon, after the disastrous policies of Jair Bolsonaro. Appointed Marina as the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Now it is up to us to continue to empathetically support the defenders of the environment and the Amazon. Empathy comes from the Greek word empatheía, which means “moved” in Greek. Therefore, we invite you to remain enthusiastically committed to the fate of the other or the other being. To be attentive to their fate, to support them to the best of our abilities, to raise our voice in protest, and to make our contribution, no matter how small it may be, or how small it may seem to us. However, this support is valuable and necessary to ensure that the Amazon does not remain an orphan cause without mourners, as it has been for a long time, not only in Brazil, but in each of the countries that make up the vast Amazon Basin, and where criminal interests have multiplied in the shadow of corrupt governments.


This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)