How indigenous peoples of the Amazon are resisting the destruction of their rainforest

The Amazon rainforest continues to be destroyed. Notably in Brazil in particular, deforestation is taking on unimaginable proportions. In 2019, at least 7900 square kilometers were destroyed due to the spread of agriculture. The destruction is having a negative impact not only on the global climate and environment but also specifically on the indigenous people who call the rainforest their home. They are now organizing to stand firmly in the way of the deforestation of the rainforest.

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Expanding deforestation in the Amazon

The rainforests of the Amazon are being further deforested in order to make economic use of large areas. For this reason mining will continue to expand and large fields for soy and sugar cane will be cultivated. Soy is used as animal feed in many countries. Therefore meat consumption continues to grow globally as larger areas are needed to meet demand. Sugarcane is mainly used for the production of agrofuel which is currently gaining popularity and establishing itself as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Rainforests have to make way for the production of these renewable raw materials. For instance the expansion of deforestation is evident in Brazil where the government under President Bolsonaro is championing the interests of the ruralistas. Concerningly, they want to use the rainforest economically to boost Brazil’s economic growth. Bolsonaro promises progress which, however, results in the loss of the rainforest. The workers, on the other hand, who earn their living in the Amazon are pleased with the policies of the new president whose votes were instrumental in bringing them to power.

Moreover to state-sponsored deforestation, there is also illegal deforestation that threatens the rainforest. Many areas are illegally cleared in order to make large sums of money from the precious wood. In most cases, the loggers get away unscathed due to a lack of control and can sell the wood expensively abroad.

Global and local consequences of deforestation

The clearing of rainforests is a major contributor to climate change. Soil and trees bind carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released once again when the land is used for agriculture. As a result the CO2 emissions released increase the greenhouse effect and consequently promote global climate change. 

In addition, the consequences of deforestation are also felt very tangibly in Brazil. For example, residents of the Brazilian state of Rondônia where 43 percent of the rainforest has been cleared report that the climate has become drier and hotter. Subsequently, it increasingly rains less and less. Sadly, the majority of the population living here supports President Bolsonaro who just came to power in 2019. Economic progress and a good income are usually more important than environmental protection for the people living in these areas.

Indigenous people of the Amazon resist the deforestation of the rainforest

Impact of deforestation on indigenous peoples

Meanwhile deforestation also threatens the indigenous people who live in the rainforest. Often, national policies are made without taking into account the concerns of the indigenous population since they are in the minority. Thus, forests are cut down and the population is deprived of its habitat. The local tribes who mostly live in isolation are expelled and dispossessed. Since there are hardly any controls and critical observers in the vastness of the forests, the crimes against the indigenous peoples rarely come to public attention. Due to the large area, the region is indeed very difficult to monitor. Hence, reports of indigenous tribes being massacred make it into our news only every now and then.

The indigenous inhabitants often stand in the way of the interests of agribusiness or even those of gold miners and drug exporters. In order to counter this problem, more money should be invested in the protection of this minority. In addition, the protection zones for indigenous peoples would have to be expanded to include more indigenous tribes.

An example from Ecuador: how the indigenous population resists forest clearing 

Above all in Ecuador, even larger parts of the Amazon are being cleared. An incredible 70 percent of Ecuador’s rainforest has been leased to oil companies. Most concerningly, there are even plans to auction off more land. However the indigenous population living there has decided to take action against these plans. To do this, the indigenous people are making use of modern technology and mapping their territory. This allows them to document the destruction and their claim to the land. Furthermore, they want to record diversity in the region and the knowledge of their tribes for future generations. GPS, camera traps, and drones were used to document an area of 180,000 hectares. In this way, they make their lives and the richness of the rainforest visible to the rest of the Ecuadorian population. The urban population is often unaware of the extent of deforestation and its long-term damage.

Indigenous people of the Amazon resist the deforestation of the rainforest

In a nutshell

Forest clearing in the Amazon continues to increase, negatively impacting the global climate and the indigenous people living there. The deforestations are driven by the hunger for economic progress. As a result, forests have to give way to plantations and mines. In other words, the indigenous population of the Amazon is suffering from this development and losing ever larger parts of their habitat. Several fronts are now fighting back against this development and documenting the destruction. Through the increased attention, one can hope that the governments of the countries bordering the Amazon will become aware that an intact rainforest is much more valuable than quickly earned money – money which is made by polluting our planet and the local environment. Deforestation must stop now!