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“What happens to Brazil, home of the planet’s great green lungs, matters on a global scale.”
-Marina Silva 

Here's how Brazil's new presidential candidate could help save the planet

Marina Silva has a chance at becoming the first environmentalist to lead a major world economy. Here is what that might look like.

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David Fleischer
Eduardo Campos


A blaze in March 2013 in Rio Grande do Sul state, southern Brazil. (Lauro Alves/AFP/Getty Images)

LIMA, Peru — When Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos’ plane went down near Sao Paulo this month, one of the most improbable consequences may have been to thrust the Amazon center stage in the race.

Yet that’s what is happening now that Campos’ running mate, environmentalist Marina Silva, has taken his place on the ballot for the October vote.

Silva, who learned to read and write only at age 16 after growing up in poverty on a remote jungle plantation, has a certain appeal with disgruntled voters. She even won praise from Greenpeace during her five years as environment minister.

Now a poll predicts 56-year-old Silva will squeeze into the second round of voting and narrowly beat President Dilma Rousseff. It is the first time that Rousseff, 66, has been behind in the polls.

“What happens to Brazil, home of the planet’s great green lungs, matters on a global scale.”

This could make Silva the first environmentalist to lead a major world economy. And what happens to the environment in Brazil, home to the planet’s great green lungs, matters on a global scale.

More from GlobalPost: Calamity Calling: What if we lost the Amazon?

It would also make her the first Afro-Brazilian president, in a country with a huge black population.


(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)


Full story at GlobalPost.com
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Brazil's "Dalai Lama of the Rainforest" Faces Death Threats

Monday, 18 August 2014 11:19By Fabiola OrtizInter Press Service | Report

Rio De Janeiro - Davi Kopenawa, the leader of the Yanomami people in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, who is internationally renowned for his struggle against encroachment on indigenous land by landowners and illegal miners, is now fighting a new battle – this time against death threats received by him and his family.

“In May, they [miners] told me that he wouldn’t make it to the end of the year alive,” Armindo Góes, 39, one of Kopenawa’s fellow indigenous activists in the fight for the rights of the Yanomami people, told IPS.

Kopenawa, 60, is Brazil’s most highly respected indigenous leader. The Yanomami shaman and spokesman is known around the world as the “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” and has frequently participated in United Nations meetings and other international events.


Read More at Truth-Out.org

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More uncontacted Indians emerge in Brazil – fleeing attacks in Peru 14 August 2014

Several weeks after seven uncontacted Indians emerged near the Brazil-Peru border, more uncontacted Indians have made first contact with Brazilian government agents, reportedly fleeing attacks in Peru.
Several weeks after seven uncontacted Indians emerged near the Brazil-Peru border, more uncontacted Indians have made first contact with Brazilian government agents, reportedly fleeing attacks in Peru.
© FUNAI

Peru criticized for failing its most vulnerable citizens

A second wave of highly vulnerable uncontacted Indians has made contact with outsiders in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, just weeks after Brazilian experts warned of “genocide” and “extermination” of the tribe. The group of around two dozen Indians is believed to include men, women and children who reported fleeing attacks by invaders in Peru. 
Read more and see fantastic video footage at Survivalinternational.org

Act now to help the Uncontacted Indians of Brazil

Your support is vital if the Uncontacted Indians of Brazil are to survive. There are many ways you can help.

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EDITORIAL: It’s a jungle (aka rain forest) out there

The key to preserving them is taking it away from the government

 - - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Environmentalists have sounded the alarm, warning that the rain forests will soon disappear. These unique ecosystems, which include half of the plant and animal species found on Earth, are on the verge of extinction, they say.

Fortunately, deforestation rates in many of the world’s rain forests are dropping dramatically. It’s not government ownership of the jungle keeping more trees standing but increased private-property rights.


Read more at the Washington Times

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Biggest fish in Amazon is on the brink of extinction



Unique giant fish that can breathe out of water faces extinction risk in the Amazon River basin. The arapaima can grow 10 feet long, weigh 400 pounds.
(Photo : Sergio Ricardo de Oliveira/Virginia Tech)



 




Read full article at TechTimes

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Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert


The Amazon rainforest is becoming increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic forest fires due to a combination of droughts, climate change and human activities such as deforestation, farming and habitat fragmentation, a major study has concluded. Read more HERE. 

Ref:  http://selvavidasinfronteras.wordpress.com/
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New Website Tracks Deforestation in Near Real-Time

Image: File photo of an aerial view of a tract of Amazon rainforest which has been cleared near SantaremNACHO DOCE / REUTERS FILE
An aerial view shows a tract of Amazon rainforest which has been cleared by loggers and farmers for agriculture near the city of Santarem, Para state in this April 2013.

Forests around the world are disappearing at an astonishing rate. But now, these trees won't fall without a sound.

A new map and website called Global Forest Watch provides the first near-real-time look at the planet's forests, using a combination of satellite data and user-generated reports. The website's developers hope that Global Forest Watch will help local governments and companies combat deforestation and save protected areas.

"More than half a billion people depend on [forests] for their jobs, their food, their clean water," said Andrew Steer, the CEO of the World Resources Institute (WRI), which launched the website today (Feb. 20). "More than half of all terrestrial biodiversity lives in forests."

But humans are failing to preserve these crucial ecosystems, Steer told reporters before the launch. The equivalent of 50 soccer fields each minute have fallen every day of the past 13 years. [See Images of the New Deforestation Map]

WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE
Global Forest Watch, launched Feb. 20, 2014, provides a near real-time update of forest loss around the globe. Read the full article at NBC News Here

Guarani leader and film-star murdered 3 December 2013

In 2008 Ambrósio attended the premiere of 'Birdwatchers' at the Venice Film Festival.
In 2008 Ambrósio attended the premiere of 'Birdwatchers' at the Venice Film Festival.
© Survival

Guarani Indian leader and film-star Ambrósio Vilhalva was murdered on Sunday night, after decades of campaigning for his tribe’s right to live on their ancestral land.

Ambrósio was reportedly stabbed at the entrance to his community, known as Guyra Roká, in Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state. He was found dead in his hut, with multiple knife wounds. He had been repeatedly threatened in recent months.

Ambrósio starred as the main character in the award-winning feature film Birdwatchers, which portrays the Guarani’s desperate struggle for their land. He traveled internationally to speak out about the tribe’s plight, and to push the Brazilian government into protecting Guarani land, as it is legally obliged to do.

Read more at Survivalinternational.org

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Brazil President Dilma Rouseff Must Take a Stand to Save Amazon Rainforest

With deforestation unstoppable, now is the time for the Brazilian leader to decide where she stands

By  : Subscribe to Richard's  | November 22, 2013 2:51 PM GMT

Deforestation
Rainforest deforestation is rising again

The Amazon, like the Arctic, is one of those special places. Yet when I was growing up, the story of the Amazon was always one of unspeakable loss, of the felling of ancient mahogany trees and the industrial destruction of forest. This was no accident: for decades, the Brazilian government had encouraged people to settle in the region, converting the rainforest to vast farms and cattle ranches. Those who ventured north were pioneers, bringing light to the darkness and the Amazon to heel.

Read More at ibtimes.co.uk


How Fast Is The Rainforest Disappearing? Brazil Confirms 28 Percent Increase In Amazon Deforestation Rate

By Amanda Schiavo, Nov 15, 2013 11:52 AM EST

Brazil Deforestation

(PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters/Ricardo Moraes) Furnaces used to make charcoal from wood discarded by the illegal logging and lumber industries are seen from a police helicopter during the "Hileia Patria" operation against sawmills and loggers who trade in illegally-extracted wood from the Alto Guama River indigenous reserve in Nova Esperanca do Piria, Para State, Sept. 29, 2013. The Amazon rainforest is being eaten away at by deforestation, much of which takes place as areas are burnt by large fires to clear land for agriculture. Initial data from Brazil's space agency suggests that destruction of the vast rainforest -- the largest in the world -- spiked by more than a third over the past year, wiping out an area more than twice the size of the city of Los Angeles. If the figures are borne out by follow-up data, they would confirm fears of scientists and environmental activists who warn that farming, mining and Amazon infrastructure projects, coupled with changes to Brazil's long-standing environmental policies, are reversing progress made against deforestation. Environmental issues will be under the spotlight as a United Nations Climate Change Conference opens in Warsaw, Poland on Nov.r 11. Picture taken on Sept. 29, 2013.






Following years of decline the Brazilian government has announced the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased 28 percent between August 2012 and July 2013. Brazil's Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira announced that the government is looking to reverse what she called the "crime" of deforestation. Environmental activists are blaming the rise in deforestation on a controversial reformation made to Brazil's forest protection law. According to the BBC, the statistics show that the area suffering from the most deforestation was 2,225 square miles in August 2012 compare with the 1,765 square miles it currently spans.

The Amazon rainforest is able to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide which makes it a useful tool in the fight against global warming. Last year it was reported that the Amazon was in the midst of its lowest deforestation year since monitoring of the decline began. The decline in deforestation began in 2009 and has been steady until last August. Blame for the rise in deforestation can be placed on the vast farming and soybean production coming out of the northern state of Para and the western state of Mato Grosso.

Teixeira also blamed the rise on what she called ineffective monitoring of the Amazon by federal authorities. Teixeira will be meeting with senior environmental officials in the Amazon region to try to determine what needs to be done in order to preserve the shrinking forest. "The Brazilian government does not tolerate and does not accept any rise in illegal deforestation," Teixeira said. The minister was sure to show her insistence that the Brazilian government is committed to reducing deforestation. "Our commitment is to overturn any increase in in deforestation; our goal is to eliminate deforestation."

Ref: Latin Times

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Rainforest treasures – aҫaí berries and caja fruit

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Mississauga News

Preserving rainforests continues to grow in importance every day! Not only for the sake of our climate and the environment as a whole, but also because of the many discoveries coming to light as we learn more about the gifts these ecosystems contain.

The South American rainforest is home to edible treasures that are turning out to be nutritional “super foods”! Two such foods are the aҫaí berry and caja fruit.

Aҫaí berries are the fruit of Aҫaí palm trees (Euterpe oleracea). While indigenous tribes in the Amazon Rainforest flood plains have been aware of the fruit for thousands of years, they only became known to the Western world in the late Twentieth Century. Gathered from the top of the trees, these dark reddish-purple berries about the size of a grape contain a large seed, but the pulp of the aҫaí berry contains most of its nutrients. Containing high levels of antioxidant properties and omega fatty acids, including these berries in your diet can be a healthy menu choice.  

When eaten raw, the aҫaí berry has been described as having an aftertaste that is comparable to unsweetened dark chocolate. When blended with naturally sweet fruit like pomegranates, oranges, strawberries or bananas, and combined with fresh and frozen yogurt, the result is a delicious and healthy taste experience.

Caja fruit, an orange fruit similar in size and shape to a small mango, can also be found in South American rainforests. Packed with iron, phosphorous, and Vitamin C, South Americans have long used this fruit to boost immune systems, especially when warding off common colds.

A wonderful addition to drinks and foods, caja fruit is low in fat and cholesterol free. As an added bonus, the flavourful pulp of fruit provides a naturally sweet alternative to honey or sugar.

Stop in to your local Booster Juice on Dundas Street East in Mississauga or any of the seven locations in Mississauga to enjoy low-fat superfood smoothies, shakers or yogurts packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Join Booster Nation to receive up-to-date news and to enjoy a free smoothie on your birthday!

REF:  http://www.mississauga.com/shopping-story/4046041-rainforest-treasures-a-a-berries-and-caja-fruit/

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Video of Amazon gold mining devastation goes viral in Peru

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com 
September 26, 2013


 Video of illegal gold mining operations that have turned a portion of the Amazon rainforest into a moonscape went viral on Youtube after a popular radio and TV journalist in Peru highlighted the story. 

Last week Peruvian journalist and politician Güido Lombardi directed his audience to video shot from a wingcam aboard the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), an airplane used by researchers to conduct advanced monitoring and analysis of Peru's forests. The video quickly received more than 60,000 views on Youtube. 

The attention generated by the broadcast is significant because the issue of gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon isn't well known, despite its widening impact. 
Read more 
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Brazil protects Amazon area as big as Lebanon

The Associated Press

 — The Brazilian government has designated nearly 10,000 square kilometers (3,860 square miles) of land in the Amazon rainforest as a protected area.


That's an area slightly smaller than the nation of Lebanon, and the Brazilian environment ministry said Monday that expanse is now under its protection in a bid to halt deforestation in the area.

The ministry says it will allow sustainable development in the area, as it does in many other parts of the Amazon.

That means letting mostly subsistence farmers use the forest in ways that won't destroy it. Among those are managed forestry for selling timber and modern farming techniques that increase production using less land, ending the need to clear more forest for fields.


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/09/09/4469896/brazil-protects-amazon-area-as.html#storylink=cpy

Ecuador dumps the Amazon's most biodiverse reserve

By  Dave Armstrong - 17 Aug 2013 11:22:0 GMT

Phyllomedusa camba, the monkey tree frog, is so far unaffected by loss of habitat, but with chytrid fungus threatening, who knows how long even the common species will last, when industry takes over their environment; Monkey tree frog image Credit: Shutterstock

Rafael Correa is the Ecuadorean president. It was his political decision on Thursday to suddenly dismantle the flagship ITT Initiative whereby 200,000 hectares of the Amazon rainforest of the Yasuni is kept pristine and governments can pay in donations as part of their carbon mitigation measures. In 2007, this was a magnificent gesture of reducing the environmental maintenance costs of a relatively poor country. The Yasuni Reserve is said to have the world's most renowned biodiversity. The President's plan hoped to raise $3.6bn because of this, but only $116 million was pledged and a mere $13 million actually paid out.

Apart from paying for industrial carbon emissions by other countries, the fact that oil wold remain in the ground is important. If taken, the equivalent of 410 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide would be emitted from the estimated 846 million barrels of heavy crude. This is a big industry and a big loss to the environment. Oil provides 33% of Ecuador's GNP and these 3 new oil fields would account for 20% of its reserves. On the other hand, the loss of such biodiversity could prove a death blow to the whole Amazon's ability to resist more and more drilling and mining.

There has been a kind of hostage situation in terms of these unique forests. The Waorani, Tagaeri and the Taromenane tribes live in the Yasuni area as well as the Waorani reserve itself. Some of these native peoples have never been contacted from the outside, so there is further concern about the preservation of delicate human systems as well as the ecosystems. If money were given to Ecuador alone, to spend as they thought fit, the oil industry was to be kept out. If any organisation wanted to spend or invest in some other way, then the oil companies would also be let in. The President seemed to be saying we should pay or he would drill!

The Amazon as a whole is the earth's greatest supplier of oxygen to us and, sensibly. It also disposes of more carbon dioxide than any other "sink." Italy, with $51 million is the only developed country that so far has donated to the president's governing group rather than the Yasuni people, who have been receiving German aid. According to the President, "The world has failed us with the great hypocrisy of nations who emit most of the greenhouse gases. It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change."

Now we have to work out whether we were all right to doubt the President. Or should we have backed him and made him appear to be the great environmentalist?



Protection of the Ashaninka Reserve sets important new precedent

Date: 14/06/2013

For the first time in Peru, a large forest area will be protected according to plans which indigenous  forest people have helped to draw up. The ‘Master Plan’ for the Ashaninka Communal Reserve, which covers nearly half a million acres of mostly pristine rainforest, has been approved by the Peruvian government. This follows several years of work and a lengthy process of consultation with the Ashaninka people, which has been supported by the Rainforest Foundation. Hopefully, this advance will be a precedent to be followed by other Communal Reserves which are now at various stages of development in Peru.

Full Story at http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/

Pope urges respect, protection of Amazon rainforest


Published: Sat, July 27, 2013 @ 7:03 p.m.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)

Pope Francis took on the defense of the Amazon and the environment near the end of his weeklong trip to Brazil, as he donned a colorful Indian headdress Saturday and urged that the rainforest be treated as a garden.

The pontiff met with a few thousand of Brazil’s political, business and cultural elite in Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Theater, where he also shook hands with Indians who said they were from a tribe that has been battling ranchers and farmers trying to invade their land in northeastern Bahia state.

In a separate speech to bishops, the pope called for “respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it be indiscriminately exploited but rather made into a garden.”

He also urged attention to a 2007 document by Latin American and Caribbean bishops that he was in charge of drafting, which underscored dangers facing the Amazon environment and the native people living there. The document also called for new evangelization efforts to halt a steep decline in Catholics leaving for other faiths or secularism.

“The traditional communities have been practically excluded from decisions on the wealth of biodiversity and nature. Nature has been, and continues to be, assaulted,” the document reads.

Several of the indigenous people in the audience hailed from the Amazon and said they hoped the pope would help them protect land designated by the government as indigenous reserves but that farmers and ranchers illegally invade for timber and to graze cattle. In fact, grazing has been the top recent cause of deforestation in Brazil.

“We got credentials for his speech and attended so we could tell the pope what’s happening to our people,” said Levi Xerente, a 22-year-old member of the Xerente tribe in Tocantins state in the Amazon, after he attended the pope’s speech. “We hope that he will help intervene with the government and stop all the big public works projects that are happening in the region.”

Xerente, speaking in broken Portuguese, said the biggest threats to Indians in the region were big agribusiness invading land and the government’s own massive infrastructure projects, including the damming of rivers for hydroelectric power generation and roads being carved out of the forest, often to reach giant mines.

Francis thanked Brazilian bishops for maintaining a church presence in the rugged and vast Amazon, which is about the size of the United States west of the Mississippi River. But he pushed church leaders to refocus energies on the region.

“The church’s work needs to be further encouraged and launched afresh” in the Amazon, the pope said in prepared remarks, urging an “Amazonian face” for the church.

He cited the church’s long history of working in the region.

“The church’s presence in the Amazon basin is not that of someone with bags packed and ready to leave after having exploited everything possible,” he said. “The church has been present in the Amazon basin from the beginning ... and is still present and critical to the area’s future.”

Catholic priests and nuns have taken up the causes of Indians and of poor subsistence farmers in the Amazon, often putting themselves in danger. Violent conflicts over land rights are common in the region, where wealthy farmers and ranchers are known to hire gunmen to intimidate people into leaving land the government has often set aside as reserves for their use.

In 2005, U.S. nun and Amazon land-rights defender Dorothy Stang was murdered by one such gunman in the state of Para. Two ranchers were later convicted of ordering her murder so they could control a parcel of land the government had ceded to a subsistence farming group Stang worked with.

Ref:  http://Vindy.com


Deforestation rate doubles in the Amazon rainforest

Deforestation rate doubles in the Amazon rainforest, says group

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
July 19, 2013




Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is up 103 percent over this time last year, reports the latest assessment by Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO.

Imazon's near real-time deforestation tracking system recorded 1,838 square kilometers of forest clearing between 2012 and June 2013, up from 907 sq km a year earlier.

The Brazilian government has also reported a significant rise in deforestation this year.

Imazon has attributed the increase to last year's revision of the Forest Code, which governs how much forest a private landowner must preserve. Under pressure from the agricultural lobby, Congress relaxed some aspects of the code to the dismay of environmental groups. Macroeconomic trends, including a weakening Brazilian real which makes agricultural exports more profitable for Brazilian farmers, might also be contributing to rising forest loss.





Final figures based on analysis of higher resolution satellite images will be released at the end of the year.

Brazil has experienced a sharp decrease in the annual rate of forest loss since 2004. Increased monitoring and law enforcement, new protected areas, private sector initiatives, and financial incentives for greener agricultural production have been cited for the drop in deforestation.


Deforestation across the Non-Brazilian Amazon, 2004-2012


Deforestation across the Non-Brazilian Amazon, 2004-2012

InfoAmazonia's analysis also looked at deforestation at a subnational level, including states, departments, and municipalities as well as protected areas, indigenous reserves, and ecosystems. Loreto, Peru had the largest forest loss in 2012 — 25,544 ha. Caquetá, Colombia saw its deforestation rate jump 193 percent.

Among parks, Pacaya Samiria (3,325 ha) in Peru, Imataca (1,356 ha), the Upper Orinoco-Cassiquiare (819 ha) in Venezuela, and Noord Saramaccan (581 ha) in Suriname saw the highest forest loss. The Iquitos várzea — floodplain forest along the main stem of the Amazon — lost the largest area of forest among eco-regions both in 2012 (24,094 ha) and over the nine-year period (151,675 ha).


Amazon Jungle sees rise in deforestation: report
File photo showing an illegal deforestation project for soy production, in Brazil
File photo showing an illegal deforestation project for soy production, in Brazil's State of Mato Grosso.
Mon Jul 8, 2013 3:31PM GMT
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The reason is unknown, but experts attribute the deforestation to government infrastructure projects, environmental policy, and a rise in demand for soybeans and other Brazilian farm exports, which encourage ranchers to clear private land in the Amazon."

New data show an increase in the rate of deforestation of the Amazon Jungle, a trend nearing a full year’s reversal of progress in the fight against the destruction of the world's largest rainforest.


Satellite images showed 465 square kilometers (180 square miles) of deforestation taking place in May, an almost five-fold increase in forest loss relative to May 2012, Brazil's National Space Research Institute, INPE, stated in a report on Friday. 

Brazil accounted for most of the clearing, with 59 percent of the loss in the southern state of Mato Grosso known for its industrial-sized farms and cattle ranching. 

The study also revealed a 14-percent increase in deforestation compared to last year. 

Scientists and environmentalists said the trend marks a reversal in gains against deforestation in Brazil, though other Amazon countries also witnessed a rise in deforestation since 2011. 

The reason is unknown, but experts attribute the deforestation to government infrastructure projects, environmental policy, and a rise in demand for soybeans and other Brazilian farm exports, which encourage ranchers to clear private land in the Amazon. 

The Amazon rainforest covers territory belonging to nine nations, with more than 60 percent located in Brazil, followed by Peru with 13 percent, Columbia with 10 percent, and minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. 

GMA/SS

REF: PressTV

Amazon Wildlfires Lead Cause of Rainforest Destruction: A Study


Jun 08, 2013 03:21 PM EDT
Amazon forest
NASA scientists have determined via an innovative satellite technique that a certain type of wildfire in the Amazon rainforest is responsible for destroying several times more forest than that lost through deforestation in regards to recent years. (Photo : Reuters)

NASA scientists have determined via an innovative satellite technique that a certain type of wildfire in the Amazon rainforest is responsible for destroying several times more forest than that lost through deforestation in regards to recent years.

Called “understory fires,” they have long remained hidden because of their location far below the forest treetops; however, using a new method, researchers have developed the first regional estimate of understory fire damage across the southern Amazon.

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"Amazon forests are quite vulnerable to fire, given the frequency of ignitions for deforestation and land management at the forest frontier, but we've never known the regional extent or frequency of these understory fires," Doug Morton of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the study's lead author said in a press release.

The study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, demonstrates that, in years with the most understory fire activity, such as 2005, 2007 and 2010, the area of forest affected was several times greater than the area affected by deforestation for expansion of agriculture.

Moreover, the study goes further, pointing to climate conditions - not deforestation - as the most important factor in determining fire risk in the Amazon at a regional scale.

Fires in the Amazon's savanna areas can burn quickly, spreading up to 330 feet per minute, according to the researchers, with grasses and shrubs in these ecosystems typically surviving low-intensity surface fires.

In contrast, understory fires appear "unremarkable when you see them burning," given that the flames reach on average only a few feet high. Capable of lasting for several weeks, they spread only a few feet per minute.

Despite this seemingly low-key presence, however, understory fires can damage large areas because Amazon trees are not adapted to fire and the long, slow burn can claim anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of the burn area's trees. Furthermore, the recovery that follows is a long, slow process.

In all, the study shows that between 1999 and 2010, understory forest fires burned more than 33,000 square miles (85,500 square kilometers), or 2.8 percent of the entire forest.

Meanwhile, results showed no correlation between understory fires and deforestation; in fact, as the pressure for clearing led to the highest deforestation rates ever seen from 2003 to 2004, adjacent forests had some of the lowest rates of fires.

"You would think that deforestation activity would significantly increase the risk of fires in the adjacent forested area because deforestation fires are massive, towering infernos," Morton said. "You make a bonfire that is a square kilometer in size, throwing ash and live cinders and preheating the adjacent forest. Why didn't we have more understory fires in 2003 and 2004, when deforestation rates were so high?"

As an answer, the researchers point to climate as the reason that fire-driven deforestation didn;t burn more surrounding forests in these years as frequent understory fire activity coincided with low nighttime humidity, as measured by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite.

"You can look within an indigenous reserve where there is no deforestation and see enormous understory fires," Morton said. "The human presence at the deforestation frontier leads to a risk of forest fires when climate conditions are suitable for burning, with or without deforestation activity."

These human sources could include cooking, camping, cigarettes and cars, among other things.

Going forward, this new understanding regarding the scope of understory fires could have implications for estimates of carbon emissions from disturbed forests, according to the scientists.

"We don't yet have a robust estimate of what the net carbon emissions are from understory fires, but widespread damages suggest that they are important source of emissions that we need to consider," Morton said.

Currently, researchers are looking into the climate mechanisms that, given an ignition source from humans, predispose the southern Amazon to burn.

Among the leading suspects is soil moisture, report scientists at the University of California, Irvine, who are using new information derived from satellite-based measurements of the region that indicate that the amount of water in the ground may be a leading cause for flammability.

Heading the search is Yang Chen and his colleagues who, in a recent study, were able to show that water storage estimates from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites allow monitoring of the evolution of dry conditions during the fire season.

Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the study shows how low water storage in the soil leads to a drier near-ground atmosphere, resulting in drier, more flammable vegetation alongside increases in plant litter and fuel availability.

"A severe fire season in the Amazon is often preceded by low water storage in the soil, and this water deficit in the soil can be detected by the satellites several months before the fire season," Chen said.

REF:  NatureWorldNews.com

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Photo: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture via Flickr

Speed of Amazon deforestation increased by 88% in 2012

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has continued to increase, accelerating by 88% in 2012 according to satellite analysis.

Brazilian NGO Mongabay’s deforestation tracking system, SAD, detected that 1,570 square kilometres (sq km) of forest was lost between August 2012 and April 2013.

However, SAD, which is operational in Google Earth, also detected a decline in forest degradation by almost a quarter.

Earlier this month, Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE) released figures estimating forest loss within the same period. Results showed a much lower rate of deforestation, with 1,864 sq km lost in 2012 – 14% higher than the previous year.

If deforestation continues to rise, by the end of this year, Brazil will fail in limiting forest clearing to 8,000 sq km – a target set for 2013 to conserve the 5.4m sq km that was left of the Amazon in 2012.

A recent study by NASA suggested that rapid degradation of the Amazon rainforest in 2005 could be attributed to climate change.

Mongabay’s satellite analysis follows research by scientists that links rainforests to the productivity of hydroelectricity generation. The study warned that if deforestation continues, the amount of energy produced by Belo Monte – one of the world’s biggest dams – could be reduced by over a third.

Further reading:

Brazil hydropower potential linked to Amazon conservation

NASA study links climate change with Amazon degradation

Healthy forests ‘crucial for economic development’

Buying sustainable Easter eggs can save the rainforest

Indonesian paper firm stops deforestation after decade-long protest

REF:  Blueandgreentomorrow.com


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‘Lost’ report exposes Brazilian Indian genocide 25 April 2013


Umutima shaman in 1957. In 1969 most of the Umutima were wiped out by a flu epidemic.
Umutima shaman in 1957. In 1969 most of the Umutima were wiped out by a flu epidemic.
© José Idoyaga/Survival

A shocking report detailing horrific atrocities committed against Brazilian Indians in the 1940s, 50s and 60s has resurfaced – 45 years after it was mysteriously ‘destroyed’ in a fire.

The Figueiredo report was commissioned by the Minister of the Interior in 1967 and caused an international outcry after it revealed crimes against Brazil’s indigenous population at the hands of powerful landowners and the government’s own Indian Protection Service (SPI). The report led to the foundation of tribal rights organization Survival International two years later.

The 7,000-page document, compiled by public prosecutor Jader de Figueiredo Correia, detailed mass murder, torture, enslavement, bacteriological warfare, sexual abuse, land theft and neglect waged against Brazil’s indigenous population. Some tribes were completely wiped out as a result and many more were decimated.

The report was recently rediscovered in Brazil’s Museum of the Indian and will now be considered by Brazil’s National Truth Commission, which is investigating human rights violations which occurred between 1947 and 1988.

One of the many gruesome examples in the report describes the ‘massacre of the 11th parallel’, in which dynamite was thrown from a small plane onto the village of ‘Cinta Larga’ Indians below. Thirty Indians were killed – just two survived to tell the tale.

A Karajá couple with their baby, who has died of flu.
A Karajá couple with their baby, who has died of flu.
© Jesco von Puttkamer/ IGPA archive

Other examples include the poisoning of hundreds of Indians with sugar laced with arsenic, and severe methods of torture such as slowly crushing the victims’ ankles with an instrument known as the ‘trunk’.

Figueiredo’s findings led to an international outcry. In a 1969 article ‘Genocide’ in the British Sunday Timesbased on the report, writer Norman Lewis wrote, ‘From fire and sword to arsenic and bullets – civilisation has sent six million Indians to extinction.’ The article moved a small group of concerned citizens to set up Survival International the same year.

As a result of the report, Brazil launched a judicial enquiry, and 134 officials were charged with over 1,000 crimes. Thirty-eight officials were dismissed, but no-one was ever jailed for the atrocities.

The SPI was subsequently disbanded and replaced by FUNAI, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation. But while large swathes of Indian land have since been demarcated and protected, Brazil’s tribes continue to battle the invasion and destruction of their lands by illegal loggers, ranchers and settlers and the loss of land from the government’s aggressive growth program which aims to construct dozens of large hydroelectric dams and open up large-scale mining in their territories.

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The Figueiredo report makes gruesome reading, but in one way, nothing has changed: when it comes to the murder of Indians, impunity reigns. Gunmen routinely kill tribespeople in the knowledge that there’s little risk of being brought to justice – none of the assassins responsible for shooting Guarani and Makuxi tribal leaders have been jailed for their crimes. It’s hard not to suspect that racism and greed are at the root of Brazil’s failure to defend its indigenous citizens’ lives.’

Note to editors:

- Extracts from the report are available on request.

Photos available for download:

Umutima shaman in 1957. In 1969 most of the Umutima were wiped out by a flu epidemic. Umutima shaman in 1957. In 1969 most of the Umutima were wiped out by a flu epidemic. 
Download hi-res image

Credit: © José Idoyaga/Survival
 
Atrocities against the Cinta Larga tribe were exposed in the Figueiredo report. After shooting the head off her baby, the killers cut the mother in half. Atrocities against the Cinta Larga tribe were exposed in the Figueiredo report. After shooting the head off her baby, the killers cut the mother in half. 
Download hi-res image

Credit: © Survival
 
A Karajá couple with their baby, who has died of flu.A Karajá couple with their baby, who has died of flu.
Download hi-res image

Credit: © Jesco von Puttkamer/ IGPA archive

REF: http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/9191

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Ecuador to China Oil Barons: Amazon Rainforest for Sale

INDIGENOUS GROUPS NOT HAPPY

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 27, 2013 4:50 PM CDT
          
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This undated photo provided by the Yachana Foundation shows the Yachana Lodge in Ecuador.

THIS UNDATED PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE YACHANA FOUNDATION SHOWS THE YACHANA LODGE IN ECUADOR.   (AP PHOTO/YACHANA

 FOUNDATION)(NEWSER) – Tree-huggers will be really displeased to hear this: Ecuador is planning to auction off more than 7 million acres of the Amazon ... to Chinese oil companies. Politicians pitched bidding contracts to oil company reps in Beijing on Monday, theGuardian reports. Needless to say, indigenous groups living on the land are not happy. Seven of the groups say they haven't consented to the plan, which they say would destroy their way of life.

The groups have protested previous meetings between Ecuadorean politicians and oil companies, and are demanding oil companies not take part in the bidding process. But Ecuador's secretary of hydrocarbons says the groups just have a "political agenda" and "are not thinking about development or about fighting against poverty." The deal may have more to do with national debt than anything else: Ecuador owes China more than $7 billion.

WOOD PILE
Protected areas prevent deforestation in Amazon rainforest
by Staff Writers
Ann Arbor MI (SPX) Mar 13, 2013


File image.

Strictly protected areas such as national parks and biological reserves have been more effective at reducing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest than so-called sustainable-use areas that allow for controlled resource extraction, two University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues have found.

In addition, protected areas established primarily to safeguard the rights and livelihoods of indigenous people performed especially well in places where deforestation pressures are high.

The U-M-led study, which found that all forms of protection successfully limit deforestation, is scheduled for online publication March 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lead author is Christoph Nolte, a doctoral candidate at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment. Co-authors include Arun Agrawal, a professor of natural resources at SNRE.

"Perhaps the biggest surprise is the finding that indigenous lands perform the best when it comes to lower deforestation in contexts of high deforestation pressure," Agrawal said.

"Many observers have suggested that granting substantial autonomy and land rights to indigenous people over vast tracts of land in the Amazon will lead to high levels of deforestation because indigenous groups would want to take advantage of the resources at their disposal.

"This study shows that - based on current evidence - such fears are misplaced," he said.

Preventing deforestation of rainforests is a goal for conserving biodiversity and, more recently, for reducing carbon emissions in the Brazilian Amazon, which covers an area of nearly 2 million square miles.

After making international headlines for historically high Amazon deforestation rates between 2000 and 2005, Brazil achieved radical reductions in deforestation rates in the second half of the past decade.

Although part of those reductions were attributed to price declines of agricultural commodities, recent analyses also show that regulatory government policies - including a drastic increase in enforcement activities and the expansion and strengthening of protected-area networks - all contributed significantly to the observed reductions.

In their study, the U-M researchers and their colleagues used new remote-sensing-based datasets from 292 protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, along with a sophisticated statistical analysis, to assess the effectiveness of different types of protected areas. They looked at three categories of protected areas: strictly protected areas, sustainable use areas and indigenous lands.

Strictly protected areas - state and national biological stations, biological reserves, and national and state parks - consistently avoided more deforestation than sustainable-use areas, regardless of the level of deforestation pressure. Sustainable-use areas allow for controlled resource extraction, land use change and, in many instances, human settlements.

"Earlier analyses suggested that strict protection, because it allows no resource use, is so controversial that it is less likely to be implemented where deforestation pressures are high - close to cities or areas of high agricultural value, for example," Nolte said.

"But we observed that recent designations of the Brazilian government placed new strictly protected areas in very high-pressure areas, attenuating this earlier argument," he said.

Hundreds of millions of people in the tropics depend on forests for their subsistence. Forest products that households rely on include firewood, fodder for livestock and timber for housing.

Co-authors of the PNAS paper are Kirsten M. Silvius of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Britaldo S. Soares-Filho of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil.

REF: TerraDaily.com


Rancher Mindset Key to Saving Amazon

"Finding a balance between environmental preservation, social justice, and economic development requires better understanding the perspectives of all groups living on the land in Amazonia, especially those with the most land, money, and power—the ranchers," says anthropologist Jeffrey Hoelle. "It also means asking why cattle raising now makes sense to a poor rubber tapper, instead of blaming the ranchers for deforestation. It is complicated, really, and this study is just the beginning." (Credit: A C Moraes/Flickr)

See Full Story at Futurity.org

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Climate Change is Threatening the Amazon Rainforest, Says NASA

Climate Change is Threatening the Amazon Rainforest, Says NASA

NASA-led study has shown that a part of the Amazon rainforest twice the size of California is still suffering from a “megadrought” that began in 2005. Researchers cited this and damage due to drought recurrences in the Amazon during the past decade as evidence that the rainforest may face “large-scale degradation due to climate change.”

The study looked at satellite microwave radar data from 2000 to 2009, measurements of rainfall from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, and moisture content from the rainforest canopy from the Seawinds scatterometer on NASA’s QuikScat satellite.

During the summer of 2005, over 270,000 square miles of old-growth forest in the Amazon experienced “extensive, severe drought.” This megadrought caused changes in the forest canopy, including possible dieback of branches and tree falls. Though rainfall levels recovered in the years after the drought, much of the damage to the forest canopy remained until the next drought in 2010.

“The biggest surprise for us was that the effects appeared to persist for years after the 2005 drought,” said Yadvinder Malhi, co-author of the study at the University of Oxford. “We had expected the forest canopy to bounce back after a year with a new flush of leaf growth, but the damage appeared to persist right up to the subsequent drought in 2010.”

The study shows that around 30% of the Amazon basin’s total forest area was affected by the 2005 drought. Almost half of the entire Amazon rainforest was affected by the 2010 drought. The drought rate in the area has been abnormally high during the past decade. Research has shown that rainfall over the southern Amazon rainforest fell by nearly 3.2% from 1970 to 1998.

Malhi and his colleagues attribute recent Amazonian droughts to long-term warming of tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

“In effect, the same climate phenomenon that helped form hurricanes Katrina and Rita along U.S. southern coasts in 2005 also likely caused the severe drought in southwest Amazonia,” said Sassan Saatchi, leader on the research at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “An extreme climate event caused the drought, which subsequently damaged the Amazonian trees.

“Our results suggest that if droughts continue at five- to 10-year intervals or increase in frequency due to climate change, large areas of the Amazon forest are likely to be exposed to persistent effects of droughts and corresponding slow forest recovery. This may alter the structure and function of Amazonian rainforest ecosystems.”

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

REF:  WebProNews

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Amazon Rainforest Under Pressure

Written by 

December 17, 2012


The Amazon Network of Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information, or RAISG, comprised of 11 environmental organizations from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, presented on Dec. 4 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the atlas “Amazon rainforest under pressure,” which warns of the dangers the South American Amazon region faces that in the near future could lead to the disappearance of half of the current Amazonian forests.

The RAISG has identified a set of six threats to the Amazon rainforest in the last decade: roads, oil and gas, hydroelectric dams, mining, forest fires, and deforestation.

“If all of the economic interests [projects] that are planned for the upcoming years occur, the Amazon rainforest will become a savanna with spots of forest,” warned the general coordinator of the RAISG, Beto Ricardo, from the Socio-Environmental Institute of Brazil.

The Amazon region covers 7.8 million square kilometers (3 million square miles) shared by Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. About 33 million people live in this region, including 385 indigenous communities.

The atlas bases its analysis on 55 maps, 61 charts, 23 graphics, 16 tables, and 73 pictures, which show “the pressures and dangers the Amazon rainforest faces.”

“The forest sceneries, socio-environmental diversity and fresh water are being replaced by degraded sceneries turned into savannas, drier and more homogeneous zones,” says the atlas. “The largest and most complex rainforest on the planet — with at least 10,000 years of human activity — continues to be a place for extraction and/or production of agro-industrial supplies and nonrenewable raw materials (commodities of low aggregate value), for national and international markets, which compromises [the rainforest’s] future potential for sustainable development and affects the conservation of living spaces.”

The deforestation analysis shows that between 2000 and 2010 nearly 240,000 square kilometers (92,000 square miles) of Amazonian forest were deforested. This is equivalent to twice the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The document recommends “to deepen the prospective analysis of the Amazon rainforest, starting with the information generated by the RAISG, to identify the future situation in the topics of: the capture and storage of forest carbon emissions according to the use of the land (protected areas, indigenous territories, and others); new frontiers to extractive economies around water sources (hydroelectric dams or systems for irrigation and drinking water); promotion of regional integration and its implications on infrastructure, energy security, or the movement of populations; strategies for adapting to climate change to reduce socio-environmental vulnerability in the high forests and flood zones of the Amazon rainforest.”

Likewise, the document points out “the necessity to adopt other topics of a positive agenda, linked to governance (of environment, forest, water or energy), effective measures for the integrated management of water basins in the adaptation to extreme variability and climatic changes, and good practices and sustainable productive chains, among others.”

Brazil deforestation hits record low

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest has dropped to its lowest level in 24 years, the government said Tuesday.

Satellite imagery showed that 1,798 square miles (4,656 square kilometers) of the Amazon were deforested between August 2011 and July 2012, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said a news conference. That's 27 percent less than the 2,478 square miles (6,418 square kilometers) deforested a year earlier. The margin of error is 10 percentage points.

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research said the deforestation level is the lowest since it started measuring the destruction of the rainforest in 1988.

Sixty-three percent of the rainforest's 2.4 million square miles (6.1 million square kilometers) are in Brazil.

The space institute said that the latest figures show that Brazil is close to its 2020 target of reducing deforestation by 80 percent from 1990 levels. Through July 2012 deforestation dropped by 76.26 percent.

George Pinto a director of Ibama, Brazil's environmental protection agency, told reporters that better enforcement of environmental laws and improved surveillance technology are behind the drop in deforestation levels.

Pinto said that in the 12-month period a total of 2,000 square meters of illegally felled timber were seized by government agents. The impounded lumber is sold in auctions and the money obtained is invested in environmental preservation programs.

Environment Minister Teixeira said that starting next year Brazil will start using satellite monitoring technology to detect illegal logging and slash-and-burn activity and issue fines.

"Over the past several years Brazil has made a huge effort to contain deforestation and the latest figures testify to its success," said Adalberto Verissimo, a senior researcher at Imazon, an environmental watchdog agency. "The deforestation figures are extremely positive, for they point to a consistent downward trend."

"The numbers disprove the argument that deforestation is necessary for the country's economy to grow, he said by telephone from his office in the Amazon city of Belem." Deforestation has been dropping steadily for the past four years while the economy has grown," he said

"But the war is far from over. We still have a lot of battles to fight and win."

For Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace coordinator in the Amazon region, said the lower figures show that reducing deforestation is perfectly possible, but he added that "the numbers are still too high for a country that does not have to destroy one single hectare in order to develop."

REF:  YahooNews

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How Genetically Engineered Soy Threatens Ecological Stability

Soybeans are touted by the food industry as the answer to world hunger. But very few pieces of propaganda could be more misleading. Not only does soy consumption lead to a number of health problems, but its production is leaving a trail of ecological devastation beyond belief.

While most people know the Amazon is under threat, few know that one of the principal perpetrators is soy.

One of the regions hardest hit by soy monoculture is Brazil, home of the largest expanse of precious Amazon rainforest. For several years, Greenpeace has been involved in an intense investigation of Amazon soy production using satellite images, aerial surveillance, previously unreleased government documents and on-the-ground monitoring, to expose the links in the soy chain.

Many of their findings are presented in the documentary "Soy: In the Name of Progress," which you can watch in its entirety in the link above. For more information, you can also read their final report, Eating up the Amazon1.

Agricultural multinational bullies are rushing into Brazil to flatten forests into massive soy farms, expelling native peoples from their land by any means possible, legal or otherwise.

Peaceful community protests are met with violent beatings from large soy producers and their hired thugs, and individuals speaking out the loudest have been assassinated. The Brazilian government is sadly absent, uninvolved, and ineffective on this issue.

Not only is the soy takeover harming the Brazilian people and their native culture, but it's having a devastating ecological impact that could potentially affect the rest of the world.

Soy Monoculture Could Alter Global Climate Patterns

The Amazon is the largest expanse of tropical rainforest on the planet, but deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate. An area the size of France has been destroyed thus far. Not only does the Amazon contain some of the richest biodiversity in the world, but it's being destroyed before it can even be studied — so we don't even know what treasures have been lost.

The rainforest is tied into climatic patterns worldwide and provides a major source of the water vapor that ends up falling on your garden as rain. Some estimate that, if trends continue, the entire Amazon rainforest could be gone in 30 to 40 years. Consequences would be far reaching to the world's climate, including the U.S. and Europe — a climate that is already undergoing significant stress.

Soy's Cycle of Destruction in the Amazon

Between 2007 and 2008, almost three million acres of Brazilian rainforest were lost to illegal logging, soy plantations, and cattle ranching2. Soy traders encourage farmers to cut down forest vegetation and plant massive soy monocultures. The traders then take the soy and ship it to Europe where it's fed to animals like chickens and pigs. The animals are then turned into fast food products.

Before soy can be planted, soy farmers have to remove the most valuable timber from areas they illegally occupy. According to Greenpeace2 :

"As one of the first steps in the cycle of destruction, land grabbers build logging roads into pristine rainforest. Once accessible, these roads open the door to further devastation of the forest ecosystem through clearing for agricultural operations, fuel wood gathering, and mining."

The illegal timber trade supports the cheap sale of once-valuable tree timber. Then deforested lands are set on fire to clear any remaining debris. So not only is the rainforest destroyed, but tons of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by these burnings. Profits from this illegal logging are then used to seed soy plantations and line the pockets of a few select multinationals.

Three major companies account for 60 percent of the total financing of soy production in Brazil: ADM, Bunge and Cargill3. These enormous corporations build soy silos and terminals at the rainforest edge and buy soy from illegally cleared and operated farms, including those implementing slave labor.

As if this cycle of destruction is not bad enough, most of the soy crops are genetically engineered, which introduces an entire new set of dangers to you and the food chain. Genetically engineered crops come with serious risks, including resistant super weeds and super pests, uncontrollable cross contamination and serious health hazards, including allergies, infertility, birth defects, bizarre mutations and cancer, just to name a few.

Brazil Sees Fastest Climb in GE Soybean Share

The United States is the world's top soybean producer (33 percent), with Brazil running a close second (27 percent), followed by Argentina (21 percent)4. As of 2007, more than half of the world's soybean crops (58.6 percent) were genetically engineered (GE).

GE soybeans contain a gene that confers herbicide resistance, engineered by Monsanto. "Roundup ready soy" is being cultivated on a massive scale across the globe, having devastating effects in many countries, such as Argentina, where people are being sickened daily by massive herbicide spraying. According to GMO Compass5, at one time, GE soybeans were not permitted in Brazil, but that isn't the case today. GE seed was smuggled in from neighboring countries and planted illegally.

Unfortunately, the GE soybean share has risen faster in Brazil over the past decade than in any other major soy-producing country, as you can see in the following graphic illustrating GE soybean share trends over time.

 
GE Soybean Share: From GMO-Compass

Strategies for Avoiding GE Foods

There are some measures you can take to make sure the foods you select are not genetically engineered. Soy is one of only nine common GE food crops, but their derivatives are in over 70 percent of supermarket foods, particularly processed foods. So, the more fresh, organic and local foods you eat, the less likely you'll be consuming GE ingredients. Also, look for the USDA Certified 100% Organic seal: This green or black seal assures the product is certified organic by the USDA, which means it contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients that are free of genetically engineered ingredients. 

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Support California's Ballot Initiative to Label GMO's!

One of the best strategies for reducing or eliminating GE foods is to force food manufacturers to list them on the label. You have a right to know if the foods you're eating contain GE ingredients. As it stands now, there is no labeling law.

This November, we have a great opportunity to change that with California Ballot Initiative Prop 37,which would require labeling of all genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, and ban the routine industry practice of labeling and marketing such foods as "natural." Voting day is fast approaching — if you're going to act, the time is now! They need funds and volunteers. Remember, since California is the 8th largest economy in the world, a win for Prop 37would be a huge step forward, likely affecting ingredients and labeling nationwide. As the campaign says, "As goes California, so goes the nation."

I urge you to support this bill in any way you can. Here are a few suggestions as to how you can help pass this important initiative:

  • Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort, through the Organic Consumers Fund.If you live outside of the United States, you can still donate!  For International Donations, please call (218) 353-7651!
  • If you live in California and want to get involved, please contact CARightToKnow.org. They will go through all volunteer requests to put you into a position that is suitable for you, based on your stated interests and location.
  • No matter where you live, please help spread the word in your personal networks, on Facebook, and Twitter. For help with the messaging, please see CARightToKnow.org.
  • Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to label genetically engineered foods.

For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

 

Donate Today!Donate Today!

REF: Foodconsumers.org

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Special report Revealed: how our shoes are linked to deforestation and slavery in the Amazon

Ida Dalgaard Steffensen, DanWatch

26th October, 2012

Europe is the world's largest importer of leather shoes but much of the leather itself comes from cattle farms deep in the Brazilian Amazon, where farms use slave labourers and where slaughterhouses do not respect workers' safety. Ida Dalgaard Steffensen reports

The air surrounding the 17 men at SENAI's school of construction in Cuiabá, capital of the state Mato Grosso in Western Brazil, is thick with dust. The work is done with a mixture of concentration and smiles as jokes are traded back and forth. Two months ago none of the men here had reason to smile. Why? Because they were working as slave labourers on Brazil’s cattle farms. As former slave, 27-year-old Daniel Moraes Ferreira, says: ’This is a new beginning.’ 
 
Daniel Moraes Ferreira came to Cuiabá a few weeks ago with his friend, Rodrigues Gomes Guimarães. They worked at the same farm in Mato Grosso, where they were kept in slave-like conditions. Mato Grosso is the biggest cattle producing state in Brazil, and as a result, the place where the most slaves are to be found. Daniel is nervous. His eyes flicker and he laughs nervously while telling his story. ‘This story needs to be told to the world,’ he says. ‘Many workers are afraid to talk about their experiences, [so] this is why I talk. I don’t wish for anyone to go through the same.’
 
The two men escaped from a cattle farm where they worked clearing the Amazon forest to prepare new grassland for the cattle. They were taken hundreds of miles from civilisation. They slept on the ground in self-made shacks. There was no toilet. They had to hunt for their own food, as their employer did not provide them with any, and soon they realised that they were drinking out of the same muddy puddles as the cows. They did not have any protective equipment. And they did not get paid.

Cattle in a deforested area of the Amazon

Cattle ranching in Brazil has been linked to modern day slavery practices.

 
Slavery

According to Leonardo Sakamoto, director of Brazilian NGO Repórter Brasil, cattle farms are the number one reason for slavery in Brazil. ‘This kind of exploitation is directly involved with your [European] way of life,’ he says. The workers used for slavery are typically from the Northern states of Brazil. ‘They are poor, have little or no education and few prospects,’ says Luiz Machado, the ILO official in charge of a project on forced labour in Brazil. And, as Daniel Ferreira explains, offered the chance of earning twice the amount in half the time, it is all too tempting to say yes to the “gato” – the person in charge of the slaves. ‘They come with a thousand promises,’ says Ferreira, ‘and we fall into the trap. But it is not what we expect.’

The men are driven away during the night to farms far away from everything they know. Only upon arrival do they realize that reality doesn’t reflect the promises. ‘The first week we were treated well with breaks, food and sleep,’ remembers Ferreira. ‘But after a week, they took us to the forest and asked us to cut down the trees, and this is when things changed.’

 
Violence and intimidation

Ferreira soon realised that something wasn’t right at the farm. Normally, workers are paid weekly but after 20 days, he still had not received anything. ‘When I asked the “gato” to get paid for the second time, he told me that if I was unhappy I could leave.’ He tried and was handcuffed to a tree and beaten continuously for 10 hours. ‘When the sun started to go down, the “gato” asked me if I was still going to leave,’ remembers Ferreira. ‘I of course said no. So he let me down and I went to sleep. The next day I got up with my colleagues and went to work as usual.’ ‘Officially the workers are free to leave,’ comments Machado. ‘In reality, they are captured in an illegal debt bondage by the “gato”.’ 

Harder to spot than evidence of violent beatings, financial pressure has become one of the commonest ways to keep slave labourers in check. According to Amarildo Borges de Oliveira, chief of investigations at the Regional Labour Department in Mato Grosso, it creates a dangerous co-dependency between “gato” and slave. ‘They have to buy all necessary supplies such as toothpaste and soap from the “gato”,’ explains de Oliveira. ‘He will then note down everything they use, even petrol for the chainsaws and the food they eat, and subtract this from the pay the slaves are meant to receive. The prices the “gato” charges are always higher than the market prices.” Effectively, this means that the slaves always owe more than they are owed, and are caught in a trap. Sadly, the slaves’ pride means they play into the hands of the “gato”. ‘If they are told they have a debt, they will pay it off,’ says Elizabete Flores from the Pastoral Land Commission, an organisation that works for the prevention of slavery in Brazil. ‘Even if it is a made up debt, they feel morally obligated to pay.’ 
 
The Brazilian 'black list'

One of the instruments the Brazilian authorities have created is the 'Lista Suja' (black list). This is a public database showing the farms and production sites where the federal government found and released slaves. According to Sakamoto, this technology could be used to help eradicate slavery without punishing those Brazilian farmers who do not use slaves. However, the cattle industry is a secretive one, a fact that becomes plain during the course of anti-slavery raids. ‘There is a strong sense of community between the farms,’ says Ferreira. ‘When they see the big white government vans they call each other on their radios so they can tell the slaves to run and hide.’ This makes it difficult to compile an accurate black list.
 
Although an imperfect system, a place on the list has consequences. When a farm is placed on this list, it is hit by financial penalties in the shape of fines and restrictions on borrowing money. But more importantly, they can no longer sell their livestock to the big slaughterhouses  – most of whom have signed an agreement not to use black listed farms.
 
Mutilations

Mato Grosso not only has a booming cattle ranching industry but also a wide-spread network of large scale slaughterhouses. Sharp practice and rule breaking is common, as is intimidation and as a result, workers in areas around the slaughterhouses are terrified of repercussions and would only speak to us on condition of anonymity. According to former slaughterhouse worker, João, 28, more than 120 cows were slaughtered every hour in the slaughterhouse in which he was employed and only when the auditors arrived was production reduced to the legal amount. ‘We had no fixed working hours; we could leave when we reached the day’s quota,’ says Ana, 40, also a former slaughterhouse worker. ‘Some days I would start working at four in the morning and only leave at one the next day.’ 
 
According to Aline A. Roberto Amoras, Head of Health and Safety at Work in the Regional Labour Department in Mato Grosso, this creates an unofficial pressure not to have breaks. ‘If one worker has a break it means that the whole chain of production comes to a halt.’ This, along with lack of training, is typically the cause of one of the biggest problems in slaughterhouses: mutilations. Repetitive strain injuries are also a common occurrence. ‘The most common problems are permanent damage caused by repetitive work in very cold environments and mutilations caused by the sharp knives and machines,’ adds Amoras.
 
After four years of working in the same position in the same slaughterhouse in Northern Mato Grosso, Ana has bad arthritis, which means she cannot find work. ‘It is too hard to think about the past, I get worried about the future,’ she says. She used to work cutting and cleaning the intestines and the hard labour is what made her ill. ‘I know a lot of people with the same problem. This is how the companies are. When you are healthy you get work, when you get sick they fire you. This is justice in Brazil.’ She has not received any compensation for her injuries.
 
No rights for workers

It is difficult for slaughterhouse workers to complain about their workload and work-related injuries, says Valdiney Antônio de Arruda, Superintendent of the regional Labour Department. Although Brazil has a number of legal requirements in place to protect workers, Mato Grosso’s slaughterhouses appear to ignore them. ‘Every eight months we are fired because the slaughterhouse changes name or owner,’ João told the Ecologist. ‘We are always hired again a couple of days later.’ 
 
Wlaudecyr Antonio Goulant, Fiscal Labour Auditor at the Regional Labour Department in Mato Grosso, says that this happens because the workers accumulate certain rights, and after eight months they are entitled to use them. ‘Changing the name just means that the rights are transferred onto the “new” slaughterhouse in reality but the workers do not know this, so the slaughterhouse is let off its duties,’ says Goulant. ‘If the workers know, they then have to fight the slaughterhouse individually to obtain their rights. This often means that they do not take up the fight, and the slaughterhouse gets off easy.’ ‘Workers generally make compromises with the slaughterhouses because they are afraid of the consequences of filing a law suit,’ adds de Arruda. As one worker, George, 26, put it: ‘Machines are more important to them than their employees.’
 
The names Ana, João and George are pseudonyms. DanWatch is an independent media and research center doing investigative journalism about the global impact of corporations on people and the planet.

REF: TheEcologist.com

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Amazon's flying water vapor rivers bring rain to Brazil September 18, 2012 by Yana Marull 

 Gerard Moss talks as he flies the small plane he uses for his "Rios Voadores" (Flying Rivers) project in Goiania, Brazil, in August 2012. Moss has spent the last five years making intrepid expeditions and piloting his single-engine airplane and balloon as part of the Rio Voadores project, to show that the Amazon Rainforest not only cleans the air of the planet, but also ensures rains in Brazil. As devastating drought spreads across much of the globe, British-born pilot Gerard Moss flies above the Amazon rainforest to show how its "flying rivers"—humid air currents—bring rain to Brazil and South America. 


This undated picture released by the "Rios Voadores" (Flying Rivers) project shows their air balloon flying over the Amazon Forest in Brazil

Aboard his single-engine Embraer 721 aircraft, Moss, a naturalized Brazilian, was on a 45-minute flight from Brasilia to Goiania, capital of the central state of Goias. "Climate change is taking its toll. The United States is going through its worst drought in half a century, Russia is also reeling from drought and in India monsoon rains have for years been irregular," he told AFP. "Brazil is less affected because we have the world's biggest tropical forest, which helps regulate the climate." Deforestation is also a factor. With logging and agriculture shrinking Brazil's rainforests, there are fewer trees to release the water vapor that creates these flying rivers. The flying rivers travel from the Amazon toward the Andes, which act as a natural barrier and redirect huge vapor masses toward the center-west, southeast and south of Brazil as well as to the north of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname.