Amazon Rainforest Defenders Confront Violence, Encroachment and Politics

Debates over development in the world’s largest rainforest have led to deadly conflicts, threats to its indigenous people and harm to the global atmosphere.

In the 1980s, the assassination of the Brazilian environmental activist Chico Mendes fueled an international movement to save the rainforest from unchecked development.

“Chico’s assassination really brought about fundamental changes in the way people around the world thought about the process of deforestation,” Steve Schwartzman, the senior director of the Environmental Defense Fund, told Retro Report.

The cause eventually slowed deforestation and prompted the creation of over 200 land demarcations to protect indigenous peoples and others who depend on the rainforest for their livelihoods.

As new economic and political troubles shake Brazil, the rainforest may be approaching a tipping point. Last year, despite some protection from the demarcations, the rate of deforestation reached the highest level in 15 years, driven largely by cattle ranching.

Nonetheless, the fight to save the rainforest continues. Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has promised that his government is aiming for “zero deforestation” by 2030.

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Previous versions
At Retro Report, we update our journalism as news unfolds. Here are the previous published versions of this story.
  • Producer: Geoffrey O'Connor
  • Editor: Anne Checler
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  • Update Producers: Sianne Garlick
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