Obede Loyla Souza is the latest person murdered by illegal loggers. It is a battle for the forest but also for the idea of progress without destruction.

Dory Carr-Harris, PSFK
  • 17 june 2011

Powered by
This article titled “Death in the Amazon: a war being fought for us all” was written by Damian Carrington, for on Wednesday 15th June 2011 16.22 UTC

Obede Loyla Souza is the latest tragic death in the war of Brazil’s forests, shot in cold blood for taking a stand against illegal loggers. His killing is the sixth in a month, and another grim addition to a death toll of over 1000 in the last two decades.

But do not think that this war is only between heroic activists, frequently landless and poor, and rapacious, murderous loggers. It is, of course, but it is also a war of ideas. Chico Mendes, the rainforest campaigner infamously slaughtered in 1988, put it succinctly: the fight is to “demonstrate that progress without destruction is possible”, he said shortly before his death.

Twenty years on the concept of sustainable development is far better known, if not much better practised. But in the Amazon, it is a matter of life and death.

Brazil has shouldered the burden of the world in acting to cut deforestation. Losing the Amazon would tip the global climate into chaos with consequences for us all. When I went to the Amazon last year, and to Brasilia to meet ministers, the crackdown on logging was impressive. Satellite technology had helped cut deforestation radically.

At Brazil’s space institute, its head, Dr Gilberto Câmara, explained to me how he believed his nation could become becoming the first environmental superpower, the first nation to grow rich from its natural resources without destroying them.

There are plenty of catches of course, not least Brazil’s huge oil finds, as I wrote about then. In the Amazon, the first obstacle is simply scale: the rainforest is bigger than western Europe. Furthermore, much degradation of the land in Brazil takes place outside the Amazon – in a nation four times the size of western Europe.

The government has about 800 officers tasked with enforcing laws against deforestation. That’s roughly one officer per 10,000 square kilometres. And it’s terrifying work. Raquel Taitson told me she loggers had tried to run her down in a car, attacked her with an axe and set fire to the guest house she was sleeping in.

Land rights are another issue. The long-term falling trend in deforestation has sharply reversed this year, most probably as illegal loggers grab land ahead of changes in Brazil’s Forest Code that might legitimise such plots. Environmental campaigners rightly denounce the changes.

But do not underestimate the power of the voices of Brazil’s many poor, who in desperation back any economic development over green concerns. Brazil’s president Dilma Rouseff has to balance these voices – and the corrupt local politicians that ruthlessly exploit them for their own profit – with forest protection.

In the rich world, Brazilian leaders who say foreign aid to stop deforestation should not be laden with strings of conditions are seen as arrogant beggars. Blunt speaking, such as in 2009 when former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said “I don’t want any gringo asking us to let an Amazon resident die of hunger under a tree”, is seen as needlessly aggressive.

But remember, Brazil is battling to do what no western nation ever did: lift its citizens from poverty without destroying the future prosperity of others.

That is why men like Obede Loyla Souza are so extraordinary. They toil to feed their families and yet are still prepared to face death protect the forest that protects us all. It is deeply humbling. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


Bringing Food Innovation To America's Crowded Milk Market

Culture Today

Artist Designs Covers For Books That Don’t Exist

Published by the fictional "Specious Books," the subversive works facilitate a conversation regarding the artistic integrity of graphic designers

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Financial Services Today

Device Makes Digital Currency Feel Tangible

The concept gadget wants you to experience the highs and lows of spending money

Advertising Today

Lyft Gives Free Rides To Those Who Have Had Too Much To Drink

Thanks to a new partnership between the ride sharing service and Budweiser, drunk passengers are able to receive free rides

Related Expert

Nikki Kaufman

Tech Customizer, Crowd Inventor

Augmented / Virtual Reality Today

NBC Is Planning To Stream The Presidential Debates In Virtual Reality

Partnering with AltspaceVR, the broadcaster offers another way for Americans to engage with the election season

Travel Today

What Happens When An Entire Airport Terminal Rebrands Itself?

JFK's Terminal 4 underwent a dramatic design facelift to guide and delight travelers

Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Today

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Automotive september 23, 2016

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling

Home september 23, 2016

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture september 23, 2016

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Design & Architecture september 23, 2016

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health september 23, 2016

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Cities september 23, 2016

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming

Health september 23, 2016

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

No search results found.