The 5 September is Brazil’s Amazon Day. Here at WWF-UK we’d like it to become an international day for the Amazon, as we all benefit from the incredible role that the Amazon plays in helping regulate our global climate. The world’s largest rainforest and treasure trove of biodiversity produces oxygen, absorbs carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas, and also helps generate rainfall. The benefits the Amazon provides are felt far beyond the reaches of the rainforest.
We all have cause to celebrate the incredible scale, diversity and benefits of the Amazon. Check out our video that explains why the Amazon is so important, even to those of us who live thousands of miles away from it.
Brazil is among the world’s most biodiverse countries. Its protected areas and indigenous territories are the jewel in this biodiversity crown. On Amazon Day, amazing images of the rainforest will be projected onto Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, and in Cologne, in Germany, the internationally regarded Brazilian photographer Sebastian Salgado, will be showcasing a selection of striking black and white images of the Amazon on an immense public screen.
We are shining the spotlight on protected areas and indigenous lands because they are at risk, and to help us do this, we have the support of someone already in the spotlight – Brazilian footballer Neymar Junior.
The Neymar Junior Project Institute is an private non-profit association dedicated to social causes, providing educational and sports facilities for children and families in need. The institute will receive educational materials to raise awareness of the importance of the Amazon to the Brazilian people.
“I think it is the duty of all Brazilian’s and every human being who admires the Amazon to take care of our forests. We need to give back to nature all that she has given us, and this act of preservation can help bring us together.”
“Me and my institute are supporting Amazon Day, because we care about the future of our children”
– Neymar Junior.
Brazil at a crossroads
On the one hand important progress has been made in Brazil in bringing down rampant Amazonian deforestation since rates peaked in 2004, and the government is continuing to advance the worlds largest tropical forest conservation programme, the Amazon Regional Protected Areas or ARPA Programme.
On the other hand, a swathe of political reforms are proposed that could open up protected areas and indigenous lands to mining, dams, and other large-scale infrastructure. Many of these proposals are part of the recently announced Agenda Brazil – an agenda of legislative measures aimed at rekindling economic growth and abating the current political crisis.
At the same time, a large investment package was announced for the energy sector, that favours the construction of dams in the Amazon. These reforms aim to improve the business climate for large mining and infrastructure, fast track environmental licensing and roll back legal protection for protected areas, as well as the ancestral lands of the country’s numerous indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples and civil society are understandably up in arms about these changes and are fighting back . Even leaf cutter ants in Germany are voicing their concerns, in solidarity with the people of Brazil. The fate of Brazil’s Amazon hangs in the balance.
This month we are also celebrating our successes under the Sky Rainforest Rescue programme, WWF’s partnership with the UK media and entertainment company Sky. We have learnt that the people living in the project area in the Brazilian Amazon in Acre state, who are poor small-scale farmers and rubber tappers, need locally-appropriate solutions that improve their livelihoods while helping them conserve the rainforest.
Unfortunately, the national agenda of large scale mining, dams and other infrastructure is not a solution for them, nor for the rainforest. Our work in Acre is having the greatest impact for some of the region’s poorest; those who live in and with the forest, and know its true value. We will celebrate these real stories of success while continuing to lobby for more appropriate laws in the region.