Eye on the Amazon

Five Reasons To Be Hopeful for the Future of the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest can seem unimaginably vast. Similarly, the fight to defend it from the onslaught of industrial-scale threats like oil drilling, logging, and huge dams can appear overwhelming. But across the region, local indigenous peoples and our work to support them is making the difference and protecting the lands they have known for centuries. In 2015, these five snapshots of success gave us hope that the Amazon has a chance to avoid ecosystem collapse, but only if we support its indigenous guardians.

Inspiring Struggle of Brazil's Munduruku People Wins the Prestigious Equator Prize

The government won’t recognize their territory, instead favoring plans to dam the Tapajós River, the Amazon’s last major free-flowing tributary. The Munduruku have taken matters into their own hands, launching a self-organized process to map out the limits of their lands. Additionally, they have detailed what a proper "free, prior, and informed consultation" process would have to look like. For this, the UN Development Program recognized the exemplary nature of their Ipereg Ayu movement, one of 21 groups out of over 800 nominations.

Munduruku leaderships receive the Equator Prize

(short video by Greenpeace Brazil)

Smoking Gun Evidence Against Chevron in Ecuador Published

Chevron is well-known around the globe as gross polluter and fugitive from justice for deliberately polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon for decades. For over twenty years it has delayed accountability by spending billions on lawyers and public relations firms rather than funding a clean-up. This year, however, Chevron's corrupt acts were exposed from within when videos from a company whistleblower were released by Amazon Watch showing Chevron employees hiding contamination. At sites the company swore it cleaned years earlier, technicians found persistent toxic waste which was still affecting local communities. This video evidence, now viewed millions of times, will be pivotal in Canada as its supreme court recently ruled unanimously that the Ecuadorians may begin legal proceedings to seize Chevron’s assets to cover its debt and finally pay for a cleanup.

The Chevron Tapes:

Oil Giant's Corruption and Toxic Pollution Exposed in the Amazon Rainforest
(video leaked by a whistleblower)

Sarayaku's "Canoe of Life" Journeys from the Ecuadorian Amazon to Paris and Takes COP21 by Storm

The clamor of indigenous voices at this year’s UN climate summit was unmistakable. Over a year prior, the Kichwa people of Sarayaku had a powerful vision: they dreamt of bringing a canoe to Paris as a symbol of their Living Forest solution to climate change. Through persistence and perhaps divine inspiration, the canoe arrived and made a big splash both within the conference at Le Bourget and through international media coverage. The impressive ten-person delegation from Sarayaku was ubiquitous over two weeks, offering dozens of keynote addresses, presentations, and media interviews. Policymakers, climate activists, and the general public heard their their story of resistance and hope, complementing similar messages from sister indigenous peoples.

The Living Forest:

the Amazonian tribespeople who sailed down the Seine
(video by Guardian Docs)

Peru's Achuar People Demand Their Collective Territory

The Achuar of the Pastaza River basin have successfully sent oil company after oil company packing, most recently Canada’s Talisman Energy who threw in the towel three years back. While that territorial defense continues (now against PetroPeru and GeoPark), they are also taking proactive measures. Following years of preparation, in 2015 the Achuar demanded legal recognition of the extensive rainforest in which they have traditionally occupied. They have no illusions that success will be easy or quick. They won’t desist, however, as their pioneering initiative would be a game-changer for themselves and the rest of Peru’s Amazonian peoples.

Beneath the Canopy:

Achuar Fight Against Big Oil and Climate Change
(short video by Fusion.netr)

Colombia’s U'wa Stop Gas Mega-Project in Its Tracks

Once construction begins, stopping a natural resource extraction mega-project is virtually impossible. The U'wa of Colombia’s cloud forests have once again done the unthinkable by not only putting the breaks on the Magallanes gas exploration project but seeing it dismantled in early 2015. Simply put, they achieved something rarely seen over Amazon Watch’s 20-year history. The U’wa are now bringing a legal case for the project’s environmental license to be definitively revoked. An additional sign of the U’wa’s determination arrived later in the year when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – for the first time – accepted their case for an in-depth human rights investigation.

The U'wa: A People in Resistance

(short documentary by Claire Miyamoto)

Amazon Watch's support for these crucial campaigns goes far beyond helping to publicize them among international audiences. Our strategic partnering with these peoples dates back years, in most of the above-listed cases for well over a decade. Taking our cues from the grassroots indigenous leadership, we do everything in our power to support their advocacy for indigenous rights and environmental protection, whether before their national government, transnational corporations, international financial institutions or the United Nations.

Thank you for standing with us (and them) when it counts the most!

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