Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch
February 28, 2012 | Maira Irigaray
In early February, I visited the Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon with colleagues from Amazon Watch. It took me a week to process what I experienced there and I thought it was important to share some thoughts, and memories, so you get a better understanding of how important your support for our work is.
I am Brazilian. I came to the U.S. four years ago with a dream: To find a place where I could really do what I love and believe in, helping to protect the Amazon rainforest and its traditional people. I thought that in my country nobody cared, or the ones who did were unable to be effective, and so I started looking for this magical place where people do care, and do make the difference. I walked a long way to find this place, and here I am working for Amazon Watch.
It's been a year and half since I was last in the Xingu. I was there as a lawyer, helping to gather information in preparation for the case for the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. Now I was back there as a representative of Amazon Watch and as a friend, fighter in this struggle. It was a deeply powerful, but disturbing visit. I cried...a lot!
Since the last time I was there everything changed... Altamira is a different town now. What was suppose to be a "new world" as it was sold by the government and the companies is only a messy chaotic town crowded with people, noise, and issues. One hospital and no infrastructure turned Altamira into a sad "black and white" portrait of what so-called "development" means for real to those affected by it.
February 24, 2012 | Andrew E. Miller
"It's like Bagdad," the taxi driver comments as we bump past concrete rubble, protruding rebar, and unruly pedestrians darting in and out of snarled traffic. Bogotá's roads have been under seemingly interminable construction in recent years, in part due to a huge corruption scandal. "They took the billions on up-front payments. Some are in jail now, but where's the money?"
The taxista, in true Colombian form, launches into a colorful and detailed analysis of the political situation. He tells me his country is an "Empire of Corruption," a product of a small number of elite families that have monopolized political power through the centuries. Their attitude? "You rob, I rob. Let's rob together!"
He chalks the situation up to criminal ingenuity on one hand, and a generalized cowardice on the other: people see things they know are wrong but are unwilling to speak up. A dozen exceptions to that uncharitable characterization of his countrymen flash through my mind. Exiting the taxi in the city's colonial Candelaría district, I'm about to meet with some of them.
Up 11 flights of stairs, a panoramic view greets me out the conference room windows, Bogotá's mountains rising to the East and downtown to the North. The rubble is nowhere to be seen, though regular horns and revving engines permeate the windows, a reminder that the chaos below is never far.
February 22, 2012 | Caroline Bennett
Tears swirled with drops of sweat as smoke spiraled up the corner of the dusky hut, its inner walls pierced by a cascade of golden rays shooting through the structure's cracks and casting a warm glow on her crimson painted face.
"For strength!" she gestured me to follow, continuing on in her native Kayapó chant-like tongue. She took my hand with her own, weathered and black with fresh paint, curiously twirling a lock of my blond with the other. I sat down, cross-legged on the earthen floor as her wise eyes caught mine and softened as I smiled. She began to paint my body.
I had read that in the Kayapó myth of the Star Woman, a legendary heroine, the metamorphosis from a star to a human being is realized through the use of body painting and decoration. I closed my eyes and envisioned her, a goddess wrapped in the same intricate pattern emerging on my right bicep. Red and black insect and animal like markings zigzag and speckle the tanned skin of Xikrín men, women and babes, who believe that painting their bodies allows them to more easily connect to the spirits.
Video Denounces New Spill
February 16, 2012 | Darrin Mortenson
Still recovering from a recent spate of devastating oil spills on the Chambira and Marañon rivers, leaders from Amazon communities in Northern Peru are decrying yet another spill on the Rio Corrientes by the Argentinian oil company PlusPetrol.
The January 28 spill, which Achuar indigenous leaders say was caused by company negligence, allowed an unknown quantity of crude and chemicals to gush from a corroded pipeline into the Colpayo River near the community of Nueva Vida, some 300 meters from where the Colpayo feeds into the Corrientes.
Video footage of the cleanup effort shows PlusPetrol crews unable to contain the flow. In an interview with Lima television, Andres Sandi Mucushua, Achuar leader of the Federation of Native communities of the Corrientes – FECONACO – and Jorge Tacuri explain that in 2001 PlusPetrol signed a contract, committing themselves to change pipelines in the area due to corrosion from almost four decades of use, but that the company has yet to follow through with this responsibility, and as a result, in certain areas, the pipelines have begun to leak.
"The strange thing here," says Tacuri, "is that whenever a spill occurs, they [PlusPetrol] try to make it into an act of vandalism, blaming the communities." Tacuri makes clear that the pipelines are made of heavy iron, and that the indigenous communities do not have the tools or materials to be able to perforate these pipelines.
Oil Companies Pose New Threat to City Water Source
February 14, 2012 | Darrin Mortenson
Lending their bodies and voices to a chorus of songs and chants, hundreds of Peruvian students, union workers and other residents marched alongside indigenous activists through the streets of the river port city of Iquitos Wednesday demonstrating the growing opposition to destructive oil drilling along the tributaries of the Amazon River.
The traffic-jamming mobilization marked a departure from previous protests, which were mostly limited to the indigenous people affected by the contamination and divisive political tactics of the oil companies operating on nearby rivers in the region of Loreto.
Now, however, as a consortium of American and Canadian companies prepares to drill along the headwaters of the Rio Nanay – the main source of drinking water for the some 400,000 people of Iquitos – apathy is turning to activism; many from the general public are now joining in.