Eye on the Amazon

Together We Stepped Up for the Amazon in 2020!

2020 was defined by fundamental challenges and transformations. We've all had to adapt and create a new way of living and connecting. Most of us could have never imagined that caring for one another would involve so much isolation.

It has become commonplace to call these times unprecedented, but Indigenous peoples had already warned us that destroying Mother Earth would have devastating consequences on our lives. More specifically, they told us that deforestation could unleash diseases that we've never known of. They showed us that pandemics and the destruction of the world's rainforests are interconnected and that we must act now if we are to avoid future crises for humanity and the planet.

Together, we all stepped up, took action, and centered Indigenous voices and resistance. Because you stood in solidarity with Indigenous Earth defenders when the world was in chaos, we grew this movement. We took bold and decisive steps to protect the Amazon because we know the rainforest is under the best stewardship and protected when Indigenous peoples are at the helm. We thank you for joining Amazon Watch and supporting our work. United, we make a difference in the lives of Indigenous peoples across the Amazon who are defending the forest for our collective future.

Protecting and defending the Amazon and our climate in solidarity with Indigenous peoples is how we are effective. Following years of fierce international campaigning and on-the-ground opposition from the Achuar People of the Pastaza and the Wampis Nation of the northern Peruvian Amazon, the Santiago, Chile-based oil company GeoPark announced it would be leaving the oil concession known as Block 64 (Morona Block) "due to extended force majeure." This year pushed the oil industry to the brink of collapse, and a world without fossil fuels became possible after decades of organizing from environmental justice groups and Indigenous peoples.

When the pandemic became a global emergency, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples across the Amazon, Amazon Watch coordinated an international call for an immediate moratorium on all extractive activities such as mining, oil, logging, and industrial agriculture. This call was a preventative measure to stop the exposure to COVID-19 and brought together over 250 organizations to demand that Amazonian governments and corporations immediately cease all extractive activities on Indigenous lands.

In addition to amplifying local demands from across the Amazon, we distributed support for immediate needs due to the lack of government response via our Amazon Defender's Fund. As the COVID-19 threat escalated, we provided emergency funding for essential food and medical supplies in partnership with Indigenous allies, including Women Defenders of the Amazon and the Association of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB). With APIB, we distributed 3,168 food baskets, serving over 1,350 Indigenous people across six villages in Rio Grande do Norte.

Unfortunately, the urgency for COVID-19 rapid-response escalated. We came together with Indigenous organizations, NGO, and donor allies working across the Amazon to launch the Amazon Emergency Fund to distribute over $2.5 million in emergency pandemic relief to Indigenous and traditional communities. We called on Artists for Amazonía to build global awareness and donations, and together we produced a virtual live stream event titled "Artists United for Amazonia: Protecting the Protectors," featuring international artists, activists, scientists, and Indigenous leaders. We are committed to tapping into this growing network of artists to amplify Indigenous peoples' needs as they resist COVID-19, the climate crisis, and face mounting threats.

Supporting on-the-ground emergencies informs our international advocacy campaigns exposing and targeting financial institutions and asset managers funding Amazon destruction, such as BlackRock. Amazon Watch plays a key role in facilitating Indigenous leaders' direct engagement to challenge financial institutions and asset managers at shareholder meetings. In partnership with Indigenous Earth defenders, we've been an influential member of BlackRock's Big Problem campaign pushing the company to act on climate.

Due to this pressure, BlackRock announced in January 2020 that it would eliminate certain coal companies from its portfolios, expand its "sustainable" fund offerings, and vote more transparently on climate-related shareholder resolutions. Over the last year, Amazon Watch has received many requests from financial institutions to consult on social and environmental policies, including European institutions, signaling that our work is reaching and influencing key decision-makers. The momentum is building to progress beyond climate and integrate deforestation and Indigenous rights policies. The Amazon is quickly approaching an ecological tipping point, and this is one strategy to help us turn it around.

The pandemic, however, did not halt Brazil's burning season or deforestation; it increased it. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is at a 12-year high. It rose 9.5 percent, between August 1, 2019, and July 31, 2020, compared to the same 12 months of the previous year. Forest area the size of Jamaica was lost. We made sure that this destruction didn't go unchallenged. Amazon Watch began implementing its fire readiness and response strategy with partner organizations across the Amazon, including rapid response grantmaking, emergency plans, and solutions. One such response was the launch of #AmazonCeaseFire to bring global attention to the cause of the fires and those complicit.

As part of our #AmazonCeaseFire campaign, we partnered with APIB to publish Complicity in Destruction III: How global corporations enable violations of Indigenous peoples' rights in the Brazilian Amazon. The report exposed six major U.S.-based financial Institutions – BlackRock, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Vanguard, Bank of America, and Dimensional Fund Advisors – that from 2017 to 2020 invested more than $18 billion in nine companies enabling environmental and Indigenous rights violations and forest destruction.

We're at the most critical time in the history of the Amazon rainforest. We know we must act now to defend the rainforest and the Indigenous forest guardians who are putting their lives on the line in a time of dual climate and COVID crises, as outlined in our annual publication Amazon in Crisis 2020. In solidarity and partnership with Indigenous allies, we will be moving forward boldly and powerfully to build a pan-Amazon vision and alliance where Indigenous voices for climate justice are front and center. Your support in the coming year will make a difference for Indigenous peoples' lives in the Amazon and for all of us.

Thank you, and Happy New Year!

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