BELEM, Brazil, Indigenous people from across Latin America today led over 1000 participants of World Social Forum to form a human banner, using their bodies to draw attention to the increasingly precarious situation of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous leaders, environmentalists and activists joined forces to spell out the message "SALVE AMAZONIA" (“Save the Amazon” in Portuguese) around the massive silhouette of an indigenous warrior taking aim with his bow and arrow.
While world leaders debated a post-crisis world at the World Economic Forum at Davos, the human banner called attention to one of the most important climactic tipping points facing the world today. Almost 20 percent of the Amazon wilderness area has been deforested over the past four decades, and each year between 11,000 and 27,000 square kilometers of additional forest are destroyed. If development plans for the Amazon continue unchecked, scientists predict that the entire Amazon region – recognized as a key to climate stability – will be at the brink of permanent ecological collapse within the next 10 to 20 years. This process would release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating global climate change.
“We are the guardians of the forest. This is a critical moment for Indigenous peoples to unite with non-Indigenous activists, teachers, environmentalists, unions and governments. The Amazon rainforest needs everyone to work together now to defend it before it’s too late.” said Marco Apurina, Vice-Coordinator of COIAB.
“It is urgent that the world act now to stop deforestation and to recognize the importance of the Amazon in stabilizing our climate,” said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director, Amazon Watch. “There needs to be an immediate halt to industrial resource extraction that is bringing the ecosystems and cultures of the Amazon to the brink of collapse.”
On the eve of the human banner event, Brazil’s leading Amazonian indigenous organization, COIAB, issued the following statement: “With the permission of our ancestors’ spirits, we indigenous peoples are here with our friends from all corners of the earth. We build this symbol with our bodies as the cry of living beings from this green forest, this planet, for our continuity as humans and diverse creatures. The symbol of the bow and arrow has three meanings: The first, our aim that every man, woman, and child will decide to care for our planet; The second, the position of defending the rights of indigenous peoples, of nature, of the planet, and of our home the Amazon; The third, to send a message to the world so that each of us helps to protect our home, our air, our water, our food. Save the Amazon!”
“This amazing action brought together Indigenous peoples from all over the world,” said Andrea Samulon, Campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network. “The defense of the Amazon cannot wait another day. The world needs to pay attention now.”
Today’s human art in Belem began this morning at the UFRA’s (Federal Rural University) main field, and lasted almost an hour. The banner was filmed by helicopter and photographs were promptly beamed around the world to send out the message. Technical assistance was provided by Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, and Spectral Q.
The state of the Amazon is a critical focus during this World Social Forum, with one full day devoted to discussing the problems facing the world’s largest rainforest and the indigenous peoples who depend on it. Long an area of concern, the Amazon has lost prominence in recent years as world attention has been focused elsewhere.
More information on the plight of the Amazon will be available during a State of the Amazon media briefing, featuring indigenous leaders from most of the Amazonian countries. The briefing will take place on January 28, 2009 at 17:00 local time at the World Social Forum, Multi-Use Tent “I” at the UFRA.
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org