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Tenth Anniversary of Chico Mendes Murder Sees Rainforests in Worst State Ever

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Wednesday, December 16, 1998

"The unprecedented loss of old growth forest is a catastrophe of global proportion. It hastens climate change, obliterates the habit of millions of species, and lays waste to the homelands and way-of-life of traditional forest peoples. The spirit of Chico Mendes lives on in everyone who stands up against this senseless destruction, and if we join together we can protect the Amazon as a lasting memorial to Mendes' vision."

- Randall Hayes, President, Rainforest Action Network

In the ten years since the assassination of Brazilian environmental leader Chico Mendes, the Amazon rainforest he died to protect is in greater danger of destruction than ever, environmentalists fear. Despite an outpouring of public support for rainforest conservation, commercial logging operations in the Amazon's old growth forests still clear an area the size of Delaware each year, and oil exploration threatens to disrupt delicate ecosystems and traditional indigenous communities all across the Amazon basin.

"Citizens of the industrialized North already realize that we must drastically reduce our demand for old growth forest products and insist on sustainable forms of energy, " said Rainforest Action Network founder Randall Hayes, "but until transnational corporations follow suit we cannot guarantee that Chico Mendes did not die in vain."

Chico Mendes was a leader of the movement in Brazil to establish protected forest reserves for extracting sustainable natural products, such as tree-rubber. Previously, vast tracks of rainforest were being clearcut-logged and converted into cattle pastures. He was shot to death December 22, 1988, by two cattle ranchers, one of whom remains at large.

"Human emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, due largely to deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels," Hayes noted, "and average global temperatures have been steadily rising. The fires and droughts that have ravaged Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Russia, Africa, Canada and Florida this past year may be a sign that we are already well on our way to a climate nightmare in the 21st century."

Data from the United Nations-sponsored International Panel on Climate Change indicate that we can burn only 25 percent of known fossil fuel deposits before incurring the worst effects of climate change.

Only 22 percent of the world's old growth forests remain intact; in the United States, less than 4 percent of the old growth forests are still standing. Rainforest Action Network is calling for an end to continued logging of remaining old growth forests in order to challenge companies to stop selling old growth products.

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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

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