The guardianship of the Amazon has been in the hands of the Amazonian tribes who once were 10 million, and now there are less than 200,000. The Amazon represents 6% of the global rainforests, when once it used to be 14% due its commercial benefits. At a rate of 137 species from the plant, animal and insect kingdom a day is being lost to humankind. Twenty-five percent of Western pharmaceuticals is derived from these rainforests, and 74% of plant-derived compounds in current use globally comes from research based on the ethnobotanical knowledge of indigenous peoples.
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Wednesday 12th January 2011, Brazil’s top environmental regulator resigned in refusal to license a project that experts say would be an ecological disaster: the Belo Monte Dam Complex, which would carve a scar bigger than the Panama Canal into the heart of the Amazon.
The mega-dam would flood huge tracts of rainforest and displace thousands of indigenous people. The companies who would profit from the dam have been trying to bulldoze past environmental laws — and want to break ground within weeks.
The Amazon is a global treasure, and a worldwide outcry is needed now. The resignation could clear the way for the dam’s license–or, if enough of us raise our voices, it could mark a turning point against the project. Let’s make this a defining moment on the world stage for Brazil’s new President Dilma. Sign the emergency petition to Dilma to stop Belo Monte and protect the Amazon — it will be delivered spectacularly with Avaaz’s indigenous partners in Brazil’s capital, let’s get 300,000 signatures:
Eletronorte, the company who will profit most from Belo Monte, is demanding that the license to start construction be issued even if the project does not meet environmental standards.
Experts and officials who study the proposed dam overwhelmingly reject it as a catastrophe in the making. Abelardo Bayma Azevedo, who stepped down last week as president of Brazil’s environmental agency, is not the first resignation caused by pressure to allow Belo Monte; his predecessor stepped down for the same reason last year, as did Brazil’s Minister for the Environment — among other top officials. Now, it’s up to us to ensure that these resignations, and decades of protest within Brazil, will not be in vain.
Belo Monte would flood at least 400,000 acres of rainforest, affect hundreds of kilometres of the Xingu river, and displace over 40,000 people, including indigenous communities of 18 different ethnic groups who depend on the Xingu for their subsistence. It is so economically risky that the government has had to turn to public funds for most of the $16 billion investment. And the dam would be one of Brazil’s least efficient, operating at only 10% capacity for the dry months from July to October.
The dam’s backers argue that it will supply Brazil’s growing energy needs. But a far greater, greener, and cheaper supply of energy is available: energy efficiency. A WWF study found that efficiency alone could save the equivalent of 14 Belo Monte dams by 2020. The benefits of a truly green approach would go to everyone, rather than a handful of powerful corporations. But it’s only the corporations who hire lobbyists and wield political muscle — unless enough of us, in the global public, raise our voices, and ensure that Dilma faces a real choice for Brazil’s future.
Belo Monte’s construction could start as early as February 2011. Brazil’s Minister of Energy and Mining, Edson Lobão, says the next license will be approved soon — we need to stop Belo Monte before the bulldozers move in. Let’s welcome Dilma into the presidency with a massive outcry to do the right thing: stop Belo Monte!
Brazil might be the world’s best hope for progress against climate change, and for bringing North and South countries together on the most hopeful common ground. Now, that hope resides in President Dilma. By calling together for her to reject the Belo Monte dam and pursue a better path, we invite her to live up to that opportunity — and to help build a future that all of us, from the tribes along the Xingu to the grandchildren of today’s city dwellers, can be proud of.
Ben, Graziela, Alice, Ricken, Rewan, and the whole Avaaz.org team
IBAMA President Resigns Over Belo Monte Licensing: http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/blog/zachary-hurwitz/2011-1-13/ibama-president-resigns-over-belo-monte-licensing
PowerSwitch report by WWF-Brazil examining opportunities for energy efficiency: http://www.internationalrivers.org/files/brazil_pswstudy_english_summary_0.pdf
Amazon Watch fact sheet: http://www.amazonwatch.org/amazon/BR/bmd/index.php?page_number=99
Power and the Xingu: http://www.economist.com/node/15954573
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