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  • ...Mr. Mendes was shot dead inside his home in northwestern Brazil on Thursday...

  • Deep in the Amazon, in December of 1988, the fate of the rainforest was changed by a murder.

  • In the small town of Xapuri, Chico Mendes was shot and killed.

  • "The victim was devoted to preserving Brazil's irreplaceable rainforest.

  • And he paid for that, apparently, with his life."

  • Two armed guards had been hired to protect him.

  • But they were inside his house when Chico was hit by a bullet in his backyard.

  • Chico had led the fight to protect the largest rainforest on the planet.

  • It was a fight that alerted the world to the exploitation of the Amazon,

  • and changed the makeup of the rainforest, for decades to come.

  • The Amazon basin is rich in rubber trees that produce latex.

  • And for a long time, they were exclusive to this rainforest.

  • Native people had collected latex, or liquid rubber, for centuries.

  • But in the late 1800s, after the Europeans turned their attention to it, people started extracting

  • latex on a mass scale.

  • It became a valuable material in rapidly industrializing nations, where motor cars with rubber tires

  • started hitting the roads.

  • The Amazon quickly turned into a very profitable global resource.

  • Especially in Brazil, where

  • businessmen started moving into the rainforest.

  • To keep up with the high demand, wealthy "rubber barons" forced indigenous people to work for

  • them as rubber tappers.

  • And they directed waves of migrants from the coast to the rainforest.

  • Rubber tappers were forced to work in exchange for the use of the land, tools or food.

  • So the more they worked, the more they were in debt to their bosses.

  • But the rubber boom wouldn't last long.

  • "The seeds of rubber trees, such as these, smuggled out of the Amazon country,

  • shifted the rubber production of the world to the far east."

  • In the 1870s, an English colonist smuggled 70,000 rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon.

  • The seeds went from Brazil to British colonies in Southeast Asia, where they began harvesting

  • rubber at a lower cost.

  • Over the years, as rubber from these plantations flooded the market, prices fell,

  • and the rubber boom in the Amazon collapsed.

  • But demand spiked again during the Second World War,

  • when rubber became critical to making weapons and vehicles.

  • "We are going to see to it, that there's enough rubber

  • to build the planes to bomb Tokyo and Berlin.

  • Enough rubber to build the tanks. Enough rubber to win this war!"

  • The Brazilian government recruited tens of thousands and forced them to extract latex

  • under harsh conditions.

  • After the war, demand collapsed again and most rubber barons moved on to other businesses.

  • Leaving many rubber tappers in the rainforest, where they settled and were now free to harvest

  • rubber on their own terms.

  • Among them was Chico Mendes, a young rubber-tapper. who started out working under rubber bosses.

  • This is Raimundo Mendes de Barros, Chico's cousin,

  • who works and lives on a reserve in Acre state.

  • Chico's time to step in and lead would come in the 70s and 80s.

  • When the Amazon began seeing deforestation at an unprecedented rate.

  • Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers lived freely in the state of Acre for about a decade.

  • They harvested rubber and collected Brazil nuts sustainably without damaging the forest.

  • And made a living selling what they gathered to traveling merchants.

  • But there was a problem on the horizon.

  • At the time, Brazil was led by a military regime that wanted to use the Amazon for economic

  • development, so they opened it up to ranchers for business.

  • They took over large estates, typically occupied by rubber tappers, and cleared the forest

  • to make room for their cattle.

  • "The politics of land speculation, and the large-scale deforestation...

  • They have as their objective, the substitution of man by cattle.

  • It would be a disaster if this process were allowed to continue in our region."

  • The ranchers used intimidation tactics to expel rubber tappers.

  • They hired gunmen and set fires to tear down trees.

  • But the rubber tappers got together and fought back.

  • They organized "empates" or barricades where they'd sit in front of trees or block the

  • paths to the rubber reserves to prevent loggers and bulldozers from coming through.

  • Chico and Raimundo were both on the front lines.

  • Protecting the rubber tappers' way of life was at the heart of the struggle led by Chico.

  • But over the years, it turned into a much bigger fight for survival.

  • The government, backed by international organizations, built roads in the Amazon,

  • which brought deforestation to different corners of the rainforest.

  • As a result, by 1987, nearly 300,000 square kilometers of the rainforest had been torn down.

  • The fight to prevent deforestation extended throughout the Amazon, and Chico became its

  • spokesperson on a global stage...

  • "... Chico Mendes..."

  • "Together, we can preserve the forest ,and make it productive, securing this immense treasure

  • for the future of all our children."

  • And the world began to pay attention.

  • "It involves the destruction of one of the earth's greatest natural resources: the Amazon rainforest."

  • "The rainforest is unique in all the world.

  • Once it is gone. It is gone forever."

  • International organizations withdrew tens of millions of dollars

  • from the development of the Amazon.

  • A small extraction reserve was created for rubber tappers in Acre in 1988:

  • The first of its kind in Brazil.

  • The land would be owned by the state, but rubber tappers, like Raimundo, would have

  • the right to live and work on it.

  • The reserve would keep everyone else out.

  • Especially cattle ranchers.

  • Making this entire reserve legally protected from deforestation.

  • But in 1988, protecting the rainforest came at a deadly cost.

  • 89 environmental activists were killed that year alone.

  • "I have already escaped six attempts on my life from the enemy.

  • Still, I have a moral commitment to myself.

  • I cannot abandon the struggle, even if, one day, I should be struck by an assassin's bullet."

  • Cattle ranchers looking to expand their business in the Amazon saw Chico as a threat.

  • He was given armed guards for protection.

  • But just days after his 44th birthday, he was shot in his backyard.

  • His killers were cattle ranchers - a father and a son - whose land had just become a protected area.

  • Chico's death pushed changes forward in the Amazon.

  • A larger Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve was created in 1990.

  • Today, it is still the biggest in the Amazon and has protected more than 2 million acres

  • of rainforest from a lot of the deforestation that surrounds it.

  • It's home to about 10,000 people who can freely maintain their traditions and livelihoods.

  • Since Chico's death, all these extractive reserves have been created.

  • There are more than a hundred spread throughout the Amazon.

  • But the fight isn't over.

  • Brazil's current government has pushed for more economic development in the Amazon, while

  • downplaying Chico's struggle:

  • They've also scaled back efforts to preserve the Amazonleaving protected areas

  • at risk all over again.

  • Nearly half of the deforestation is taking place in protected areas,

  • including the Chico Mendes Reserve, where ranchers are reportedly

  • persuading rubber tappers to clear their land for money.

  • But some, like Raimundo's son, are committed to keeping Chico's legacy alive.

  • Hi, thanks for watching the second episode of Atlas in the Amazon's mini-series.

  • I want to take a quick second to thank the filmmakers who filmed Chico Mendes and the Amazon in the 80s.

  • That footage was crucial in allowing us to tell Chico's story,

  • and the role he played in trying to protect the Amazon.

  • We are very grateful to them.

  • In the next episode, we look at the struggle between indigenous people trying

  • to protect their land,

  • and the president threatening to take their rights away.

  • Make sure to come back and watch the third and final episode of Atlas in the Amazon's mini-series.

  • Thanks again for watching, and see you next time.

...Mr. Mendes was shot dead inside his home in northwestern Brazil on Thursday...

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B2 rubber chico amazon rainforest mendes deforestation

The war for the Amazon's most valuable trees

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/04
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