Science | Geography | Citizenship | PSHE

Fears grow for journalist missing in Amazon

Can we save the world’s largest tropical rainforest? Murderous gangs paid by giant illegal logging companies are killing conservationists as swathes of trees are chopped down. It was on Sunday afternoon that the alarm was raised. Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira had set off for the town of Atalaia do Norte at 6am – a journey that should have taken three hours. Their boat had plenty of fuel, but after eight hours there was no sign of them. Everyone feared the worst. Phillips was a British journalist specialising in the environment. Bruno Araújo Pereira worked to protect Brazil’s uncontacted tribes from the loggers and miners who are invading their lands. The two were in the Javari region of Amazonas state, where tensions have grown since the murder of another official in 2019. Conservationists blame President Bolsonaro, who has weakened laws protecting the rainforest and sacked top environmental officials. They say criminal gangs are plundering the jungle with impunity. The gangs cut down the biggest trees to sell as timber. They then start fires so that the land can be turned over to crops or grazing for cattle. Over the past 40 years, around 170,000 square miles have been cleared – an area twice the size of Britain. Experts warn that the rainforest could soon be so damaged that it will never recover. The people who traditionally inhabit it are being forced into a shrinking area. The police do not have the resources to cover such a large region, so activists are working to deter and report the criminals. They have paid a heavy price: according to Human Rights Watch, over 300 activists have been killed in the past decade. On Monday night Sian Phillips, the missing journalist’s sister, made an appeal for help. “We knew it was a dangerous place, but Dom really believed it’s possible to safeguard the nature and the livelihood of the indigenous people… We love our brother and want him and his Brazilian guide found... Every minute counts.”   Can we save the world's largest tropical rainforest? Logging off? Yes: The majority of Brazilians believe that it should be protected, and Bolsonaro is more than likely to be defeated in October’s presidential elections: the latest poll puts his support at just 27%. No: It is so enormous that it can never be policed effectively. There is a huge amount of money to be made from exploiting it, and the criminal gangs are willing to murder whoever stands in their way. Or... Saving it is hugely important, but not enough on its own to combat the challenge of climate change. We all need to reduce our carbon footprint and put pressure on politicians like Bolsonaro. KeywordsAmazonas state - A huge area of rainforests and rivers close to the border with Peru.

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