Rising deforestation sparks concern in Brazil Amazon

Updated 22 August 2013

Rising deforestation sparks concern in Brazil Amazon

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on the rise sharply, sparking alarm over the future of the world’s biggest rainforest.
Between June and last August, Imazon, the first independent monitoring system for the area, detected a 100 percent surge in the clearing of land.
That’s in stark contrast to last year, when deforestation fell to 4,751 square kms, its lowest level in decades.
The government insists a full picture will only emerge at the end of the year, once more reliable satellite images are factored in.
Provisional government data until May had pointed to a 30 percent increase.
The surge in deforestation coincides with major infrastructure projects and a new forestry law.
The law, which curbs the use of land for farming and mandates that up to 80 percent of privately-owned acreage in the Amazon remain intact, took effect last October.
It was passed by Congress where a pro-agribusiness bloc holds considerable sway.
“One of the reasons for the rising deforestation was the forestry code,” said Justiniano Nett, of the Green Towns conservation group in the northern state of Para.
“It led to rumors that producers interpreted as an amnesty.”
Paulo Adario, a Greenpeace official in charge of monitoring the Amazon, said the government continued to launch major infrastructure projects without creating new protected areas or demarcating indigenous lands that serve as barriers to deforestation.
“At the same time, it needs support from a political front that includes an increasingly powerful agribusiness sector and a very clear agenda of reviewing policies affecting indigenous people and protected areas,” he added.
Amazon natives are up in arms over initiatives under discussion in Congress that would allow mining companies or ranchers to operate on their lands. They are also protesting a bill that would make Congress the authority on territorial claims, which they fear would give political advantage to white ranchers.
Ranchers often clash with indigenous groups over land rights.
Under the current system, a government agency conducts studies and makes decisions about land demarcation.
“It is a process of violent assault on indigenous rights,” said Cleber Buzzatto, executive secretary of the Indigenous Missionary Council CIMI.
In April, leaders of 121 indigenous tribes stormed the House of Deputies in Brasilia and protested outside President Dilma Rousseff’s office to demand the return of their ancestral lands.
Indigenous peoples represent less than one percent of Brazil’s 194 million citizens and occupy 12 percent of the country’s territory, mainly in the Amazon.
Experts were reluctant to conclude that the latest deforestation figures signal a new upward trend in a country that managed to cut the process by more than 80 percent in eight years.
But they warned against complacency.
“Brazil is well equipped to continue bringing deforestation down, but it cannot loosen the rules,” said Adalberto Verissimo, an Imazon researcher.
“It must make clear that it will not accept amnesties and will be tough against those who deforest.”
Other analysts highlight a new trend: land speculation fueled by major infrastructure projects such as hydro-electric dams, highways or ports that offer prospects of economic development.
“Brazil needs to invest in prevention,” said Ian Thompson, head of the Amazon project at The Nature Conservancy.


At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 image, Lizzie Chimiugak looks on at her home in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2020

At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

  • The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867

TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska: Lizzie Chimiugak has lived for 90 years in the windswept western wilds of Alaska, born to a nomadic family who lived in mud homes and followed where the good hunting and fishing led.
Her home now is an outpost on the Bering Sea, Toksook Bay, and on Tuesday she became the first person counted in the US Census, taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.
“Elders that were before me, if they didn’t die too early, I wouldn’t have been the first person counted,” Lizzie Chimiugak said, speaking Yup’ik language of Yugtun, with family members serving as interpreters. “Right now, they’re considering me as an elder, and they’re asking me questions I’m trying my best to give answers to, or to talk about what it means to be an elder.”
The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. The ground is still frozen, which allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The mail service is spotty in rural Alaska and the Internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March.
On Tuesday, Steven Dillingham, director of the census bureau, conducted the first interview after riding on the back of a snowmobile from the airport to Chimiugak’s home.
“The 2020 Census has begun,” he told reporters after conducting the first interview with Chimiugak, a process that lasted about five minutes. “Toksook Bay isn’t the easiest place to get to, and the temperature is cold. And while people are in the village, we want to make sure everyone is counted.”
Dillingham was hours late getting to Toksook Bay because weather delayed his flight from the hub community of Bethel, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) away. Conditions didn’t improve, and he spent only about an hour in the community before being rushed back to the airport.
After the count, a celebration took place at Nelson Island School and included the Nelson Island High School Dancers, an Alaska Native drum and dance group. Later, the community took over the commons area of the high school with a potluck of Alaska Native foods, including seal, moose and goose soups, herring roe served with seal oil and baked salmon.
Robert Pitka, tribal administrator for Nunakauyak Traditional Council, hopes the takeaway message for the rest of the nation is of Yup’ik pride.
“We are Yup’ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong in our culture and our traditions and that our Yup’ik language is very strong,” he said.
For Chimiugak, she has concerns about climate change and what it might do to future generations of subsistence hunters and fishers in the community, and what it will do to the fish and animals. She talked about it with others at the celebration.
“She’s sad about the future,” he eldest son Paul said.
Chimiugak was born just after the start of the Great Depression in the middle of nowhere in western Alaska, her daughter Katie Schwartz of Springfield, Missouri, said. Lizzie was one of 10 siblings born to her parents, who lived a nomadic lifestyle and traveled with two or three other families that would migrate together, her son said.
Lizzie and her 101-year-old sister from Nightmute, Alaska, survive.
In 1947 Lizzie married George Chimiugak, and they eventually settled in Toksook Bay after the town was founded in 1964 by residents of nearby Nightmute. There are five surviving children.
He worked maintenance at the airport. She did janitorial work at the old medical clinic and babysat.
Like other wives, she cleaned fish, tanned hides and even rendered seal oil after her husband came home from fishing or hunting. Her husband died about 30 years ago.
She is also a woman of strong Catholic faith, and told her son that she saved his life by praying over him after he contracted polio.
For her own hobbies, she weaved baskets from grass and remains a member of the Alaska Native dance group that performed Tuesday. She dances in her wheelchair.
She taught children manners and responsibility and continued the oral tradition of telling them stories with a storyknife.
Chimiugak used a knife in the mud to illustrate her stories to schoolchildren. She drew figures for people or homes. At the end of the story, she’d use the knife to wipe away the pictures and start the next story with a clean slate of mud.
“She’s a great teacher, you know, giving us reminders of how we’re supposed to be, taking care of subsistence and taking care of our family and respecting our parents,” her granddaughter Alice Tulik said. “That’s how she would give us advice.”