(Mint Press) – In the dead of the night, armed intruders kicked in doors, burnt and destroyed property, slashed tires, dragged people out of bed and killed them — this scene was a regular occurrence to activists campaigning against logging in Brazil, and today Interpol made huge steps to stop this. Interpol, the world’s largest international […]
(Mint Press) – In the dead of the night, armed intruders kicked in doors, burnt and destroyed property, slashed tires, dragged people out of bed and killed them — this scene was a regular occurrence to activists campaigning against logging in Brazil, and today Interpol made huge steps to stop this.
Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization, announced that it arrested nearly 200 people in a wide-ranging international operation against illegal logging and the trafficking of timber. In a three-month investigation with undercover work, the investigation bureau seized $8 million worth of timber from 12 Central and South American countries.
In a dirty murderous trade, illegal logging is responsible for the killing of 1000 activists, including Valdemar Oliveira Barbosa, intimidation and death threats of hundreds of farmers, activists and the destruction of 32 million acres of tropical rainforest. Linked to organized crime, illegal logging trade is estimated to be worth up to $100 billion worldwide.
Interpol reported that officials checked lorries, ships, containers, retailers and individuals, seizing a total 2,000 lorry-loads of illicit timber on raids in Latin America. They are still investigating more than 100 people.
David Higgins, head of Interpol’s environmental crime program said, “The raid, ‘Operation Lead,’ was just the first step in the organization’s fight against the illegal timber trade. The international nature of the trade makes prosecutions difficult, but that in the long term, Interpol would try to help countries apply the law in a more uniform manner to combat this problem.”
Mr. Higgins added: “It’s crucial in the fight against timber trafficking that all agents have information. The cooperation between forestry officials, customs and border agents and the police is essential for investigation and prosecution.”
There is a growing problem in Latin America. Over the past years, dozens of anti-logging activists have been killed in Brazil in attacks believed to be linked to their activism. In Colombia, police say drug traffickers and rebel groups are increasingly turning to illegal logging as new source of revenue other than the cocaine drug trade. And in Venezuela, there have been clashes between indigenous groups and loggers who have invaded their land. Logging is an issue that seems on face value to be a minor issue to the U.S., but the impact to illegal logging is leaving an environmental legacy that the planet may never recover from.
Probably the most alarming issue of deforestation is the CO2 emissions to the ozone layer. Deforestation in tropical rainforests adds more carbon dioxide to the Earth’s atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads. Cars and trucks account for 14 percent of global carbon emissions, while most analysts attribute 15 percent to deforestation, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
The Environmental Defense Fund cites one of the reasons why logging is bad for the climate is that when the trees are felled, they release the carbon that they are storing into the atmosphere, where it will mingle with greenhouse gases from other sources causing a global warming effect. By preventing deforestation, this would help decrease CO2 emissions to match our current level of fuel efficiency usage globally.
In the last decade, we have cut down 32 million acres of tropical rainforest each year, and at this pace of deforestation, the forest clearing will put another 200 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in the coming decades.
The destructive impact that deforestation has on the local landscape is devastating. Illegal logging has caused local areas to experience landslide, soil erosion, forest fires and it has also caused the migration of wildlife to new habits.
According to a joint report by the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Sarawak Forest Department, “Logging causes immediate forest disturbances, long-term habitat changes causing damage to food trees and salt-licks (a natural mineral deposit where animals in nutrient-poor ecosystems can obtain essential mineral nutrients, providing the sodium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc required in the for bone, muscle growth wildlife). With the creating of road to increase logging and deforestation has led to the destruction of wildlife on an enormous scale.”
It is widely acknowledged that there must be a consensus and global agreement on growth of deforestation whether legal and/or illegal. Under current laws, governments and businesses can destroy protected environments in developing countries.
Indigenous tribes cry for help
Logging companies keen to exploit Brazil’s rainforest have been accused by human rights organizations of using gunmen to wipe out the Awá, a tribe of just 355. The Awá are one of only two nomadic hunter-gathering tribes left in the Amazon. According to Survival, they are now the world’s most threatened tribe. Gunmen, loggers and hostile settler farmers have all endangered the Awá way of life.
Their troubles began in earnest in 1982 with the European Economic Union (EU) and World Bank funded program to extract massive iron ore deposits found in the Carajas mountains. The EU gave Brazil $600 million to build a railway from the mines to the coast, on condition that Europe received a third of the output, a minimum of 13.6 million tons a year for 15 years.
The railway cut directly through the Awá’s land and with the railway came settlers. A road-building program quickly followed, opening up the Awá’s jungle home to loggers, who moved in from the east.
It was, according to Survival’s research director, Fiona Watson, a recipe for disaster. A third of the rainforest in the Awá territory in Maranhão state in Northeast Brazil has since been destroyed and outsiders have exposed the Awá to diseases against which they have no natural immunity.
Today, the Awá’s tribe is fighting off the illegal loggers. It is because of the convenience of the road that illegal loggers like the Maranhao area. Despite the primitive way of life, the Awa tribe is determined to get rid of the illegal logging.
In March 2012, Brazil’s forestry department raided and closed down 14 illegal sawmills on the borders of the Awá’s land. But the destruction continues today — illegal logging is destroying the Awá’s jungle, and possibly causing the extinction of the tribe.
How do we stop the logging?
Illegal logging generates $1 billion in profits to organize crime to supply the global with wood. China is one of the biggest markets for illegal timber as their trading standards and regulations allows imports without documentation proving origin and license.
The U.S. leads the world in legislation to make the import and sale of illegally-produced timber illegal in its own jurisdiction, through the Lacey Act, which has recently been amended to include a wide range of commercial timber species. It has also increased its commitment to tackling the trade in illegal wood through bilateral agreements on the environment and trade with a number of Asian and Latin American countries. But that does not stop U.S. businesses to act irresponsibly.
In a recent Greenpeace campaign, U.S. agribusiness Herakles Farms and its chief executive Bruce Wrobel is the subject of a campaign to stop Herakles Farm carving out 73,000 hectares of largely dense forest in Cameroon to plant palm oil trees.
Greenpeace has asked Wrobel to directly answer whether the forest clearing that has already started in Cameroon to establish a large palm oil plantation is being done without a presidential decree – the paperwork required by national law. Wrobel has so far declined to give the world evidence that it’s not illegal logging.
The illegal logging trade has caused untold damage to the environment and to date police and investigators have been slow to address the 1,000 land activists that have been murdered in two decades of fighting this issue. With Interpol investigating the illicit trade, it is hoped that this illegal trade will finally disappear.