Home International News In honor of the death of journalist Dom Phillips in Brazil's Amazon...

In honor of the death of journalist Dom Phillips in Brazil’s Amazon region

When environmental activist Chico Mendes was murdered some thirty years ago to protect his home and community from illegal loggers in the Amazon, his death seemed to wake the world up to the destruction and dangers facing the rainforest.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mr. Mendes in the past two weeks, ever since my friend Dom Phillips went missing in the western Amazon with his travel companion, indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira.

Why we wrote this

Journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered in the Amazon this month. A friend finds parallels between this tragedy and another Amazon murder some 34 years ago, and hopes these latest deaths could lead to similar action.

Dom wrote a book on sustainable development in the region, and Bruno, who had spent years working with indigenous tribes there, opened doors to the isolated communities where many of Brazil’s estimated 235 indigenous groups live.

They were killed on June 5 as their boat headed up the Itaquaí River, apparently ambushed by men Bruno suspected were fishing for protected turtles and pirarucu, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish.

When I think of Dom’s death, I want to believe that I lost a friend for a reason.

Perhaps naively, and certainly optimistic, I hope we witness a Chico Mendes moment. The Amazon is a lot more vulnerable than it was in 1988 and the tipping point – the moment when it can no longer recover from drought, fires and deforestation – is getting closer.

So Paulo

In December 1988, when most people were buying turkey and Christmas crackers, something happened in the Amazon that changed the way the world viewed Brazil and its nascent environmental movement.

Three days before Christmas, a man was murdered in the southern reaches of the rainforest. He was a rubber tapper named Francisco Mendes, although everyone called him Chico.

Mendes had no formal training, but he was a natural born leader. When loggers threatened to cut down rubber trees to create cattle pastures, he ran to the front lines to stop loggers from using chainsaws and bulldozers to destroy the forest that Mr. Mendes and his community named.

Why we wrote this

Journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered in the Amazon this month. A friend finds parallels between this tragedy and another Amazon murder some 34 years ago, and hopes these latest deaths could lead to similar action.

It cost him his life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mr. Mendes in the past two weeks, ever since my friend Dom Phillips went missing in the western Amazon with his travel companion, indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira.

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