Burnt body of British environmental activist found at youth hostel in Peru

Police cordoned off the murder scene at the youth hostel Paul McAuley ran in Iquitos

A British Catholic missionary and environmental activist Paul McAuley, was found dead in a hostel for indigenous students in Peru.

The body of McAuley, 71, was discovered last week by students in the city of Iquitos on the Amazon river.

The religious order to which he belonged said in a statement that the body had been burned.

According to The Guardian, a forensic expert in Peru has confirmed that McAuley was dead before his body was burned.

The head forensic doctor in Peru’s Loreto region, Francisco Moreno, said it was difficult to determine the cause of death and more pathological and toxicological tests were being conducted but it could take between three to six months to know the results.

Authorities questioned six indigenous youth who lived in the hostel he managed in a poor area of the isolated city.

The death of McAuley is still under investigation.

Born in Portsmouth, the activist lived in Peru for more than 20 years.

He had worked on behalf of the country’s indigenous communities to battle powerful oil and mining interests.

Paul McAuley, 71, originally from Portsmouth, was found burned to death in Peru

McAuley attracted international attention in 2010 when the Peruvian government ordered his expulsion. He was accused of causing unrest among the indigenous population for protesting against the destruction of the environment. This resulted in hundreds of people demonstrating for him and allowing him to stay in the South American country after a long trial.

Environmental groups were quick to pay tribute to McAuley after his death.

The Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-profit group, said he “fought peacefully for indigenous rights and forests in Peru.”

It added: “His death should be investigated. Rest in peace, Brother Paul, we will continue the fight.”

The group’s Peru programs director Julia Urrunaga tweeted: “What tough news. A great man who did a lot for indigenous communities, their rights and the forests.”

Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Members Allegedly Killed By Gold Miners In Brazil

Members of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Basin were photographed by air in 2008. (Ho New / Reuters)

At least 10 members of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Basin were allegedly killed last month by illegal gold miners, according to Survival International.

The organization, which advocates for indigenous rights, said the massacre included women and children and may have wiped out one-fifth of the tribe.

Members of the tribe were gathering eggs along a river in the Javari Valley, in the country’s remote west, when they came across the miners, The New York Times reported. The miners later boasted about the slaughter at a bar in the nearest town, and even showed off a hand-carved paddle they claimed to have stolen as a trophy.

“It was crude bar talk,” Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, Funai’s coordinator for uncontacted and recently contacted tribes, told the Times. “They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.”

Funai is Brazil’s agency for indigenous affairs and its budget was recently cut under President Michel Temer. Survival International described Temer’s government as “fiercely anti-Indian, and has close ties to the country’s powerful and anti-indigenous agribusiness lobby.”

Survival International called the attack “genocidal” and said Temer and his government bore “heavy responsibility” for it. According to Stephen Corry, Survival International’s director:

“The slashing of Funai’s funds has left dozens of uncontacted tribes defenseless against thousands of invaders ― gold miners, ranchers and loggers ― who are desperate to steal and ransack their lands. All these tribes should have had their lands properly recognized and protected years ago ― the government’s open support for those who want to open up indigenous territories is utterly shameful, and is setting indigenous rights in Brazil back decades.”

At least two other tribes in the region have seen their land invaded and are now surrounded by ranchers and others, Survival International reported.

Adelson Kora Kanamari, leader of the Warikama Djapar tribe, told the Amazon Real portal that the situation for indigenous people in the region was “very critical” and that between 18 and 21 people have been killed in attacks, AFP reported.

The invaders are landowners, hunters, miners,” Kanamari said. “Many (indigenous) are being killed in isolation, but we don’t know the exact dates or number of deaths.”

HuffPost, Sept 11, 2017


Brazil: Increase in Land killings as Political Crisis Threatens Amazon

The 14th ‘Free Terra’ Camp in Praça dos Ipês, Brasília, during April 24-28 2017. Over 4,000 representatives from 200 indigenous peoples from all regions of the country were present in a large demonstration of strength of the indigenous movement. Photo: NINJA Media / National Indigenous Mobilization via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

By Joe Sandler Clarke & Sam Cowie / Greenpeace Energydesk 

There has been a significant increase in the number of indigenous people and environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation.

New research shared with Energydesk by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016.

The data comes as President Temer’s right-wing government has cut funding dramatically for the country’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.

CPT, which has been collecting data on rural violence since 1985, has found that so far the number of people killed in these disputes is set to exceed last year’s figures, when 61 people died.

At the end of April, violence against indigenous people in Brazil made international headlines, as 13 members of the Gamela community in Maranhão state were attacked by farmers wielding machetes in brutal land dispute.

A couple of week’s earlier, nine people were stabbed and shot over a territorial dispute in Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon.

Jeane Bellini, national coordinator of CPT told Energydesk that recent years have a significant increase in the number of people being killed in rural land conflicts.

Bellini believes the current political turmoil in Brazil, the former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year while sitting President Michel Temer is embroiled in a corruption scandal, has helped fuel the violence:

“Rural violence has accelerated under President Temer. Actually, it isn’t only the government. I would say that the political instability created by all of those irresponsible people in congress, as well as Temer and his government have added. I mean, they’re doing things that are completely against the needs and the rights of the people.”

Indigenous rights agency cut

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence. She explained:

“There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is nobody trying to protect them.”

Tauli-Corpuz visited Brazil at the end of last year and found government agencies unable to function. She told Energydesk in December that she visited Funai regional offices which had no staff:

“We went to the office in Bahia and there was no one there. There have been huge cutbacks, and they have continued since I came back from my trip … I have a sense that the situation in the country is deteriorating.”

Months later, the UNSR said that the recommendations she made to Brazilian officials have not been addressed.

In May, a congressional committee led by a powerful farming lobby moved to replace the indigenous rights agency with a body controlled by the justice ministry – a move which campaigners believe could have terrible consequences.


According to Bellini, a culture of impunity around rural killings in Brazil is also to blame for the worsening situation. CPT states that of the 1,800 killings the organisation has recorded since 1985, only 112 ended up in court with very few ending with conviction.

She said: “Given all the political instability in Brazil since last year, those who are looking to accumulate land, in whatever way they can, have found an opportunity to accelerate the process and apparently they feel quite convinced of impunity.”

In response to this story, Amnesty International Brazil – which uses CPT’s data in its own work – sent us the following statement.

“Amnesty International believes, that in the light of the recent attack on the Gamela community in Maranhão state, it is absolutely essential that the Brazilian government makes a strong statement committing to upholding the Constitutional obligations to demarcate and deliver Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands.

“Funai must be strengthened, by making available necessary financial resources, and recent appointments to the agency should be reviewed, in order to ensure that those in leadership positions in the agency have the necessary political independence to do their job.

“The Brazilian government must ensure security to human rights defenders and withdraw any initiatives to criminalize or limit their work.” 

Joe Sandler-Clarke is a UK-based journalist specialising in investigative and public interest stories. His writing has been published in the Guardian, Independent, The Sunday Times, VICE and others, and he curently works at Greenpeace UK.

Sam Cowie is a freelance journalist based in São Paulo, Brazil.

This article was originally published on Greenpeace Energydesk.

Read more: Amazon deforestation rises as government moves to weaken Indigenous protections.

Article originally published in Ecologist on Jun 7, 2017


Brazil Court Suspends Amazon Hydrodam License On Native Demands

Indigenous protesters hold hands near an entrance way to the Rio20 conference in protest over the Belo Monte dam construction. Photo: Getty Images

Indigenous protesters hold hands near an entrance way to the Rio20 conference in protest over the Belo Monte dam construction. Photo: Getty Images

Author: Reuters, Thu, 14 Jan 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 14 (Reuters) – A Brazilian court suspended the operating license for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, one of the world’s largest, just weeks before owner Norte Energia SA planned to start electricity generation, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Judge Maria Carolina Valente do Carmo of the Federal Court in Altamira, Para, said the license will be suspended until Norte Energia and Brazil’s government meet a previous license requirement to reorganize the regional office of Funai, the national Indian protection agency.

A judge had already ordered the government and Norte Energia to carry out the Funai restructuring work in 2014, so Valente do Carmo also fined the government and the company 900,000 reais ($225,000) for non-compliance.

The Belo Monte dam, one of the most controversial ever constructed in Brazil, is located on the Xingu River near Altamira.

Belo Monte will have an installed capacity of 11,233 megawatts. Its average output, though, will only be about a third of that as the original reservoir was greatly reduced at the request of native groups and environmentalists.

These critics objected to the dam blocking one of the last free-flowing major tributaries of the Amazon. They also opposed an early reservoir plan that would have flooded thousands of square kilometers of virgin rain forest.

Tens of thousands of workers moving to the region to build the massive project also raised fears that many would stay and expand illegal logging, mining and farming in the rainforest.

Brazil is counting on the dam, now several years behind schedule, to help fill a power gap in Brazil’s south caused by delayed projects, rising demand and recent drought.

Norte Energia, which is building and will operate the dam, is a consortium led by Brazil’s state-run utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA, or Eletrobras; Centrais Eletricas de Minas Gerais, or Cemig; Brazil’s Neoenergia SA and miner Vale SA.

Norte Energia said it had no comment on the ruling because the company has not been formally notified of its contents.

The Funai requirements have been part of the rules governing operations at Belo Monte since the dam project received its preliminary license in 2010, prosecutors said in a statement.

Currently, the Funai offices in Altamira are closed and the agency has seen the number of workers in the region fall by nearly three-quarters. In 2001 there were 60 Funai employees there, today 23. All the Funai stations in indigenous villages near the dam have been closed.

($1 = 4.00 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Jeb Blount and Marta Nogueira; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Gregorio)


Unconquered Kayapó Warriors Fighting For Their Amazon Land


By Deutsche Welle

The Kayapó people of the Amazon are excellent guardians of the forest but big business interests and a change to Brazil’s constitution could threaten the ecosystem they have managed to preserve until now.

In Brazil’s northern interior, the once pristine forest has been stripped in many places leaving behind swathes of barren fields and destroyed ecosystems. A notable exception is an area spanning 11 million hectares of primary tropical forest and savanna. The land is legally-owned by the Kayapó indigenous peoples.

About 10,000 tribal members live in 46 villages scattered across the vast territory roughly the size of Bulgaria. Satellite images of the area confirm what scientists have known all along: The Kayapó are the most effective defenders against illegal logging, ranching and gold mining. However, powerful political and economic forces are working against them, say conservationists.

The Kayapó and other environmental activists are currently fighting a proposed constitutional amendment known as PEC 215, which is intended to transfer the Brazilian executive government’s right to designate which land is indigenous to the country’s parliament – the National Congress.

It sounds harmless enough, except that the congress is home to a powerful “ruralist” bloc that has close ties to the agricultural, forestry, energy and mining industries. As a result, many see the proposed amendment as a threat to what is left of the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity. And while the Kayapó land is the largest of its kind, it is only one of about 690 recognized territories concentrated in the region that could face the chop.

Photo: Kayapó fishing (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

The Kayapó know how to hunt sustainably

Hunters, gatherers, guardians of the ecosystem

In exchange for their guardianship of the land, the Kayapó count on the forest for food. They fish some of the 3,000 species in the Amazon River, and hunt mammals, birds, and tortoises while women gather nuts and fruit.

Barbara Zimmerman, director of the Kayapó Project at the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) says their stewardship has little negative impact on endangered species.

“They’re not putting a dent even in the most sensitive game species like white-lipped peccary, tapir, fish and so on,” says Zimmerman who added that such species are being wiped out at an alarming rate in other parts of the Amazon where they are hunted.

Researchers are concerned that giving large resource industries access to the land would threaten several endangered species in the area, including the white-whiskered spider monkey, giant otter, and hyacinth macaw. Other vulnerable large-game species like the giant armadillo, bush dog, and jaguar are found within hunting range of Kayapó communities as well.

“Scientists working in the Amazon would tell you that indigenous lands are absolute key to any hope for conservation of Amazonian biodiversity,” Zimmerman told DW.

The forest also mitigates the effects of climate change and plays an important role in maintaining rainfall patterns on a larger geographic scale. It’s an important buffer for cities in the region, including São Paulo, which suffered power cuts and drastic water rationing in 2014 during its worst drought in 80 years. Scientists attributed the drought to Amazon deforestation .

Powerful economic interests

The hunger for rainforest lands that drives large-scale illegal logging and ranching in the Amazon is linked to Brazil’s booming agricultural sector. According to global auditor PwC, agribusiness employs roughly a third of the working population and accounts for 22 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country is one of the top three beef exporters in the world. In 2013, 40 percent of global exports for products such as coffee, sugar, soybeans, and orange juice came from Brazil .

Photo: Kayapó on a destroyed patch of forest (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

Slash and burn techniques clear the way for farming but little remains of the forest

Agribusiness has grown so powerful it has an army of lobbyists in government setting agendas like PEC 215. At the helm is Kátia Abreu, the minister of agriculture appointed in December 2014 by President Dilma Rousseff. In an interview with ‘The Guardian’ earlier that year, Abreu described her goal of increasing agricultural output and weakening forest controls.

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many things holding back progress – the environmental issue, the Indian issue and more,” said Abreu, referring to the Amazon tribes. “But even with these problems we keep producing high levels of productivity. Imagine how high it might be without those obstacles.”

Abreu also noted the agricultural industry’s role in lifting many average Brazilians out poverty. But Sarah Shenker, campaign officer with Survival International , disagrees with the minister’s take. Shenker says only a small group of people benefit from Brazil’s agricultural industry.

“These projects will make big companies richer, some of the money will go to the government as well, but they’re not projects which are going to make poor people richer,” says the environmental campaigner.

Only the tip of a developmental agenda

A group of indigenous peoples, parliamentarians, and civil society organizations believe PEC 215 is only the tip of a massive developmental agenda that will “permit the approval of large-scale enterprises within these protected areas.” According to a manifesto they signed and delivered to congress in June, these projects include hydroelectric dams, mines, extensive agribusiness and the construction of highways, waterways, ports and railways for industrial transport.

“It is for the whole world that I am fighting to succeed in preserving the forest,” said Kayapó chief Raoni Metuktire in an online appeal against the controversial Belo Monte Dam project on the Xingu river in northeastern Brazil that is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The local tribes say the dam will damage their livelihoods and the environment. The government argues it will provide clean renewable energy for the region as well as economic development.

Chief Raoni and fellow Kayapó Chief Mekaron-Ti have worked for more than 40 years to save the Amazon and have fought off mega dams proposed along the Xingu River since the 1980s – armed with the tribe’s strong leadership and combative spirit. In the distant past, the Kayapó have gone so far as to evict and kill intruders when threatened.

Corruption hindering environmental protection

In a country where thousands of citizens marched in August in the wake of a massive investigation linking top bureaucrats and company executives to bribery, money laundering and kickbacks, there’s evidence to suggest environmental protection is at the mercy of corruption.

Photo: A group of Kayapó (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

A David and Goliath Story? Kayapó face-off with big business and politics to save their land

For instance, Paulo Roberto Costa , former director of semi-public company Petrobras and one of the first high-level executives to be arrested and convicted, exposed politicians involved in corruption in sectors such as transportation and dam construction.

Another convicted executive, Dalton Avancini, ex-president of one of Brazil’s largest engineering firms Camargo Corrêa, revealed that the company paid millions to two political parties in exchange for 15 percent of the contract to build the Belo Monte mega dam.

Given the money at stake, the indigenous peoples living in the forest are facing an uphill struggle, say conservationists.

“A giant black storm is building on the horizon,” says Zimmerman of the ICFC. “Ranchers want in. Colonists want in. Given that [the Kayapó] have the last valuable stocks of timber in the entire region, the pressures are intense.”


Peruvian Relatives Of Murdered Forest Defenders Win Land Title

The widows of murdered forest defenders travelled to Lima to demand justice (Facebook/If not us then who?)

The widows of murdered forest defenders travelled to Lima to demand justice (Facebook/If not us then who?)

By Megan Darby

The Asheninka people have been campaigning for land rights to their ancestral homelands in the Peruvian Amazon for more than a decade.

Their case shot to the world’s attention last September, when four of their number were killed, allegedly by illegal loggers: Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quinticima and Francisco Pinedo.

The men’s widows took the fight to Peru’s capital Lima, while it was hosting the last round of UN climate talks.

With the media spotlight on, they accused the government of failing to support their efforts to protect the rainforest – a crucial part of the climate agenda.

Report: Peru climate pledge hinges on forests wager

Last week, they won the legal title to the 200,000-acre (809-sqkm) territory of Saweto.

Diana Rios, daughter of Jorge Ríos Pérez, was triumphant: “They thought they could treat us badly forever. But no! We are human beings!

“We don’t want more bloodshed… We ask the State to support us and to support other communities too. It’s not just Saweto – there are other communities that don’t have titles.”

Indeed, more than 1,600 communities have outstanding claims, according to indigenous rights network Aidesep.

Hailing the “great success” for the Asheninka, Tom Bewick of Rainforest Foundation US, added: “We hope this action will push the State to recognize the land rights of all indigenous communities in Peru.”

Many of these ethnic minority groups live in remote parts of the rainforest, where tree-cutting outlaws threaten their way of life.

For Chota, land rights were essential to confront the armed loggers who pillaged with impunity, days’ travel from the nearest enforcement outpost.

“As long as we don’t have title, the loggers don’t respect native ownership,” he told National Geographic in the year before his murder. “They threaten us. They intimidate. They have the guns.”

Up to 80% of Peru’s timber exports are harvested illegally, according to a 2012 World Bank report.

It is a major driver of climate change, with deforestation responsible for some 40% of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Across the Amazon, researchers have calculated a third of the carbon stored in trees sits in indigenous territories.

Legal rights helped to defend those areas from commercial pressures to clear space for agriculture, hydropower generation or extractive sectors, they argued.

The government put deforestation front and centre of a draft climate pledge in June, with policies including land rights for indigenous people.

But critics questioned whether Lima would see the strategy through.

Andrew Miller, campaigner at Amazon Watch, told RTCC the authorities had weakened environmental and human rights protections under the guise of encouraging investment.

“The titling of Saweto is one small step in the right direction, but it doesn’t bode well for other communities that this required years of effort, the assassination of four leaders, and an international outcry to finally happen,” he said.

“Expanding indigenous land recognition is not expensive, but the political will is often lacking in favor of extractive industries like oil and mining.”


Antibiotic Resistance Found In Amazon Tribe

In this photo taken Sept. 7, 2012, Yanomami Indians eat from a pot at a village called Irotatheri in Venezuela's Amazon region. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

In this photo taken Sept. 7, 2012, Yanomami Indians eat from a pot at a village called Irotatheri in Venezuela’s Amazon region. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)


There are some people who have never come into contact with Western civilization. These people have microbes, tiny organisms, on and in their bodies that can do something amazing. They can make the most modern antibiotics useless.

That is one finding from new research in the journal Science Advances.” The researchers studied the bacteria and other microbes living in and on the Yanomami tribe. These people live in a village in the Amazon jungle far from other human settlements.

In this photo taken Sept. 7, 2012, a Yanomami Indian is seen at his village called Irotatheri in Venezuela’s Amazon region. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

The Yanomami are some of the last people on the planet to have had contact with Western civilization. To scientists, this tribe provides an opportunity to observe the life of human microbes before humans settled down and developed civilizations.

Western diets and lifestyles have spread across the globe. With those diets and lifestyles also come conditions like obesity, diseases like diabetes and immune disorders. Some researchers wonder whether the microbes humans lost over time are partly the reason why we have some of these conditions.

This question is tied to an important discussion in scientific and medical communities. Some medical experts worry that antibioticsoften life-saving medications — are losing their power to fight diseaseHowever, this new research suggests that the genes that let bacteria resist modern antibiotics may have always been there.

In this photo taken Sept. 7, 2012, a Yanomami Indian holds her son a their village called Irotatheri in Venezuela’s Amazon region.

A remote and uncontacted village

The Yanomami people are hunter-gatherers. They live in small, remote villages deep in the Amazonian rainforest. Westerners first encountered Yanomami people in the 1960s.

In 2008 researchers arrived in one of their villages.People living thereall 54 of themsaid they had never seen Westerners before. The Yanomami people and their chief permitted researchers to collect samples from their body.

A different kind of germ warfare

Scientists expected to find that the Yanomami microbes carried some antibiotic-resistant genes. That would not be surprising to them. In fact, many bacteria found in soil produce natural antibiotics, which help the bacteria survive in competitive environments. Some say it is all part of an ongoing bacterial battle.

But the researchers also found many genes in microbes that disarm man-made antibiotics that no known microbes produce.

This came as a big surprise to the researchers.

One of the researchers is a man named Gautam Dantas. Mr. Dantas is from the Washington University School of Medicine. This was a surprise, he said,because it shows the bacteria have the ability to adapt to many things,possibly even things researchers did not think they have been exposed to.

Silent resistance

This discovery is important. It might mean that antibiotics are losing their ability to fight disease. Antibiotics are currently ourwonder drugs.” This research suggests that even those who have not been treated with antibiotics have bacteria with genes that may defeat them.

Mr. Dantas said these findings demonstrate the need to increase research for new antibiotics. If this does not happen, he warned, we are going to lose the battle against infectious diseases.

And, he said, the findings also show the need to use current antibiotics more carefully. Some doctors are campaigning to reduce the use of the drugs inpatients who would recover without them. Some doctors oppose the widespread practice of treating healthy livestock, the animals we raise for food, with antibiotics to prevent illness.

There is an existing amount of antibioticresistant genes that are waiting to be switched on, Mr. Dantas said. When you use antibioticswhether in agriculture with livestock or in a clinic with patientsyou increase the amount of antibiotic-resistant genes.

Scientists are not the only ones concerned about resistance to antibiotics.Government leaders are also worried. In March, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a new five-year plan to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. He called the issue one of the most serious modern-day public health threats.

Before meeting with science advisors, President Obama told reporters at the White House that many people take antibiotics for granted. To take something for granted means to not fully see the value of something because it has been around for so long and is so common.  

Here is Mr. Obama:

“We take antibiotics for granted … and we’re extraordinarily fortunate to have been living in a period when our antibiotics work. If we start seeing those medicines diminish in effectiveness, we’re going to have big problems. And part of the solution here is not just finding replacements for traditional antibiotics — it’s also making sure that we’re using antibiotics properly.”

Diverse germs may help you fight disease

A group of Yanomami Indians sit in their village called Irotatheri in Venezuela’s Amazon region, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Researchers studying the Yanomami people found something else. After studying the population of microbes living in and on the Yanomami‘s bodies, there searchers said they found more diversity than in any other people they have ever studied. This diversity is more than other Amazonian farmers and much more than Americans.

The lead author of the study is Jose Clemente at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.Mr. Clemente said that when traditional societies change to a Western lifestyle they lose this rich bacterial diversity. They also lose the benefits thatcome from having so many different kinds of germs living in and on the body.

For example, he said, the Yanomami carry bacteria that can prevent kidney stones. These bacteria were nearly absent in the other groups studied. He added that this study demonstrates the need to learn about the microbes in non-Western people before their microbial diversity is lost.

But how healthy are the Yanomami?

Another study by some of the same authors said Amazonian tribes that had more westernized lifestyles had higher rates of obesity than the Yanomami. On the other hand, the Yanomami had higher rates of undersized growth. The World Health Organization considers undersized growth a sign of poor nutrition.

New science

Microbiome science is a new field. Not much is known about this area of science. Even the idea that more microbial diversity is healthier is open to debate. Some scientists say that having less microbial diversity makes sense for people living westernized lifestyles. People who live this way spend less time outdoors and eat cooked, cleaned.

But most scientists agree more research into microbes is needed.

Steven Bargona reported on the Yanomami research from Washington, D.C. and Megan Duzor reported on President Obama’s plan.


Occupy Amazonia? Indigenous Activists Are Taking Direct Action – And It’s Working

Winning lots of battles – if not the war. Fernando Bizzera Jr / EPA

Winning lots of battles – if not the war. Fernando Bizzera Jr / EPA

The Conversation

The native peoples of Loreto, in Peru’s Amazon basin, have just ended a month long occupation of 14 oil wells belonging to the Argentine company Pluspetrol. Negotiations are still underway between the oil company and various other communities, represented by the indigenous association Feconaco.

This is not the first time Feconaco has occupied Pluspetrol’s operations. Such actions on the part of indigenous groups are relatively common.

Amazonian people don’t appear to have learned direct action from the occupy movement or from Euro-American protest traditions, despite the similar tactics. In the absence of functioning state protection, native people have always had to stand up for themselves.

Last September, for instance, Ka’apor people of northeastern Maranhão in Brazil published photographs of illegal loggers whom they had captured and tied up. They had taken matters into their own hands because the state was not protecting their territory.

The pioneers of indigenous direct action were the Kayapó of southern Pará in Brazil, who began monitoring goldmining and later logging in their territory, which senior leaders tolerated and indeed profited from. In the early 1990s, environmental destruction and mercury poisoning led many Kayapó people to support a younger generation of leaders who expelled the miners and loggers from their territory. Images of the Kayapó have since become synonymous with indigenous environmentalism.

A history of exploitation

The relative success of direct action in recent decades contrasts with the often bloody encounters that went before, from which poorly-armed Indians invariably emerged badly.

Indigenous people in the Amazon have been the victims of the mining and energy industries for hundreds of years. The earliest colonists were motivated by greed for gold, and successive waves of exploitation have followed. The violent and coercive labour relations of the rubber boom (which ended a century ago) continue to affect how local people view trade and outsiders.

Enslaved indigenous people in the early 1900s rubber boom. Walter Hardenberg (1912)

Fur hunters would shoot native people on sight throughout much of the 20th century. A good friend of mine, one of my principal informants in the field, fled Brazil as a child after his family were killed by fur hunters, and came to live with another tribe in the border area between French Guiana and Suriname. Here, and across the Guiana region (the vast area of northeastern Amazonia bordered by the rivers Negro, Orinoco and the lower Amazon), mining for gold, diamonds and other minerals has led to significant social conflicts.

The region’s small communities are held together by personal ties of kinship and are highly dependent upon local ecosystems for their livelihoods. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the side-effects of extractive industries such as environmental destruction and pollution of rivers and lakes. But there are also social and medical effects: prostitution, alcoholism, drug addiction and the introduction of new diseases such as HIV.

Mining and oil companies generally earn a bad reputation for their Amazon activities, but projects devised in the name of “sustainability” can have a negative impact too. Think in particular of the programme of hydroelectric dams being rolled out across Brazil. Belo Monte, the world’s fourth largest hydroelectric dam, is being built across a southern tributary of the Amazon, for instance. It has already caused the influx of tens of thousands of workers, with severe strain on local social relations. Its impact on a vast ecosystem – a major hydrological basin – will be monumental.

Belo Monte protesters sometimes managed to stop construction work on the dam. EPA

Protests against the Belo Monte dam have failed, as a Brazilian government focused on development ploughed on with its project which is, after all, consistent with the political rhetoric of the “green economy”. Indigenous people are a small section of the electorate, and their voice cuts little sway in the national political scene.

Companies in the crosshairs

Protests against international private companies can arguably be more effective, in so far as the directors of these companies consider a poor public image to significantly affect their profits.

A legal battle raging for nearly two decades between indigenous peoples in Ecuador and the energy giant Chevron, contributed to the corporation earning the title of a Lifetime Award for Shameful Corporate Behaviour by grassroots satirists in Davos earlier this year. Yet the corporate social responsibility activities which result from such pressures all too often seem to be largely cosmetic.

Where direct action has succeeded it is largely thanks to the construction of new kinds of alliances between indigenous leaders, progressive and socially oriented NGOs, and independent activists, including some academics.

Indigenous people in the Amazon basin have gradually, over the centuries, become more adept at getting organised and speaking the language of power. They’re now a key part of a global indigenous peoples’ movement which can call on an increasing number of activists with training in international law, documentary film making, or indeed anthropology, to assist campaigning efforts. On a smaller scale, communities regularly engage with different projects brought by outsiders, including the “partnerships” proposed by extractive industries.

However, they just as often come to regret their entrance into the relationship. Indigenous people come to realise that their understandings of fair exchanges are not the same, and sometimes not even compatible with those of their interlocutors, whether they be loggers, miners, or people looking for more intangible wealth such as traditional designs, music or ecological knowledge.

These experiences show that the conflicts that sometimes arise between native people and outsiders seeking to extract natural resources are not merely conflicts of material interests, and are not structured merely by an imbalance of power. They are on a more fundamental level conflicts of worldviews, ofcosmovisiones, as Afro-Colombians sometimes call them.

Indigenous people have made vast efforts to speak across the gap between themselves and others who live and move in the capitalist world. The onus is now on outsiders, including postcolonial states and transnational organisations, to make a corresponding effort.

Alleged King of Amazon Deforestation Detained in Brazil



Brazil has detained a land-grabber thought to be the Amazon’s single biggest deforester, the country’s environmental protection agency said.

The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources said Ezequiel Antonio Castanha, who was detained Saturday in the state of Para, operated a network that illegally seized federal lands, clear-cut them and sold them to cattle grazers.

The agency blames the network for 20 percent of the deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon in recent years, though the statement issued Monday did not provide the estimated scale of the devastation. It quoted the agency’s head of environmental protection, Luciano Evaristo, as saying he hopes Castanha’s arrest will “contribute significantly to controlling deforestation in the region.”

Castanha will face charges including illegal deforestation and money laundering, and could be sentenced to up to 46 years in prison, the statement said.

Officials said late last year that 1,870 square miles (4,848 square kilometers) of rain forest were destroyed between August 2013 and July 2014. That’s a bit larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island.

Besides holding around one-third of the planet’s biodiversity, the Amazon is considered one of the world’s most important natural defenses against global warming because of its capacity to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

Researchers Say Video Shows Isolated Amazonian Tribe:

— The Associated Press

Indigenous Warriors Take On Illegal Loggers In Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest (Photos)

Ka'apor Indian warriors hold a meeting the night before they begin an operation to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, in the village of Waxiguy Renda near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin.

Ka’apor Indian warriors hold a meeting the night before they begin an operation to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, in the village of Waxiguy Renda near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin.

By Black Powder, RPM Staff

The Ka’apor Indians, a tribe of indigenous Brazilians living in the northeast region of the country, have begun taking up arms against illegal loggers.

According to an article by RYOT, the Ka’apor, are a tribe who migrated to the area now known as the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Reserve centuries ago. They are now defending their stretch of paradise from illegal loggers, criminals who’ve been sacking precious timber from the supposedly “protected” parts of the world’s largest rainforest located mostly in Brazil.

In the past year, several attempts by various Indian groups to force the loggers off their land with help from the Brazilian government have been futile, for reasons that include the army’s fear of the loggers or just not wanting to venture too deeply into the rainforest.

Several indigenous tribes have been attacked by illegal loggers.

Members of the Ka’apor and other Indian groups including the Gurupi and the Munduruku all share stories of having had their villages, elders, and animals attacked at random by loggers along their respective borders. In addition, a fear of losing the resources the forest provides drove the Ka’apor Indians to reclaim their land, despite any potential repercussions by the loggers and the logging industry.

The long-standing territorial battle between the Ka’apor and illegal loggers turned on its head last August as several members of the Ka’apor tribe decided to take matters into their own hands and expel several illegal loggers from the rainforest.

No longer pleased with or willing to wait on the Brazilian government’s assistance, a small army of Ka’apor banded together, armed with guns and bows and arrows, they descended on several illegal loggers in the forest, burning their trucks and tractors. Any loggers who resisted were immediately forced to strip and were beaten in a humiliating display.

The Ka’apor were joined by Reuters photographer Lunae Parracho, who documented the scene when they reportedly found a number of the men.

Ka’apor Indians gesture to members of their tribe as they depart on a jungle expedition in the Alto Turiacu Indian Territory

Ka’apor Indians gesture to members of their tribe as they depart on a jungle expedition in the Alto Turiacu Indian Territory

A truck carries logs along a dirt road leading out of the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, as seen from inside a vehicle belonging to the Ka'apor Indian tribe on August 2, 2014.

A truck carries logs along a dirt road leading out of the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, as seen from inside a vehicle belonging to the Ka’apor Indian tribe.

Ka'apor Indians hand bows and arrows to tribal warriors traveling by truck through their village of Ximborenda, on the way to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, Brazil.

Ka’apor Indians hand bows and arrows to tribal warriors traveling by truck through their village of Ximborenda, on the way to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, Brazil.

Ka’apor Indians hike during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers in the Alto Turiacu Indian Territory.

Ka’apor Indians hike during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers in the Alto Turiacu Indian Territory.

Ka'apor Indian warriors use sticks to beat captured loggers in the Alto Turiacu Indian territory

Ka’apor Indian warriors use sticks to beat captured loggers in the Alto Turiacu Indian territory.

Ka’apor Indians tie up loggers during a jungle expedition in the Alto Turiacu Indian Territory.

Ka’apor Indians tie up loggers during a jungle expedition in the Alto Turiacu Indian Territory.

Ka’apor Indians stand over a logger they tied up.

Ka’apor Indians stand over a logger they tied up.

A Ka’apor Indian chases a logger who tried to escape.

A Ka’apor Indian chases a logger who tried to escape.

Ka’apor Indians stand over a logger they captured

Ka’apor Indians stand over a logger they captured.

The Ka’apor Indians release the loggers, but keep their trucks, logs, weapons and, in some cases, trousers.

The Ka’apor Indians release the loggers, but keep their trucks, logs, weapons and, in some cases, trousers.

Loggers, relieved of their pants and shoes, run off after being released by Ka'apor Indian warriors

Loggers, relieved of their pants and shoes, run off after being released by Ka’apor Indian warriors.

A Ka’apor Indian pours gasoline on a logging truck before setting it on fire.

A Ka’apor Indian pours gasoline on a logging truck before setting it on fire.

 A logging truck burns after it was discovered and set on fire by Ka'apor Indian warriors

A logging truck burns after it was discovered and set on fire by Ka’apor Indian warriors

A Ka’apor Indian warrior uses a chainsaw to ruin one of the logs they found during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers.

A Ka’apor Indian warrior uses a chainsaw to ruin one of the logs they found during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers.

Ka'apor Indian warriors hold a meeting in one of their "protected areas" from where they expelled loggers who they found illegally working in the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in Brazil's Amazon basin.

Ka’apor Indian warriors hold a meeting in one of their “protected areas” from where they expelled loggers who they found illegally working in the Alto Turiacu Indian territory.

All photos by Lunae Parracho/Reuters