In this file:

 

·         The Lawless Frontier at the Heart of the Burning Amazon

Inside the battle for the forest's future — and ours — as Brazilian ranchers and farmers vow to protect their way of life at any cost

 

·         As Amazon burns, 230 big investors call on firms to protect world's rainforests

… Signatories range from major private managers like HSBC Global Asset Management and BNP Paribas Asset Management to public pension funds like California’s CalPERS, according to a list provided by Ceres, a Boston-based NGO encouraging sustainability among investors…

 

·         Bolivia Is Fighting Major Forest Fires Nearly As Large As In Brazil

 But while fires in the Brazilian Amazon have captured the world's attention, the Bolivian tragedy has largely gone under the radar…

 

·         Criminal Gangs Are Behind The Destruction Of The Brazilian Amazon

"Rainforest Mafias: How Violence and Impunity Fuel Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon”

 

·         The global demand for palm oil is driving the fires in Indonesia

... a reminder of a global supply chain run amok...

 

 

 

The Lawless Frontier at the Heart of the Burning Amazon

Inside the battle for the forest's future — and ours — as Brazilian ranchers and farmers vow to protect their way of life at any cost

 

By Jesse Hyde, Rolling Stone  

September 17, 2019

 

It’s June, the start of burning season in the Amazon. Fires are beginning to rage all over the forest, the final stage of clearing land for pasture. The smoke gets so thick it’s visible from space, and hard to breathe down here on the ground. But from where I sit, in a dented pick-up headed south, I can barely see through a storm of dust.

 

I’m on a highway called BR-163, a rutted road from hell that has been in some state of construction since Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship 40 years ago. I’m deep in the northern state of Pará — 1,500 miles from the Atlantic coast, and a three-day drive to Rio de Janeiro. For the past two hours we’ve been navigating potholes the size of moon craters and swerving around a caravan of tractor-trailers. Winding south through the Xingu basin, BR-163 starts in Santarém, a muggy port city on an Amazon tributary, and ends 1,000 miles south, in Brazil’s breadbasket, the state of Mato Grosso. Literally translated as “thick jungle,” Mato Grosso is where Colonel Fawcett disappeared looking for the Lost City of Z. Now almost entirely denuded, a lot of it looks like Kansas.

 

The road we’re traveling points to Brazil’s future as a commodities superpower. No country exports more soy and beef than Brazil. We pass hundreds of trucks headed to the Amazon port, loaded with soy, where they will unload on tankers sailing for Europe and China. Ten degrees from the equator, BR-163 is a dividing line of sorts, a demarcation point between the natural world and what seems to be its destiny: an industrialized monoculture that creeps further north every year.

 

As a result, BR-163 has become notorious — few areas of the Brazilian Amazon have seen more rapid deforestation over the past 10 years. I’ve been told that if I want to understand the forces that are driving the destruction of the world’s most important curb against climate change, this is the place to go.

 

Within weeks, fires will be burning all along this highway, intentionally set by the farmers who live here. By August, nearly 80,000 fires will be raging across the southern Amazon, belching a river of smoke that will blacken the skies of São Paulo and spark an international outcry, turning the world’s attention, however briefly, to the ground I’m now on.

 

As we drive past a rumpled landscape of razed jungle, my fixer, Gabriel, explains to me the pattern of destruction. Precious woods are extracted first, followed by mining, and then cattle ranching, the main driver of deforestation. The final stage is the planting of soy, from which there is no return. Already, huge swaths of what was once a rainforest biome have been transformed into a savannah, and unless something changes dramatically, that seems to be the future of what’s left of the forest along BR-163.

 

In one way or another, everything grown here ends up in the global supply chain. Forty percent of Brazil’s beef is raised in the Amazon, and most of it processed by the world’s largest supplier of beef, the Brazilian company JBS. Beef from Brazil is sent all over the world, primarily to China, Hong Kong, and Europe, but a good chunk also goes to the U.S. — 31,000 tons last year, most in the form of corned beef, jerky, and pet food. Leather from cattle raised in the Amazon is used by big-name furniture makers and car manufacturers in the U.S, according to Trase, a Stockholm based NGO that tracks supply chains. And most of the tractor-trailers we’re passing on the BR-163 are headed to a big plant in Santarém owned by Cargill, the largest privately held company in the U.S., where soy will be processed into animal feed for cows and chickens, which will then be consumed in fast-food chains around the world. In other words, what happens in the Amazon touches us all.

 

I’m headed to the frontline of a battle over the forest’s future. It’s a lawless zone where cattle ranchers, gold miners, and timber companies are inching ever closer to one of the largest intact indigenous reserves left in the southern Amazon – a 21,000 square mile area that includes the villages of Baú and Mekragnotire, the home of the Kayapo people. I want to see if the forest can be saved, before industry kills it for good...

 

much more

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/amazon-burning-bolsonaro-novo-progresso-deforestation-885114/

 

 

As Amazon burns, 230 big investors call on firms to protect world's rainforests

 

Gram Slattery, Reuters 

September 18, 2019

 

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - With widespread fires wreaking havoc on the Amazon, over 200 investors representing some $16.2 trillion under management on Wednesday called on companies to do their part in halting the destruction of the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

 

Nongovernment organization Ceres said in a statement that 230 funds have signed a declaration calling on firms to keep a close tab on supply chains, among other measures to curtail forest destruction.

 

Signatories range from major private managers like HSBC Global Asset Management and BNP Paribas Asset Management to public pension funds like California’s CalPERS, according to a list provided by Ceres, a Boston-based NGO encouraging sustainability among investors.

 

“Deforestation and loss of biodiversity are not only environmental problems. There are significant negative economic effects associated with these issues and they represent a risk that we as investors cannot ignore,” said Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO of Storebrand Asset Management, Norway’s largest private asset management firm and one of the signatories.

 

The resolution did not explicitly say signatories were threatening to withdraw investments from any companies. Still, it added to the pressure that international corporations and investors have put on partners operating in the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest that lies in Brazil, Bolivia and seven other countries.

 

In Brazil alone, more 2,400 square miles of the Amazon have been deforested this year, an area larger than the U.S. state of Delaware.

 

Meanwhile, 60,472 fires have been recorded year-to-date in the Amazon, up 47% from last year, according to government data. Many fires have been set intentionally by farmers and ranchers, and the response of the government of Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been criticized as indifferent.

 

In neighboring Bolivia, President Evo Morales has come under scrutiny for his ambitions to make the country a global food supplier, calling agricultural commodities the “new gold” that will help diversify the economy.

 

The resolution called on companies to implement a “no deforestation policy” with “quantifiable, time-bound commitments,” assess and disclose the risks their supply chains pose to forests, establish a monitoring system for supply chain partners and report annually on “deforestation risk exposure and management.”

 

“There is an urgent need to focus more on effective management of agricultural supply chains,” Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO of Storebrand Asset Management, was quoted as saying in a statement released by Ceres...

 

more, including links

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-investors/as-amazon-burns-230-big-investors-call-on-firms-to-protect-worlds-rainforests-idUSKBN1W32T3

 

 

Bolivia Is Fighting Major Forest Fires Nearly As Large As In Brazil

 

John Otis, NPR

September 18, 2019

 

Six volunteer firefighters use machetes to cut a path through the vines and underbrush of the Chiquitano forest in Bolivia's eastern lowlands. They're approaching the leading edge of a fire that's been burning for hours.

 

They attempt to smother it with shovelfuls of dirt and water they carry on their backs in tanks normally used to fumigate crops. But the smoke is getting thicker, the heat stronger and swirling winds push the flames forward. Realizing they are overmatched, José Zapata, the only trained firefighter among the group, orders his men to pull out.

 

"The fire was coming from many sides," Zapata explains as he leads a hasty retreat to the relative safety of a nearby road. "We could have gotten trapped."

 

Bolivian firefighters, army troops and volunteers have been working nonstop for the past two months amid some of the worst fires in the country's recent history. President Evo Morales, who is running for reelection next month, has suspended his campaign to deal with the expanding disaster.

 

On Saturday, regional officials estimated nearly 6 million acres of forest and savanna have been torched since August. Eduardo Forno, who heads the Bolivian chapter of Conservation International, says that is almost equal to the area burned this year in the Amazon rainforest in neighboring Brazil, a country eight times larger.

 

"The area impacted by fires in both countries is pretty similar. But Bolivia has less area [so] the impact is bigger than in Brazil," Forno said.

 

But while fires in the Brazilian Amazon have captured the world's attention, the Bolivian tragedy has largely gone under the radar. That's partly because most of the destruction is taking place in the Chiquitano. This is an immense, tropical dry forest that stretches from eastern Bolivia into Brazil, but one that few people outside the region have ever heard of.

 

What's more, Brazil's right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has sparked international outrage by denying climate change, promoting cattle ranching, logging and gold mining in the rain forest, blaming fires on environmentalists and refusing most outside help to put them out.

 

Bolivia's president is less controversial...

 

more, including links 

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/18/761591604/bolivia-is-fighting-major-forest-fires-nearly-as-large-as-brazils

 

 

Criminal Gangs Are Behind The Destruction Of The Brazilian Amazon

 

Yessenia Funes on Earther and shared by Andrew Couts to Gizmodo

Sep 18, 2019

 

Criminals, violence, and illegal activity drive deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, according to a new report. This is a brutal reminder that the people setting the Amazon rainforest on fire will do so at any cost — even human life.

 

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday published the 165-page report “Rainforest Mafias: How Violence and Impunity Fuel Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon,” outlining the ways gangs exhibiting this illegal, criminal behaviour not only threatens the world’s largest rainforest but also the people who live in and around it.

 

Destruction in the Amazon has dominated international headlines for weeks as the forest fires grew so severe that São Paolo, Brazil, turned dark in the middle of the day last month. As data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research shows, more than 123,000 fires have burned in the country so far this year, a 52 per cent increase from last year this time.

 

Criminals cut down trees in the Amazon and burn the rest of it to help make room for cattle pastures or croplands. The Guardian reported Wednesday that Marfrig, a Brazilian meat supplier for companies like McDonald’s and Burger King, sourced meat from a farmer who’s used deforested land. And the people most at risk when these fires burn are the indigenous tribes who live in and depend on the rainforest to survive.

 

Many have equated these intentional fires to genocide. Coincidentally, indigenous Amazonians delivered a letter to U.S. Congress on Wednesday demanding American leaders take action to protect their blazing home and endangered lives.

 

Now, this latest report highlights just how relentless the individuals behind this massive deforestation can be — especially under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose far-right ideals on privatizing the forest have emboldened these criminals. Amnesty International put out a similar report earlier this year, and its findings aligned with Human Rights Watch: The number of death threats is rising under Bolsonaro, and the threat to the forest — and its inhabitants — is real.

 

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 170 people to reach its conclusions, including 60 members of indigenous communities and local residents in the states of Maranhão, Pará, and Rondônia. Report investigators also managed to speak to dozens of unnamed government officials who agreed that Bolsonaro’s racist rhetoric is influencing the behaviour from loggers. Many murders, attacks, and death threats go without investigation or arrest.

 

“This lack of accountability is largely due to the failure by police to conduct proper investigations into the crimes, according to federal and state prosecutors, and environmental officials,” the report states.

 

The report is also clear, however, that these dangers stretch back far before Bolsonaro ruled Brazil. This criminal network has existed for years, resulting in at least 28 deaths Human Rights Watch could confirm — most of which occurred in the last five years, including a state police sergeant and an indigenous leader in 2017...

 

more, including links

https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2019/09/criminal-gangs-are-behind-the-destruction-of-the-brazilian-amazon/

 

 

The global demand for palm oil is driving the fires in Indonesia

 

By Zoë Schlanger, Quartz  

September 18, 2019

 

The smoke wafting from fires in the tropical forests of Indonesia—forming plumes big enough to blot out the sky in Malaysia and Singapore—is

 

Whereas the devastating fires burning in the Amazon rainforest were set largely for cattle ranches that feed the global beef supply, officials say that 80% of the fires in Indonesia are being set to clear land for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is found in a huge number of products lining the shelves of grocery stores: everything from infant formula to chips to shampoo and toothpaste. And much of the global supply comes from Indonesia, the largest palm oil producer in the world. The country supplied 56% of the world’s palm oil last year.

 

Indonesia’s tropical forests, which are being steadily deforested and burned by palm oil producers, are some of the world’s most important. Indonesian tropical forests are treasure troves of biodiversity, holding 10% of the world’s species of reptiles, birds, mammals, and fish. Much like the Amazon rainforest, they also store vast amounts of carbon in their soils and trees.

 

When forests are cleared to create palm oil plantations, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. The oil palms that developers plant in the scorched earth also fail to serve any of the ecosystem functions that the original forest did. The species that lived in the forest—the iconic Bornean and Sumatran orangutans among them—die out, the local climate, stripped of its moisture-holding flora, dries out, and the soils become stripped of nutrients.

 

Palm oil plantations, in other words, make a wasteland out of paradise.

 

The forests are burned deliberately by palm oil producers each year, but this year’s burns are especially destructive due to drier conditions that are causing the fires to burn out of control. Between 2001 and 2018, Indonesia lost 16% of its tree cover, or nearly 26 million hectares of forest, according to a database kept by Global Forest Watch...

 

more, including links

https://qz.com/1711172/the-global-demand-for-palm-oil-is-driving-the-fires-in-indonesia/