Target: Michel Temer, President of Brazil
Goal: Enforce swift justice for murdered environmental activists, and enact stronger legislation for environmental protection.
Brazil, a country where the Olympic opening ceremony featured an artsy and moving call to action on climate change, just might be the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists. Luiz Alberto Araújo, head of the environmental department in the municipal government of Altamira, was recently shot, execution-style, by two gunmen. Authorities maintain that the killers’ motives are unknown, but there is no doubt that Araújo made powerful enemies through his work enforcing environmental protection in the Amazon, and he had previously received death threats.
Some of Araújo’s prime achievements as head of environmental affairs included spearheading an investigation into a major illegal logging operation, which resulted in the arrest of 24 people. The company in question used shady practices, such as cutting trees only from the understory to avoid satellite detection, and was also accused of keeping workers in “slave-like conditions,” Araújo was also responsible for exposing a company operating a dam near Altamira which illegally killed and secretly buried 16 tons of fish.
Before Araújo, 23 other activists have already been killed just this year in Brazil for standing up against destruction of natural resources, according to Global Witness. Most of these deaths are linked to logging and agribusiness – two of the leading causes of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon spans nine countries, with Brazil holding the lion’s share. This forest is an extremely precious resource, not only for those nine countries but for the entire world. The Amazon plays an important role in regulating global climate, and is also a biodiversity hotspot. But despite the rainforest’s inestimable value, an area the size of France has already been destroyed, and more and more pressure is placed on the Amazon by economic interests.
What with the recent economic downturn, and President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, the newly elected Brazilian president has his hands full. Tell President Temer that environmental justice must be a priority. In honoring the memory of Luiz Alberto Araújo, it must be clear that violence against those who stand up for the planet cannot be tolerated.
Dear President Temer,
I was very sorry to hear about the murder this past week of Luiz Alberto Araújo. His death is a tragedy, for the country, for his loved ones, and not least of all for the precious natural resources he worked to protect. Although police maintain that the killers’ motive is unknown, you cannot deny the likelihood that Araújo has become another victim – the 24th victim this year – of environmental terror in Brazil.
Those who stand up against environmental degradation in Brazil make powerful enemies. It is important that these killers know their actions cannot be tolerated – neither the violence nor the environmental exploitation. If activists are left to do all the work themselves, they are left vulnerable. The government must stand behind environmental heroes like Araújo, and provide a strong backbone of regulation, enforcement, and zero tolerance for those who seek to pillage natural resources like the Amazon for economic gain.
The Olympic opening ceremony this summer featured a moving segment on the perils of climate change, calling citizens of the Earth to rise to this challenge. Brazil can be a champion of this, your own message, if and only if you are willing to enact stronger environmental protection measures, and stand up to those who challenge them.
Please act quickly in seeking justice for Luiz Alberto Araújo. And in honoring his memory, you must do your part to protect the beautiful and essential natural resources of Brazil from destruction.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: NASA