The war for the Amazon’s most valuable trees

The war for the Amazon’s most valuable trees

…Mr. Mendes was shot dead inside his home in northwestern Brazil on Thursday… Deep in the Amazon, in December of 1988, the fate of the rainforest was changed by a murder. In the small town of Xapuri, Chico Mendes
was shot and killed. “The victim was devoted to preserving Brazil’s
irreplaceable rainforest. And he paid for that, apparently, with his life.” Two armed guards had been hired to protect
him. But they were inside his house when Chico was hit by a bullet in his backyard. Chico had led the fight to protect the largest
rainforest on the planet. It was a fight that alerted the world to the
exploitation of the Amazon, and changed the makeup of the rainforest, for
decades to come. The Amazon basin is rich in rubber trees that produce latex. And for a long time, they were exclusive to
this rainforest. Native people had collected latex, or liquid
rubber, for centuries. But in the late 1800s, after the Europeans turned
their attention to it, people started extracting latex on a mass scale. It became a valuable material in rapidly industrializing
nations, where motor cars with rubber tires started hitting the roads. The Amazon quickly turned into a very profitable
global resource. Especially in Brazil, where businessmen started moving into the rainforest. To keep up with the high demand, wealthy “rubber
barons” forced indigenous people to work for them as rubber tappers. And they directed waves of migrants from the
coast to the rainforest. Rubber tappers were forced to work in exchange
for the use of the land, tools or food. So the more they worked, the more they were in
debt to their bosses. But the rubber boom wouldn’t last long. “The seeds of rubber trees, such as these, smuggled out of the Amazon country, shifted the rubber production of the world to the far east.” In the 1870s, an English colonist smuggled 70,000 rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon. The seeds went from Brazil to British colonies
in Southeast Asia, where they began harvesting rubber at a lower cost. Over the years, as rubber from these plantations
flooded the market, prices fell, and the rubber boom in the Amazon collapsed. But demand spiked again during the Second
World War, when rubber became critical to making weapons and vehicles. “We are going to see to it, that there’s enough rubber to build the planes to bomb Tokyo and Berlin. Enough rubber to build the tanks. Enough rubber to win this war!” The Brazilian government recruited tens of
thousands and forced them to extract latex under harsh conditions. After the war, demand collapsed again and
most rubber barons moved on to other businesses. Leaving many rubber tappers in the rainforest,
where they settled and were now free to harvest rubber on their own terms. Among them was Chico Mendes, a young rubber-tapper.
who started out working under rubber bosses. This is Raimundo Mendes de Barros, Chico’s cousin, who works and lives on a reserve in Acre state. Chico’s time to step in and lead would come
in the 70s and 80s. When the Amazon began seeing deforestation
at an unprecedented rate. Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers lived
freely in the state of Acre for about a decade. They harvested rubber and collected Brazil
nuts sustainably without damaging the forest. And made a living selling what they gathered
to traveling merchants. But there was a problem on the horizon. At the time, Brazil was led by a military
regime that wanted to use the Amazon for economic development, so they opened it up to ranchers
for business. They took over large estates, typically occupied
by rubber tappers, and cleared the forest to make room for their cattle. “The politics of land speculation, and the large-scale deforestation… They have as their objective, the substitution of man
by cattle. It would be a disaster if this process were allowed to continue in our region.” The ranchers used intimidation tactics to
expel rubber tappers. They hired gunmen and set fires to tear down
trees. But the rubber tappers got together and fought
back. They organized “empates” or barricades where
they’d sit in front of trees or block the paths to the rubber reserves to prevent loggers
and bulldozers from coming through. Chico and Raimundo were both on the front lines. Protecting the rubber tappers’ way of life
was at the heart of the struggle led by Chico. But over the years, it turned into a much
bigger fight for survival. The government, backed by international organizations,
built roads in the Amazon, which brought deforestation to different corners of the
rainforest. As a result, by 1987, nearly 300,000 square
kilometers of the rainforest had been torn down. The fight to prevent deforestation extended
throughout the Amazon, and Chico became its spokesperson on a global stage… “… Chico Mendes…” “Together, we can preserve the forest ,and make
it productive, securing this immense treasure for the future of all our children.” And the world began to pay attention. “It involves the destruction of one of the
earth’s greatest natural resources: the Amazon rainforest.” “The rainforest is unique in all the world. Once it is gone. It is gone forever.” International organizations withdrew tens of millions of dollars from the development of the Amazon. A small extraction reserve was created for
rubber tappers in Acre in 1988: The first of its kind in Brazil. The land would be owned by the state, but
rubber tappers, like Raimundo, would have the right to live and work on it. The reserve would keep everyone else out. Especially cattle ranchers. Making this entire reserve legally protected
from deforestation. But in 1988, protecting the rainforest came at
a deadly cost. 89 environmental activists were killed that year alone. “I have already escaped six attempts on
my life from the enemy. Still, I have a moral commitment to myself. I cannot abandon the struggle, even if, one
day, I should be struck by an assassin’s bullet.” Cattle ranchers looking to expand their business
in the Amazon saw Chico as a threat. He was given armed guards for protection. But just days after his 44th birthday, he
was shot in his backyard. His killers were cattle ranchers – a father
and a son – whose land had just become a protected area. Chico’s death pushed changes forward in
the Amazon. A larger Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve was
created in 1990. Today, it is still the biggest in the Amazon
and has protected more than 2 million acres of rainforest from a lot of the deforestation
that surrounds it. It’s home to about 10,000 people who can freely
maintain their traditions and livelihoods. Since Chico’s death, all these extractive
reserves have been created. There are more than a hundred spread throughout
the Amazon. But the fight isn’t over. Brazil’s current government has pushed for
more economic development in the Amazon, while downplaying Chico’s struggle: They’ve also scaled back efforts to preserve
the Amazon — leaving protected areas at risk all over again. Nearly half of the deforestation is taking
place in protected areas, including the Chico Mendes Reserve, where
ranchers are reportedly persuading rubber tappers to clear their land for money. But some, like Raimundo’s son, are committed
to keeping Chico’s legacy alive. Hi, thanks for watching the second episode of Atlas in the Amazon’s mini-series. I want to take a quick second to thank the filmmakers who filmed Chico Mendes and the Amazon in the 80s. That footage was crucial in allowing us to tell Chico’s story, and the role he played in trying to protect the Amazon. We are very grateful to them. In the next episode, we look at the struggle between indigenous people trying to protect their land, and the president threatening to take their rights away. Make sure to come back and watch the third and final episode of Atlas in the Amazon’s mini-series. Thanks again for watching, and see you next time.


100 thoughts on “The war for the Amazon’s most valuable trees”

  • It doesn't matter the Amazon will be gone in a few decades anyways the polar caps are melting and will not stop melting now that weve warmed the planet enough to start the melting and once the caps are gone and our weather is out of control we'll no longer be able to grow food at the scale required to keep the human race alive and well go extinct leaving 450+ nuclear reactors to melt down and spew radiation into the atmosphere for decades

  • I love nature but with all these blunders towards mother nature, I care not if the last tree falls down. Once we run out of food, resources, and ultimately oxygen, I will be glad to see the human race go extinct; nature will bounce back without us anyway.

  • You know, this just makes me sad… what can I even do? I could donate money, but I have no guarantee they would really use it to protect the forest. I could be outspoken about this problem, but I have no power and if I did I would probably just get killed.
    I don't get it. Why are politicians in such a hurry to destroy this planet? I just hope that my generation turns out differently

  • This is framed very poorly. While it’s important to protect the rainforest. Box frames this in a way that suggests that rubber tapping is a viable and sustainable alternative to more destructive industry. However, that is not the case. Because of South American leaf blight rubber production will never be able to profitably scale in Brazil. We need to be looking for viable economic solutions for South America that can both lift people out of poverty and protect the environment. Unfortunately, that solution is not rubber tapping.

  • Climate change is a myth, humans have little to no effect on how many trees are in the world, even the new thing kids are doing, planting 20 million trees or whatever, that won’t make a dent on anything because there are 3.04 trillion trees in the world, stop believing whatever the media tells you and look at the actual facts, trees only account for less than 20% of the total oxygen in the atmosphere anyways.

  • I wonder if tires are still the main use for rubber. The tires on my sports car have no rubber at all They're 100% nitrile.

  • this needs portuguese subtitles! there are many brazilians that are really ignorant about what's happening in the Amazon and normally those people give more credit to Americans and people that are not from Brazil

  • Fight against the tyrants. Fight the rights of those who don't recognize their right. Fight what is right. Don't let these tyrants continue to take and take. Fight and protect.

  • Ricardo Salles mais uma vez mostrando ser uma besta. Definitivamente um dos ministros mais incompetentes do governo Bolsonaro, junto com o da Educação.

  • Where are the imoral people? Brazilians, who are simple men traveling the entire country, to a desease infested region, trying to make a living, or rich european peoples who demand the products that people here are doing everything they can to deliver? The same thing is valid for drugs, while you are there happy using your recreational drugs, people in latin america, south and southeast asia are being killed because of your demand. People are flawed, you can't demonize them because they try to make a living through forest exploitation while wealthier countries keep demanding theese products.

  • I am from Brasil, people here are analphabet, they know we need to protect amazon, but at the same time they vote to Bolsonaro.

  • When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money -Cree Indian

  • Hi Vox ! I can't wait for part 3 this series has been really awesome and inspired me a lot ^_^
    RIP this man Chicho Mendes. Your fight to save the enviroment inspired us to be more aware with the enviroment on this planet that we live.

  • I don't want to see the Amazon rainforest be frightened again these people want I hope they win the good fight guy that guy left a good Legacy

  • I'd do somthing, but Im too much of a wuss to get shot.The best way to save the amazon is to find an alternative. We didnt stop killing whales(At least not in mass like we did before) for their oil because it we felt bad, we did it cause we found a cheaper solution, granted it wasnt the best alternative but atleast we still have whales…..sort of

    TL DR; Find an alternative solution that is efficient and economically sound, dont just hit brasil for wanting to progress, give them a better option.

  • saddest fact about the whole world is as long as no country has solved its poverty the land on where we live will forever be exploited by the ones who want to experience true freedom of capitalism

  • Who care next generation will suffer, I'm not.. there is no global warming thing exist…

    Everything is doing for to earn lots of money, hence future generations need money & money will save them but not tree..

  • When will the world realize there are something’s money doesn’t compare to? There are things that can’t be exchanged for money bc their value is priceless? Why can’t the world love the elements that allow us to live instead of trading it all away for some rich guys idea of wealth…

  • To be fair, the middle east are paid mountains of money for their oil. We aren't paying Brazil anything for their oxygen. Perhaps there can be some kind of settlement where the world pays them according how much rainforest is left. We save the world, they are happy, and no more people dying from sketchy deforestation plans.

  • Thank you for doing this, Vox, as a Brazilian Chico Mendes is a great inspiration for me and his story should be shared all over the world.

  • Thanks for the video! My family have been rubber tree farmers in South India forever and I assumed the tree were native to the region. This video taught me that the trees being in India is due to colonialism, a fact that not even my dad, who grew up working on my family's rubber tree farm, knew.

  • Lets us as people who come from economic countries that butchered every forest drained every swamp and cut down trees tell Brazil what to do with their forest. No WE don’t own it they do.

  • Thanks for watching Vox Atlas in the Amazon! Our second episode is all about Chico Mendes and the fight he led to protect the Amazon from deforestation. To understand how the destruction of the Amazon has evolved over time you can check out our first episode here:

    Let us know what you think of this video in the comments! And stay tuned for our third and final episode on Monday! -Christina

  • There seems to be a direct link between deforestation and increase in meat consumption. Its not just the responsibility of farmers to control expansion of their pastures but also of consumers world over to reduce their consumption of meat. Less demand means less supply

  • I'm loving seeing you guys talking so much about Amazon, the people and everyrhing that surround it, as a brazilian, I'm thankful for your act.
    Always liking and sharing the video.

  • Human will adapt and survive anyway. Well yes the Earth would be worse place to live later. But it won't cause extinction.

    Also the main producer of co2 is not Brazil but China and the west.

  • The right-wing money Barrons have absolutely no brains or moral compass. Mankind is imploding due to these worthless greedy thugs. It won't be long now until the world will be rid of the scourge that consists of humans. We passed the tipping point long, long ago and it is heartbreaking that evil and stupidity always win out but it is the reality.

  • I understand but my biggest priority is to escape poverty so im more focused on education and ideas how to get more money so i can be attracted to women and have higher status in society

  • I really hope this self destruction process will stop soon. Our planet cannot suffer the loss of the Amazon rainforest. We have to fight togheter to preserve it for the future of human kind

  • Heinous mistreatment of the rubbtubberies. (I'm honestly trying to take it seriously, but Miranda didn't use a pronoun or two after the first rubber tubber, she just rolled with it)

  • The world should but embargos on Brazil and lock them out of the world like North Korea and Iran until they stop killing the lungs of the earth

  • Everything happens for a reason I think , our higher being is testing us and seeing our results to see if we’re capable of change

  • I'm Brazilian and I didn't know much about Chico Mende's life (shame on me). I'm very happy to know a bit more about him and Brazil.
    Thank you very much for this piece of work, Vox!

  • "At first he believed he was protecting the rubber tappers and the forest. But then he realized, he was protecting the Amazon and the world." He was the hero the world needed… and didn't even know.

  • This is one of the very few channels on youtube that actually gives knowledge. Props to the team working behind the scenes at vox. Keep up the good work guys. Proud to be a subscriber.

  • The Amazon must be preserved! But we need to develop it.
    It's impossible to enforce law against illegal loggers without a good net of roads and public sewers and illumination. More than 20 million Brazilians live there, and they want to prosper too. Cheers from Brazil!

  • The fight to protect the environment isn't just about protecting the trees & animals. It's a fight to protect the human species. The Earth has been through the ringer before and life has survived everything that's been thrown at it. Life will survive through us as well, but who's to say we'll survive.

  • Tubber, tepper, topper, Tupper….. I nvr once heard the word "tapper" when she said it. Idk why but I found that to be super distracting.

  • Nice to see Vox do a series about the rainforest. Since internal pressure to preserve the rainforest isn't doing it, maybe external pressure will.

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