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Photo: Indigenous leaders form giant human banner to protest Amazon destruction

Gathering at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, indigenous people from across Latin America today called upon world leaders to protect the Amazon rainforest which is under continued threat from loggers, ranchers, and agroindustrial companies. Nearly 12,000 square kilometers (4,600 sq miles) of Amazon rainforest were destroyed last year while another 25,000 square kilometers were damaged or degraded.

More than 1000 forum participants formed a human banner that spelled out the message “SALVE A AMAZONIA” (“Save the Amazon” in Portuguese) around a silhouette of an indigenous warrior taking aim with a bow and arrow.

“We are the guardians of the forest,” said Marco Apurina, Vice-Coordinator of COIAB, an indigenous umbrella organization. “This is a critical moment for Indigenous peoples to unite with non-Indigenous, activists, teachers, environmentalists, unions, government—the Amazon rainforest needs everyone to work together now to defend it before it’s too late.”

The human banner. Image courtesy of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

“It is urgent that the world act now to stop deforestation and to recognize the importance of the Amazon in stabilizing our climate,” added Atossa Soltani, Executive Director Amazon Watch, a group that is fighting to protect the rights of indigenous people against oil companies that have polluted, degraded, and destroyed the Amazon rainforest. “There needs to be an immediate halt to industrial resource extraction that is bringing the ecosystems and cultures of the Amazon to the brink of collapse.”

Participants kicked off the ninth World Social Forum with a walk through the streets of Belem, a city near the mouth of the Amazon river. More than 100,000 joined the parade.

The World Social Forum is the environmental and social justice community’s response to the World Economic Forum in Davos, which caters to bankers. Last year’s event was held in over 80 countries.

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