This description in particular spurred me to do more research into the people who were (are) giving their lives to protect the magnificent Amazon rainforest:
With development fever spreading in Brazil, it seems to be open season not only on the Amazon’s forests but also on those people who try to protect them. On May 24th, the day the bill was being debated, news broke that a pair of assassins on a motorbike had ambushed Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, an environmental activist, and his wife, Maria, and killed them. In the trademark style of contracted executions, the killers gave Ze Claudio, as he was known, and his wife coup de grace bullets to their heads and then removed an ear from each of them. Ze Claudio was a charismatic and outspoken opponent of land-grabbing ranchers and charcoal burners; last November, in a speech he made at a TEDx conference held in Manaus, he spoke of receiving death threats. When a legislator announced the news of the murders in Congress and called for an investigation, a round of booing erupted from the agribusiness-backed “ruralistas.”
Three days later, in Rondonia, another front-line Amazonian state, Adelino Ramos, another prominent environmental activist, was shot dead in front of his wife and children. The next day, a few miles from where Ze Claudio and his wife were murdered, a young man named Eremilton Pereira dos Santos was gunned down, execution-style. His relatives said that he may have witnessed Ze Claudio’s killing. On June 9th, in the latest such incident, another peasant activist was murdered in Pará.Below is a collection of my initial research into the assassinations of environmentalists, conservationists, local politicians, clergy and common folk, whose transgression against massive corporate greed led to their deaths. Also there's a cursory examination of deforestation, images of the rainforest under attack and, last (of course), some official efforts to combat the forces hell bent on destroying the forest for profit.
As I discover more source material, I will post it here.
Or feel free to post links, descriptions, personal experiences in the comments below.
Murder in the Amazon
Jon Lee Anderson’s piece in the New Yorker (the inspiration for The Tree Play).
June 15, 2011.
Assassinated for Trying to Protect the Forest
“… more than 1,000 … have been murdered in the last 20 years …” ~Guardian story on retrial of murderers of Sister Dorothy Strang, 4/8/2009:
More than 1,100 activists, small farmers, judges, priests and other rural workers have been killed in land disputes in the last two decades, according to the Catholic Land Pastoral, a Brazilian watchdog group.
Of those killings, fewer than 100 cases have gone to court. About 80 convicted suspects were hired gunmen for powerful ranchers and loggers seeking to expand their lands, according to federal prosecutors and the watchdog.
About 15 of the men who hired them were found guilty but none of them are serving a sentence today.
Wilson Pinheiro (union leader)
Assassinated July 21, 1980.
Vicente Canas (a Spanish Christian missionary and Jesuit brother)
Assassinated April 6, 1987.
Assassinated December 22, 1988.
- New York Times (12/22/2008): The Uncertain Legacy of Chico Mendes
Sister Dorothy Stang
Assassinated February 12, 2005.
- Retrial story in the Guardian (4/8/2009)
José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo'
Assassinated ~Tuesday 24 May 2011.
Adelino Ramos (president of the Amazon small farmers association)
Assassinated May 27, 2011.
Eremilton Pereira dos Santos (probable witness to shooting of da Silva and his wife)
Murdered ~May 31, 2011.
More on the Deforestation of the Rainforest
World Wildlife Fund on deforestation (global):
WWF Amazon background page:
Image of burning forest on the blog “Everything Beautiful”
Blog post on “Everything Beautiful”: Save the Amazon
Search “rainforest deforestation” (images results)