There is perhaps nothing more infectious and dangerous than knowledge. Mainly in a population that is in constant risk of abuse, blackmail and discrimination due to its racial origins, lifestyles, beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, etc. At the moment when knowledge reaches these populations and they raise awareness about the injustices they experience, self-defense and self-care actions take effect.
An example of this fight against ignorance is environmental activism, whose actors are dedicated to raising awareness among populations at risk –mainly indigenous communities– to defend their rights and the biodiversity of the planet where they live. However environmentalism has become dangerous. Looting, kidnapping, assassinations, are just some of the balances faced by environmental activists.
Despite the risk that environmentalism implies in Latin America, its actors and assets still survive in the heart of the Amazon. An example of this fight is a squad considered one of the most feared elite fighting units in Latin America, and which is currently at the forefront of Brazil's fight to stop the destruction of the Amazon. The Specialized Inspection Group –GEF, for its acronym in Portuguese–.
It is not a squad of armed forces, but of forces loaded with knowledge: one of its members worked for more than a decade as an activist for a non-profit organization; another studied Arctic oceanography in Germany; and its commander, was a high school science teacher. Roberto Cabral, the commander of the squad who was shot in 2015 while chasing shooters who destroyed the trees in the area, explains to the New York Times Latin America, “In the universe of illegal activities in the Amazon there is deforestation, gold extraction , hunting wild animals for consumption, clandestine logging and animal smuggling. We wanted to combat these activities with mind and body on the field. "
The GEF often patrols in helicopters, using satellite imagery and intelligence, to detect deforestation and illegal mining. But it is not enough yet, reinforcements are needed and all the support that can be obtained: “Deforestation is increasing again in the Brazilian Amazon; it rose to 29 percent between August 2015 and July 2016. Almost 809,371 hectares of rainforest were destroyed during that period, according to calculations by the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil. "
Mauricia Brichta, the oceanographer specializing in the study of arctic algae at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, says you have to "see the Amazon from above to see how much it has been devastated." Years earlier, Britcha was a householder in Jakarta and New York, while her ex-wife worked as a diplomat for the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For environmental activists, one of the main reasons that have caused the rebirth of deforestation in Brazil has to do with efforts to reduce the power of Ibama: “it is a parallel with the plans of the Trump administration to reform the Agency of Environmental Protection. Since 2013, Ibama's budget has been reduced by about 46 percent. ” Therefore the forces to fight against illegal logging and mining must increase, even if it is with a rifle in hand. In the words of one of the GEF members, a former environmental activist: “I never dreamed that I would have a rifle in my hands to defend the Amazon. But this is a war and wars can open your eyes to see what needs to be done. "
*1) and 2) Lalo de Almeida from New York Times