Chico Mendes nominated Patron of the Brazilian Environment
Chico Mendes was shot dead by a rancher at his home in Xapuri village, state of Acre, Brazil on December 22 1988, at the age of 44, for his fight in defence of the Amazon forest.
Chico Mendes and the movement for forest protection proposed the conservation of the forests as a means to constructing a solution to social conflict, particularly in the Amazon. The Brazilian category of protected area ‘Extractive Reserves’ is a solution, stemming from the social alliance of local trade unions and forest peoples with the national and global environmental and social movements.
“Through this category, the government would declare the land public, governmental owned (which usually it already was) and allocate it to be managed by the local communities, in the interest of and with the commitment to keeping the forest standing and promoting its sustainable use”, explains Claudio Maretti, WWF Living Amazon Global Initiative leader.
The extractive reserves model gained recognition in 1992, during the 3rd World Congress on National Parks and Other Protected Areas, in Caracas, and in 1994, at IUCN Global Assembly, in Buenos Aires, as an international category of protected area (category VI), understood to be conservation through the local community’s sustainable use of natural ecosystems.
To the whole Amazon context, this category has become one of the most important elements of Amazon relative conservation up to now and is commonly associated with indigenous peoples’ territories and with strict protection areas - all together representing approximately 25% of the pan-Amazon under nature conservation in protected areas and some 25% of the pan-Amazon under indigenous peoples’ territories.
“Protected areas need to be fair to be sustainable, and distribute benefits locally to gather local support. But we must not forget that protected areas provide far-reaching social, economic and cultural services that include maintaining the good quality of the waters that supply the cities, and minimizing the impacts of the so-called ‘catastrophic’ climate events”, stated Claudio Maretti.
Chico Mendes had the vision of the need for an alliance between people and forest conservation built on maintaining the necessary ecological balance and not just the uncontrolled and unsustainable exploitation.
“His legacy is an example that should guide all of us in keeping nature in our minds as a solution and a means to constructing a better world for all”, completed Maretti.
These tributes to the leader of the Brazilian rubber tappers movement, who contributed to the creation and dissemination of the forest-citizenship concept (“florestania”) as opposed to “citizenship” (“cidadania”), come in a difficult year for environment protection in Brazil.
Since the enactment of the Forest Law reform bill, which weakened the environmental legislation in early 2012, the Brazilian National Congress has been discussing several projects that jeopardize the historic achievements that built a legislative framework for environmental protection - among them, the rights of Indigenous Peoples guaranteed by the Constitution of 1988 and the Brazilian National Protected Areas System (SNUC).
“As Brazil responds for about 60% of the Amazon, and it is the stronger economy and the larger country in the region, we fear that this sad trends could spread over the neighbor Amazon countries. It is time that political leaders understand the ecological interdependence in the way that all the humanity depend on a health Amazon biome”, concluded Maretti.