The Weight of Thought

When a tree falls to illegal loggers in the forest of the Kalaweit Supayang Nature Conservation Reserve for gibbons in West Sumatra, Indonesia, it most definitely makes a sound—and generates a text message to alert reserve managers. Last summer a tiny, nonprofit start-up called Rainforest Connection installed a handful of old, donated smartphones, each tricked out with a solar charger and reprogrammed to conduct audio surveillance, into the forest canopy. The system quickly brought logging to a halt, says Topher White, a 31-year-old physicist who designed the system and founded the outfit.


Organised crime is now a big player in illegal logging, which accounts for up to 30 percent of all wood traded globally, the UN and Interpol warned on Thursday.

In the mid-2000s, some tropical countries reported a fall in illicit forest clearance, but this may well have been a mirage, they said.

In fact, criminals laundered profits into tree plantation companies.

I’m currently part of a team of awesome friends roving through the woods of east Texas as part of the Tar Sands Blockade (TSB). This is an epic fight to defend Texans’ homes and land against the clearcutting and pollution caused by the building of the massive Keystone XL pipeline.

The media team for TSB are doing an awesome job of updating our website as TransCanada (TC) and their hired goons advance toward our blockade with heavy equipment and repeatedly endanger our people in some scary ways. A friend and I thought that allies of the TSB might appreciate an on-the-ground perspective, and so before I go back to defending our blockade I thought I’d update y’all.

     The forest of east Texas is totally beautiful. Water oak, sweet gum and slash pine trees define the canopy, and green briar, muscadine grapes and beautyberry bushes cover the ground. This forest is home to great blue herons, turkey vultures, whippoorwills, lots of deer, rattlers and other snakes, armadillos, and even occasional black bears. All of these are our natural allies and have been incredibly disturbed by the clear cutting of their home.   
     At the beginning of this week the bad guys were operating a feller buncher and clear cutting a vast swath of forest aimed directly at our blockade. On Tuesday morning we temporarily stopped them by placing ourselves directly in the path of their machines. As a backhoe was placing timbers over a gully so that other more destructive stuff like feller-bunchers could advance toward our blockade, two of our team locked down to the backhoe and stopped it in its tracks while the rest of us provided cover. The lockdowners were then tortured by local police with TC supervisors watching and laughing. After they were extracted from the backhoe, the timber bridge got built and the feller buncher started rapidly destroying trees advancing toward our blockade.

After two years of political wrangling that pitted rural agricultural interests known as “ruralistas” against environmentalists and many scientists, Brazil’s lower house approved legislation late Wednesday that would scale back the country’s vaunted forest protection code.

The legislation would clear the slate on older – and more often than not illegal – deforestation while scaling back protections along rivers and on hills. Deputies approvedthe main legislation in a 274-184 vote, and additional voting on 21 amendments advanced by the ruralistas went late into the night.

Details remain murky, but environmentalists immediately sounded the alarm. “O início do fim das florestas”Greenpeace Brazil proclaimed in a headline on its website. “The beginning of the end of forests.”

To be fair, such visions of doom should be considered in context. Although pressure on forests is on the rise, deforestation in the Amazon hit a record low last year. If Brazil can sustain and advance those gains, it would represent one of the most remarkable environmental success stories in recent decades. The fear is that weakening the law will reverse this progress and unleash a wave of new deforestation by convincing farmers and ranchers that Brazil doesn’t have the political will to truly enforce the law.

The murder of an eight year old child from the Awa-Gwajá indigenous community, allegedlyburnt alive [pt] by loggers in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, has caused outrage throughout the Internet, as well as disbelief by many in the face of such cruelty.

The Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) confirmed [pt] that “suspicions indicate that an attack has occurred between September and October against the camp of isolated indigenous” of the Araribóia reserve, and added more information:

The charred body was found in October 2011 in a camp abandoned by the isolated Awá, about 20 km from the Patizal village of the Tenetehara people, a region located in the municipality of Arame (Maranhão). The National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) was informed of the incident in November and no investigation of the case is ongoing.

According [pt] toRosimeire Diniz, CIMI’s coordinator in Maranhão state, “the situation has been reported for a long time. It has become a frequent occurrence, the presence of these logging groups, putting the isolated indigenous in danger. No concrete measure has been taken to protect this population”. 

If a Tree Falls- A story of the Earth Liberation Front