Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview with Dave Logie from Greenpeace Amazonas

Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview with Dave Logie from Greenpeace Amazonas

Article excerpt

THE Brazilian Amazon has witnessed many hardfought contests over its rubber, gems and timber. But in the state of Pará - an area nearly twice the size of France - illegal loggers and forest-dependent communities are now literally at war. Soy and cattle farmers from the south have teamed up with logging companies to raise the rate of land-clearing to more than 25,000 square kilometres a year, often with the use of slave labour. Intimidation, title fraud and murder are carried out with relative impunity.

'It's the Wild West,' says Greenpeace Amazonas' logistics co-ordinator Dave Logie. 'If you block a truck in the middle of the jungle, the truck driver might just turn around and shoot you.' Dave is a thickset Scot who spent his earlier years working in Britain on anti-nuclear and over-fishing campaigns. 'If you do an action in Europe you're going to get knocked around a little bit but you're not going to be murdered.'

Greenpeace works closely with IBAMA, Brazil's Ministry of the Environment, to co-ordinate raids on illegal logging operations. A series of joint operations in 2001 led to the banning of mahogany-felling in the Amazon, Greenpeace's first major victory here.

With success came critics. After receiving a number of death threats, the Greenpeace offices were put under permanent guard and staff now travel in bullet-proof vehicles. 'The bullet-proof vests are pretty hot to wear, so they're optional,' says Logie.

Critics also emerged from within the Brazilian administration who fear that international organizations or other countries will try to exercise control over the world's largest jungle. 'We wanted to do a really big bust with IBAMA at the end of 2003, but at the last minute the Brazilian army intervened and put heavy pressure on the Government not to because they were frightened we were getting too pally.'

Greenpeace Amazonas helps locate illegal logging activity and co-ordinate protests to draw media attention to the deforestation. One of the most fiercely contested areas of Pará has been around Porto de Moz, a small river town whose inhabitants are divided over the creation of a reserve to protect the local communities. Protesters there have little defence against the heavily armed loggers who force them to sell their land for token amounts. Refusal to sell can mean eviction at gunpoint. The mayor of Porto de Moz - an enthusiastic logger who operates the local sawmill - has little interest in land rights, and the local police force is too small to deal with widespread intimidation. …

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