Rumble In The Jungle - Brazil 2000
The Amazon was saved ... or was it?
June 2000
Updated Nov 2005

Over the last decades of the twentieth century there has been a steadily increasing awareness of the global significance of the Amazon rainforest. It has been referred to as "the Lungs of the Earth" and studies have indicated that it has a direct effect on global weather patterns. The Amazon basin's vastness actually creates its own weather.
 [ Photo by Carlos Ravazzani ]

As a bio-diversity resource, it is known to contain myriad species of plant and animal life. Estimates suggest that many more have yet to be discovered, documented and studied.

The Amazon rainforest has been shrinking at a frightening and accelerating rate for many years now. Currently 13,000 acres a day (or 8 football fields every minute).
 [ 1999 Map of Extraction Reserves ]

Some of this has been due to the (now usual and almost accepted) exploitation of resources (timber, minerals, etc.) by multinational corporations (there is an office near you ;-)

Most of it though, has been the direct result of antiquated, ecologically destructive and totally

unsustainable farming practices carried out by the ever-growing indigenous local population.
 [ Parana River - photo by Carlos Ravazzani ]
In 2000 the Brazilian government attempted to change the state of play. It planned to introduce legislation that would open up something like half of the remaining Amazon rainforest to be felled and converted into wood-chips and related products.

Fortunately, this move failed …

BRASILIA, Brazil, May 18, 2000 (ENS) - Brazil's congressional leaders last night dropped proposed legislation to increase the area and rate of Amazon forest destruction. Faced with the threat of a presidential veto and widespread opposition from environmentalists, the draft law was killed before it could come to the House floor.

On the surface, this result sounds like a resounding victory for environmentalists (and the planet). In reality it is delaying the inevitable, for reasons, which I will shortly attempt to clarify.

The Amazon region spreads across several South American countries, but the largest part (about 60%) is in Brazil. The Amazon is a massive resource on many levels and its true value is beyond any financial estimation.

Many South American countries, including Brazil, are up to their financial ears in international debt … and those who lent them the money (that's you, me, our banks and elected governments, by the way) want it back, with interest.

Update Nov 2005:
This year saw some of the world's wealthiest nations agree to negate the debt (over a period of years) of some of the world's poorest nations. Though this is a positive and necessary humanitarian move, it remains to be seen if this will effect the Amazon region and its delicate ecology in a positive and/or meaningful way. As the saying goes: "the devil is in the fine print".

So Brazil, like other developing countries in the world, is faced with the dilemma of needing to exploit any available resource that would enable it to repay those debts. While at the same time meeting the basic survival, health and education requirements of its rural population, for many of whom the Amazon is both resource and home.

How Can We Help:

There is only ONE solution to saving the Amazon and it's precious contents. That solution involves removing the region's dependence on the Amazon as an *expendable* resource.

If you want to save the Amazon … next time you shop, consider buying Brazilian (not timber, paper products or Big Macs though ;-)

Direct Financial Assistance - Make sure the organization you are donating to is involved in "On The Ground" programs that educate, train and equip the people of Brazil (and neighboring countries) to provide them with realistic alternatives.

Support South American Eco-Tourism, preferably based in the country you plan to tour. Make protection of the Amazon region a means of income for local populations.

Write to your local Congress representative and insist on the removal of trade barriers and protectionist legislation. It is due to short sighted and narrow-minded fiscal policies that the global inequities (leading to the destruction of many sensitive ecosystems) have been maintained for so long.



Most of Brazil's rural population has no interest in the machinations of global eco-politics and international finance. They just want a life, to feed their family, and if they are lucky, perhaps educate their children. They are not eco-terrorists, just ordinary people trying to survive.

The deadline is approaching, when the rest of the world will have to show just how much it really wants to keep the Amazon rainforest … and if it does, the affluent "West" in particular, will have to put it's money where it's mouth is. Failure to act, will see the Amazon nibbled away until the damage becomes irreversible.

In the five years since this article was first written there have been reports of numerous success stories from environmental groups defending the Amazon and its biodiversity. Sadly, the battle is still ongoing!

Updated November 2005


Information on the Amazon Region

The ecological and political profile of the Amazon region has grown substantially over the last five years, making news and information about this important environment much more accessible. Below are some links that may prove useful for further study and/or review.

Amazon Images, Maps and Media:

Images of the Amazon region and its people can be found at the web site in the Media section. Note that there are more images available in the Portuguese language version of the web site than in the English version.




All web site assets are