Poor Take on Rich to Save Rain Forest

By Ben Cohen

An astonishing, inspiring story on how some of the world’s poorest people in the Amazon rain forest took on the most powerful corporations and won.

Earlier this year, Peru’s right-wing President, Alan Garcia, sold the

rights to explore, log and drill 70 per cent of his country’s swathe of the

Amazon to a slew of international oil companies. Garcia seems to see

rainforest as a waste of good resources, saying of the Amazon’s trees: “There

are millions of hectares of timber there lying idle.”

There was only one pesky flaw in Garcia’s plan: the indigenous people who live

in the Amazon. They are the first people of the Americas, subject to wave

after wave of genocide since the arrival of the Conquistadors. They are

weak. They have no guns. They barely have electricity. The government didn’t

bother to consult them: what are a bunch of Indians going to do anyway?

But the indigenous people have seen what has happened elsewhere in the Amazon

when the oil companies arrive. Occidental

Petroleum are facing charges in US courts
of dumping an estimated nine

billion barrels of toxic waste in the regions of the Amazon where they

operated from 1972 to 2000. Andres Sandi Mucushua, the spiritual leader of

the area known to the oil companies as Block (12A)B, said in 2007: “My

people are sick and dying because of Oxy. The water in our streams is not

fit to drink and we can no longer eat the fish in our rivers or the animals

in our forests.” The company denies liability, saying they are “aware

of no credible data of negative community health impacts”.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.