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Sustainable Development in the Amazon
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Sustainable Development in the Amazon
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Brazil: CFC Elimination

Described as the "lungs of the Earth," the Amazon rainforest is seen as one the world's most important ecological treasures. To help save it, Brazil's national government and local communities have teamed up to experiment with new techniques and strategies, one of which actually includes cutting down trees. 

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Produced by UN 21st Century.

Learn more about the efforts by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Sciences (IBAMA) to protect the Amazon rainforest (Portuguese language site).

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Segment 1

DALJIT DHALIWAL
Described as the "lungs of the Earth," the Amazon rainforest is seen as one the world's most important ecological treasures. Despite its significance, the Amazon faces destruction at the hands of man. To save it, the Brazilian government and local communities have teamed up to experiment with new techniques and strategies, one of which actually includes cutting down trees. Here's our story.
VOICEOVER
Another tree cut down in Brazil's Amazon region. Although millions worry about too many trees being lost, some say this tree might actually help to fight the massive deforestation that threatens the Amazon. Brazilian authorities, together with the people who call the rainforest home, are fighting the forces of its destruction, tree by tree. Severiano Pontes and Domingos Rodrigues, two agents of IBAMA, Brazil's environmental protection agency, are investigating criminal activities right in the middle of the jungle. Here, inside Brazil's first protected national reserve, Flona Tapajos, they are trying to stop illegal cutters from destroying the forest. It's easy to see why organized criminal gangs are deeply involved in the illegal trade of Amazon wood. It boils down to one thing: money.
IBAMA AGENT
An entire tree like this one is sold for the equivalent of USD$25. After processing, the timber is worth USD$700 per cubic meter.
VOICEOVER
That means that a 20-cubic-meter tree can be worth as much as USD$14,000: a huge profit for criminals, but nothing for the people who live here. With so much money at stake, some locals ally themselves with illegal cutters.
IBAMA AGENT
We are in a tight spot when the community member goes to the other side and becomes part of the illegal process. It becomes very difficult for us to deal with it.
VOICEOVER
The damage done is widespread. The destruction of the environment affects people and nature alike.
IBAMA AGENT
They took 29 trees from here. When they take the big ones, lots of smaller ones come down with them.
VOICEOVER
The Amazon is often referred to as "the planet's lungs" because of the critical role tropical forests play in absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas believed to be responsible for global warming. The forest is home to the richest diversity of species on earth, and thousands of indigenous people. In the latter part of the 20th century, Brazil's rapidly growing population settled in major areas of the rainforest, especially near recently built roads. The Amazon jungle shrank dramatically as it was cleared for lumber and converted into grazing pastures and farmland. To counter the indiscriminate, illegal cutting and get everyone involved in managing the forest, a program has been launched to reduce the impact of logging. Monitored by IBAMA and run by local communities, it minimizes cutting while maximizing benefits, says agronomist Edson Marcio da Cruz.
EDSON MARCIO DA CRUZ
This operation helps growth and development as opposed to deforestation, which does away with everything. We do a selective cut of commercial timber, but we do not touch many species.
VOICEOVER
The impact on any one species and conservation area is controlled. A "tree census" is conducted, so cutting decisions can be made ahead of time. Seed trees are spared and every cut tree is accounted for. The project is managed by a cooperative and the benefits are locally shared.
EDSON MARCIO DA CRUZ
One hundred twenty-six families are part of the cooperative. The project aims at giving support to all communities in the region.
VOICEOVER
There are some 10,000 people living within Flona Tapajos, located by the Tapajos River, one of the Amazon's largest tributaries. The 29 communities inside this protected area are now involved in a wide range of commercial activities that have a lower impact on the biodiversity of the forest.
ALCINEI RODRIGUES
These days, people plant rubber trees because a rubber tree lasts forever. It never stops producing latex.
VOICEOVER
Alcinei Rodrigues knows a lot about rubber trees. He extracts latex using traditional techniques and his neighbors get the raw material they need to make beautiful purses and bags sold in Brazil and exported to Europe.
ALCINEI RODRIGUES
Ten years ago people would go into the forest and slash and burn to plant food. Now people mostly support themselves with their work here.
VOICEOVER
The Amazon and its people's way of life are seriously under threat. Seventeen percent of the original rainforest has been destroyed and some studies suggest that this percentage could rise to 40 percent by 2050. But people like Joacir Pedroso are determined to preserve the Amazon's incredible riches. To Joacir, the forest is a treasure trove of infinite possibilities for medicines. Scientists agree that plants here may hold the secrets for curing deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and malaria, among many others. So much more that can enrich mankind is still left to be discovered.
JOACIR PEDROSO
This cures pneumonia and chest ailments. This is good for perfume, as well as sinus infections and headaches. This is known as "silent killer": it can be lethal if ingested.
VOICEOVER
But even the most deadly poison can be useful to humankind. Clearly, those who live here must have a major say in the way natural resources are managed and preserved. They have a deep bond with the environment and understand better than anybody the risks of letting this wondrous world disappear.
JOACIR PEDROSO
We must protect the forest; we still have so much to learn.