Since 1988, humans have destroyed an area of rain forest roughly the size of Texas and New Mexico combined – about 40 football fields per minute
Shortly before his 44th birthday, in December 1988, the Brazilian rubber tapper and environmental activist Chico Mendes predicted he would not live until Christmas. “At first,” he said, “I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rain forest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.”
Mendes had received death threats for years. The threats escalated when an aggressive rancher laid claim to a nearby forest reserve, where he intended to burn and level trees to create pasture for cattle. The rancher hired gunmen to prowl around Mendes’s neighborhood. Mendes publicly opposed the rancher, and continued to advocate for the human rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin, saying Brazil must save the most biodiverse forest in the world. Destroy it, he said, and we, the human race, will end up destroying ourselves.
A frequent contributor to The Guardian, Kim Heacox is the author of many books, including The Only Kayak, a memoir, and Jimmy Bluefeather, a memoir, both winners of the National Outdoor Book Award. He lives in Alaska