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“From time to time, nature, confronted with such ignorance and devastation, causes a wave of mass destruction… Nature will die in embers.”
Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, an indigenous leader in Brazil

Xapiri indigenous gods had foreseen the environmental tragedy that struck Brazil in 2019 when humans destroyed a total of 9,762 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest, an area as large as Lebanon. This set a record for deforestation: an increase of 29.5% on the previous year, shocking the international community and triggering protests across the world, with Greta Thunberg speaking out and demanding urgent measures.


Why should we conserve forestland? We are experiencing a climate emergency, and the loss of the tropical rainforest could mean a further increase in greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. The land use model in the Amazon and other tropical rainforests around the world, cutting down trees to clear land for non-sustainable use, has brought the worst impact of global warming upon us. The selection of images presented here is an overview of the Brazilian Amazon in 2019, showing deforestation carried out by persons illegally occupying untitled land. The photographs were taken over a period of 70 days which I spent immersed in different parts of the Brazilian Amazon, reporting for The New York Times. This is an investigative project designed to give a deeper understanding of the social and environmental relations inside the forest where illegal occupation of land is prevalent. The expansion of farmland for livestock is the main factor in the destruction of the forest, and is backed by powerful politicians in Brazil’s National Congress. There are also illegal mining activities, supported by President Bolsonaro who has presented draft legislation to allow mining and hydroelectricity operations on indigenous land. Predatory logging is the first step in a complex network of illegal operations: felling trees, then selling and exporting them with false documents. The process known as “esquentar madeira” consists of recording timber taken illegally from protected areas as wood from legally felled trees prepared ready for shipment. How can the process of destruction under way, and backed by the Brazilian government, be stopped? My ambition is for my photographs to have an impact on the general public, triggering a reaction so that we can force the authorities and companies to take action and implement proper sustainable forest management. With the knowledge of the forest-dwelling communities and with contributions from science based on the concept of the green economy, we could find satisfactory ways of reversing this situation of climate emergency. The challenge is here. It is time to act!

Victor Moriyama
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Victor Moriyama

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