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Read your comments Monday, 2 September, 2002, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Fires of the Amazon comments
Burnt field
Deforestation rate is 40% higher now than in 1992

Fires of the Amazon: Can the "progress" consuming one of the world's greatest natural resources be halted?

It's easy to say "Don't use the resources" to poor people that live 4000 miles away from Europe. In the middle of the Amazon forest there are cities like Manaus with over 1 million residents without a road to other regions of the country. I always hear that roads are bad because they're destroying the forest...Don't you care about the people from Amazon? Amazon is too big (almost 2/3 of the Brazilian territory), and the population of Brazil is 173 million where 55 million are poor. We don't have another way; we have to use the Amazon resources. Sure, we must not destroy all, but the Amazon cannot be intact, we don't want to be the big zoo of the world, we want the development of the country.
Henrique, Porto Alegre, Brazil

I endorse what Edward Shearer says and suggest that we, the people who believe this get together, and take more action now. Time and time again we destroy what is good in our world - whether it is the land or the people - will we never learn - I fear not, but I live in hope.
Susan Dorling, UK

I feel truly frustrated as a normal human being living my existence and feeling like the average person who has no real effect on what happens tomorrow. I am appalled by the actions of the leaders in these years World Summit. Can they not see past their own front doors of opulence and wealth to see that it is poverty that drives communities to destroy what remains of this world's untouched beauty? They busy themselves with fighting wars and making money for the big corporations that now seem to run the planet. Do these people sleep at night when they know how many poor they are exploiting throughout the world?
Rachel Hayes, England

To stop buying tropical wood products is not the solution, or even a part of the solution

John Park, The WOOD Bureau
The 'Fires of the Amazon' report from Adrian Cowell was first class. Such programmes are extremely valuable, yet too few, in providing an insight into the causes of deforestation that can only help the UK viewer and consumer understand the complexity of the issue. To stop buying tropical wood products is not the solution, or even a part of the solution. Given that of the estimated 3.6 billion cubic metres of wood harvested annually, 2.0 billion is used for firewood, the problem is not created and neither will it be solved by the consumer decisions of the western world. For forests to be sustainabley managed they must have a commercial value for the benefit of the communities dependent upon them. For the many communities without access to gas or electricity wood is the only source of fuel, this accounting for the largest proportion of trees cut down annually. Forests without value will be replaced with something else to generate income or simply food in the short term. These areas tend not to be reforested. Similarly, illegal logging in some countries is adding to this problem and until this can be addressed at government level will continue to exacerbate the situation.
John Park, The WOOD Bureau.

I was shocked and worried to see your program.It is very sad what they did
Jasmine Griffiths (8), UK

Good points from Matt Carlton and "anonymous". Capitalism is destined to eat itself. The Earth as we used to know it is no more. Change is a fact. There will come a time when all or most is destroyed, when people will crawl to those remaining native peoples or descendants thereof who still know the ancient ways of living in accordance with our true nature & environment and they will beg for this knowledge but the original people will laugh for all will have been destroyed.

All modern living is unsustainable

Edward Shearer

From the Australian Aborigines to the Inuit Americans to the peoples of the rainforest & the Bushmen of Southern Africa they hold the key. We do not need anything but that which Nature provides. The true wisdom is under our noses but who wants to know? All modern living is unsustainable. Large scale ignorance, greed and overpopulation.

Until we fundamentally change our lifestyle - our demand for energy, processed, massed produced food and meat (yes the ranches!!) comfort and false pride in material possessions succumbing to the empty ideals of modern society - nothing will change.

The struggle between nomad and farmer / bushman and cultivator / Caine and Abel is ancient. And it seems the Nomad has lost. Everywhere, where still in existence his lifestyle is under threat. However they will have the last laugh for only when it is too late will we realize that our "way" was not better nor more advanced nor progressive but our undoing.

The change must start at home. How many of us are really prepared to give up everything but the "bare necessities"?
Edward Shearer, UK

"Chico Mendes Farewell" is an Adagio Grandioso song I have written and composed the music for as a tribute to Chico Mendes and to draw attention to the continuous depletion of the World's Rainforests. I am now seeking a (School) children's choir with an international mix of children to sing and record it. I can be contacted at: 34 Raynes Road, Lee-On-The-Solent, Hampshire PO13 9AL. Tel: 02392 552661.
David Robson, Portsmouth, UK

A superb documentary. What can we do to slow down and ultimately halt these devastating fires as time steadily runs out for us all?
Guy Drury, UK

Excellent programme. Very informative. Liked the focus on Cuiaba and the Santarem Rodovia. I'm a Conservation Biologist emigrating to Cuiaba imminently.
John Beaumont, UK/Brazil

No-one needs to use mahogany


Great Programme...BUT, has anyone else had difficulty persuading a builder that they DON'T want to use tropical hardwoods for joinery, or tried to source native grown hardwood? Lets have a programme on the consumer issues here, and challenge the Building Trades Federation, specifiers and developers on this. No-one needs to use mahogany, but we need information on how our choices affect these issues. And how about having a whole series on sustainable building, and low-impact technologies from other cultures?
C.Thomas, UK

Perhaps instead of us making judgements about the Brazilian people and how they are trying to build a better future for their families, we should think about the billions of pounds in subsidies that the EU gives to the farmers. If people in the third world are not allowed to compete fairly with Europe and the USA, they will use the resources of their country in the best way they see fit. It is easy for us to say that what is being done to the forest is wrong and devastating to the planet, but it is not so easy when we are told that we may have to pay for it. After all, if the rainforest is the lungs of the world, we all have some responsibility towards it!
Delva Niedrum, United Kingdom

I watched the Correspondent programme on Sunday 1st September, and found it very interesting and informative. As I recently returned from six months in Brazil, I was looking forward to the opportunity to hear some Brazilian Portuguese with subtitles as a back-up. I was very disappointed to find most of the programme was dubbed. Please always use subtitles - I'm sure the average Correspondent viewer will not mind. They are an excellent way of learning a language, and there are very few opportunities for this on TV.
Sarah Shubinsky, London

It doesn't just affect Brazil if the Amazon is destroyed


Thank you for such an informative and unbiased programme. Brazil is a country in need of education and alternatives. Can the rest of us really stand by on the pretence that they have the right to aspire to western countries level of wealth when it means the destruction of the Amazon? Organisations such as Greenpeace have been fighting this fight for a long time, isn't it about time the UN and foreign governments gave Brazil assistance/alternatives to increasing the country's economic status. It doesn't just affect Brazil if the Amazon is destroyed, therefore shouldn't we all be working towards preventing this. Maybe the mistakes made elsewhere can be looked to as learning experiences to prevent recurring destruction of the forests everywhere that the planet needs to sustain life.
Danielle, Cambridge, UK

The sole reason for the problem is money


Wonderful programme, I am very disappointed to hear my fears confirmed so drastically. Please can we have more, as fear seems to be the only way to get people to react. It looks to me like the sole reason for the problem is money, as with most other problems where the planet is ignored. Therefore as a suggestion why does the UN (for example) not rent, annually, what we believe to be the minimum amount of rainforest - rent per country would be based on population size - or even use of resources eg power, importation etc. The money provided as rent to Brazil (South America, Asiatic countries etc)could encourage eco education, sustainable tourism, clean natural power, whereby reducing the countries' dependence on sales which destroy the forests. Also we of the 'developed countries' must stop the use of Hardwoods, be more conservative with the resources we guzzle, distribute our stockpiles of food throughout the world - simple as that really.
Miles, Netherlands

Brilliant programme!! Greed and the lust for power is what is fuelling the terrible fire of destruction all over the world. We need to educate people including ourselves with the real truth of what is happening.

Has anyone realised yet that you can't eat money?


Has the programme been shown in Brazil on prime time TV or on video in villages? Are people being shown alternatives? Has anyone realised yet that you can't eat money so when all the resources dry up or burn up what will we eat? Long term solutions of living in harmony with each other and nature are the only way forward. Capitalism can't survive, smash the greedy corporations and show them that our survival and the survival of the whole planet depends on harmony not greed!!!
Hilary, UK

An Operation Raleigh expedition took me to Borneo in 1992 to learn about the rainforest and the indigenous people. I've known for over 10 years why the rainforest has been depleted because I've seen it with my own eyes. We spoke to logging companies and when asked why they destroy the rainforest for economic and export use, the reply was simple: "Until someone provides us with a better alternative to improve our economic and living standards, we have no choice but to deplete the forest to feed the habits of Europe, Japan and USA's demand for luxury goods, this will always carry on". One has to remember most of the logging companies in Borneo are from Indonesia with I'm assuming international money behind them. New thinking needs to take place for the future of the globe.
Christopher Bowden

My heart weeps for what is happening

Patrick Routen

Thank you for your informative programme on the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. Ultimately, it will be through education and awareness that will change people's behaviours towards the environment and programmes like this play an important role in that development. My heart weeps for what is happening and I hope to play some small part in helping protecting our environment.
Patrick Routen, England, UK

The Amazon is the lungs of the earth and we simply cannot and must not do without it

Ian Wilson

Having watched Fires of the Amazon last night I was left feeling appalled and frustrated. The programme was excellent. I am sure that the majority of people assumed that the rate of deforestation was declining, particularly after the 1992 Rio summit. It is essential that we are told what is really happening, and I commend the BBC for disabusing this false belief. The prediction with which the programme concluded is a disaster for the planet and for mankind. The short term economic concerns of the individual country must be subordinate to the long term need of the planet. The Amazon is the lungs of the earth and we simply cannot and must not do without it. But I am left asking myself: what on earth can we do? What can I do?
Ian Wilson, UK

Your programme on the destuction of the rain forests of Amazonia was very well done. The essential problem is the weak position of Greenpeace and the Environment Police on one side, and the momentum of economic progress on the other. The "progress" is fuelled by government policy - to build roads, build power stations, build growth centres, support new trades financed by big business and exports; do all that and sit back and reap the money. The fact that all the rain forest will have gone by 2100 is their problem. "Right now I want to get rich and get re-elected. A few trees and tribesmen are not gonna stop me."
John W S Preston, United Kingdom

Not enough is done to preserve our precious earth

Emma Launchbury

Great programme on the deforestation of the Amazon. I sat and watched the programme in complete amazement at the sheer scale of destruction and angry that mankind happily destroys the lungs of the earth for short term gain - without consideration to the future of our environment.

I think it is important to bring the truth out in the open as it displays to the world what atrocities we, as mankind, create. Not enough is done to preserve our precious earth and governments should be ashamed that they permit such destruction under their laws.

Keep up the good work. I think these kinds of programmes are great eye-openers and indeed should be shown at schools where it will teach our younger generations the importance of this world we live in.
Emma Launchbury

What is the answer? They are really hurting their spiritual connection to the rainforest. Maybe some form of assistance to help these people get in touch with their inner feelings and their empathy for the trees and the animals of the rainforest - which I am sure is there - an experience of the true freedom away from the decisions made in fear of hunger etc leading towards a desire to maintain and to find a middle way beyond privation and greed.
Edward Morgan

No mention in Adrian Cowell's programme of Julian Pettifer's programme in Correspondent last year on the mucuna bean which was going to save the clearing of the forest because it provided food and green manure which in turn could make cash crops more profitable than cutting down trees.

Also is the mucuna bean on any agenda at Johannesburg - or was it a nine days wonder after all?

We chopped nearly all our forests down and we all have a car and live like kings, building houses with gardens in the green belt! How can we tell the starving Brazilians that they can't do the same as us and aspire to development?

Your programme was very well done. The main issues were addressed.

The Sahara desert was once a rain forest, as was Easter Island, by 2100 Brazil will be a desert

John Preston

My anxiety is the frustration of knowing that a bad situation is getting worse - plus the lack of seeing any way to stop it.

The figure of 3000 fires and only 3 per day can be visited - and then to no effect - illustrates the point.

So long as Brazilian government policy fuels the drive for employment (including slave labour) by means of road building, electric power generation and agricultural expansion financed by big business and export sales income, there is no way the present process can be stopped.

Presumably the government and business are motivated to continue to do what they do; the urgent question is to find an alternative motivation.

The Sahara desert was once a rain forest, as was Easter Island. By 2100 Brazil will be a desert.
John Preston, London, UK

The one year block placed on the export of mahogany by the Brazilian Government may be preserving some mahogany trees in Brazil but it is having a devastating spin-off effect on the Peruvian Amazon. Logging activity has increased greatly in south-eastern Peru leading to riots in the town of Puerto Maldonado in July in which government and NGO offices were destroyed by loggers opposing a government ban on logging in protected areas. These areas were created to protect the interests of over 2,000 voluntary isolated peoples who have no contact with the western world. Loggers are now within their territory. Contact is highly likely. In recent years this has always lead to a very high mortality rate amongst the native peoples.

More information available from: Tambopata Reserve Society (TReeS), P.O. Box 33153, London NW3 4DR

Why does Brazil, the World, the UN stand idly by and let the damage be done

Brian Smith

Thank you for the programme. We should be asking if the people responsible for the logging are aware of the possible effects. Do they care? I wonder whether this kind of activity should be viewed as environmental terrorism and the people responsible who are to all intents causing untold damage which could effect the lives of many should be dealt with far more harshly if they wont stop damaging the environment. Why should or why does Brazil, the World, the UN stand idly by and let the damage be done?

Is it possible for the BBC to conduct a programme or series exploring all the issues which are affecting the future of the Earth and ask some really pertinent questions to hopefully mobilise some really fundamental changes which will result in a reversal of the extremely short term views and result in a forum to discuss the issues.

If these issues can be kept at the forefront of people's minds then we have a chance hopefully to reverse the slide.
Brian Smith

The UN should have power to treat such actions on the same level as crimes of genocide

Avril Fox

I am devastated by the excellent programme; all credit to Adrian Cowell. As a field worker I have lived in the Amazon forest, one of the major lungs of the Earth, and had thought that some small progress was being made.

I have long believed that when any government engages in destruction of the kind now going on in Brazil - save for the relatively small section which commemorates Chico Mendes' work - the UN should have power to treat such actions on the same level as crimes of genocide.

If we do not combine to take steps urgently the eventual effect on human life will be truly horrendous. Yet I have read nothing in the proceedings at Johannesburg on this matter. I just wish there was action that I, an 85-year-old pensioner, could take when such folly is being perpetrated, but saving this letter there seems to be none.
Avril Fox, Norfolk, UK

First of all, I would like to congratulate the Correspondent team on producing an interesting, and more importantly, unbiased programme.

However, I do feel that there are similar issues within the UK, which never see the light of day. We seem to spend so much time looking into the distance, that we forget what is under our feet. In the UK, approximately 4% of the woodland is "natural" meaning forest unchanged by the influence of man. Considering that there is also approximately 10% of our original amount of forest cover remaining, this means that over the UK as a whole, 99.6% of ancient "natural" woodland has been lost.

Similarly with other habitats and ecosystems in the UK. Upland and Lowland Heathland, Natural Grassland, Moorland, Saltmarsh, Raised Mire, Valley Mire, Blanket Mire, Fen, Marsh and Wetland habitats are all threatened with substantial loss in extent and viability, as well as the numerous flora, fauna and fungi species that are endangered and in some cases on the verge of extinction.

The essential truth of the point I am attempting to make, is that although programmes such as "Fires of the Amazon" may be valid, interesting informative, I feel that too much attention is given to the spectacular and popular subjects, and not enough to the issues that we have in our own country.

Despite this however, I would once again like to congratulate the Correspondent team on producing a thought provoking, interesting and well balanced programme, and I look forward to more of the same.
Matt Carlton, Nottinghamshire, UK

Whilst I entirely respect the points made, I cannot accept that we have the right to tell poor countries they must not aspire to the same standard of living they we demand here in Europe. I have been in deserts, rainforests and savannahs - all were wonderful, but the plight of the citizens thereof was dour.

We should deny our siblings motor cars, tell our partners they cannot have their "garden water features" and ban all intensive care hospital wards as being too expensive and a drain on renewable energy reserves. As well as confiscate all non-essential computers and destroy all mobile phones as unnecessary. After that, we can go back to the poverty of the third world and say "well we have done our bit".
Peter Bolt, Worcestershire, UK

Governments and large multinational companies continue to pursue policies that will eventually lead to the total degradation of the global environment

David Rendell

The Rio Summit, ten years ago, was supposed to have marked a beginning to a change in which we viewed the world in which we live. A great deal was made by politicians about the tangible results that arose from that conference including conventions on climate change and biodiversity.

Tonight's report serves to underline the fact that. in reality, nothing has changed. Governments and large multinational companies continue to pursue policies that will eventually lead to the total degradation of the global environment, with all the problems that that process will impose upon humanity.

The Johannesburg Summit, if one accepts the time scale of destruction outlined in Adrian Cowell's Report, is the last chance to begin to change the climate of opinion that allows the timber and cereal companies to continue to destroy the rain forests of Brazil which are so vital to the continued health of the planet.
David Rendell

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