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FILM: Amazon: The Logging Wars
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25 mins, 2008
It's been called the lungs of the earth. But the Amazon is also a lawless jungle, where criminals and profiteers plunder the forest for its riches. Communities are battling to stop loggers stripping the rainforest of its ancient timber, but many people depend on revenue from the illegal trade. The result is that some towns are in civil conflict, with neighbours clashing over the exploitation of their unique environment, one of the largest remaining wilderness areas on Earth.
The state of Para alone exports billions of dollars in illegal hardwood. It seems that everywhere people are cutting down trees without permission. Commercial loggers send armies with chainsaws to cut timber for export, almost always illegally.
The Amazon River is the heart of the illegal logging trade. The logs are simply loaded on a boat and exported to countries like the United States, Europe and Australia.
Once the valuable timber has been removed, the land is given over to cattle ranchers and soy farmers. All over the Amazon people are being run off their land in growing numbers.
Growing numbers of profiteers - ranchers, farmers, and land grabbers - are seizing whole areas of the Amazon at gunpoint from their inhabitants.
People don't want to leave their homes but with no one enforcing the law they're afraid and there's no one here to protect them.
But when the law is enforced, this causes other problems.
The federal environmental authorities shut the logging town of Uruara down because 80% of the timber trade here is illegal.
Everyone, from the foresters to shopkeepers, and even the men driving horse carts, have found themselves without jobs.
Says a spokesman for the authorities: "When we go to bed at night it really is hard to know that breadwinners won't get any wages the next day and sometimes their families will go hungry. But that is our job, unfortunately. We have to do it."
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