In Episode 99 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews an old friend and colleague—legendary journalist, naturalist and adventurer Peter Gorman, who reflects on his long years collecting (and personally sampling) psychoactive and shamanic plants, from the Peruvian Amazon, to the Rif Mountains of Morocco, to the Palani Hills of southern India. Now approaching 71, Peter is about to head back down to the Amazon to revisit the remote Matsés indigenous people, who he first contacted in 1985. His latest collection of first-hand accounts is Magic Mushrooms in India & Other Fantastic Tales.
On the sixth day of a declared civil strike (paro) in Peru's Amazon rainforest, hundreds of indigenous protesters armed with spears seized oil installations Oct. 6, effectively shutting down the NorPeruano Pipeline. Station 5 on the pipeline, as well as oil exploitation blocs 192, 95 and 8, all in Loreto region, are under occupation. State company PetroPerú admitted that personnel have been evacuated from the pumping station, in Manseriche district, and that the seizure of the installation has "paralyzed the operations" of the pipeline. Awajún apu (traditional leader) James Pérez, speaking for the Indigenous Association for the Development & Conservation of the Bajo Yurimaguas, said the paro will continue until the central government responds to protesters' demands.
The Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB) filed a statement before the International Criminal Court (ICC) Aug. 9 requesting an investigation into genocide and crimes against humanity committed by President Jair Bolsonaro. The complaint centers on "systematic anti-indigenous" policies enacted by Bolsonaro since his term began in January 2019, and deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic. APIB claims that Bolsonaro's government has dismantled protections for indigenous communities and their territories, resulting in increased invasion of indigenous lands and consequential deforestation, fires, and illegal mining. The complaint further charges that Bolsonaro has directly encouraged attacks against indigenous peoples, and refused to demarcate new indigenous territories.
The Amazon has long played a vital part in balancing the global carbon budget, but new evidence suggests the climate scales are tipping in the world's largest rainforest. Now, according to a study published July 14 in Nature, the Brazilian Amazon is emitting more carbon than it captures. Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, switched from being a carbon sink to a carbon source during the study period. Emissions were high in 2010, when the study began, because of a dry El Niño year, and researchers expected to see emissions return to normal afterward. But this never happened. The reason: emissions from fires.
A new coalition of Amazonian indigenous groups and environmentalists has come together in Peru to demand oversight and accountability in the development of a huge new hydrocarbon exploitation bloc in the rainforest. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won exploitation rights in 2017 at Bloc 58, in the Upper Urubamba zone of Cuzco region, after explorations revealed some 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, enough to increase Peru's total gas reserves by nearly 28%. But Bloc 58 overlaps with the traditional territories of the Asháninka and Matsigenka (Machiguenga) indigenous peoples, and is near the indigenous communities of Tangoshiari, Kirigueti, and Kochiri. It additionally overlaps with the "buffer zones" (zonas de amortiguamiento) of the Asháninka Communal Reserve, the Machiguenga Communal Reserve, Megantoni National Sanctuary and Otishi National Park.
In Episode 73 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Thomas Moore, anthropologist, advocate for indigenous cultural survival, and author of the newly released book, Madre de Dios: Refugio de Pueblos Originarios. The remote rainforest region of Madre de Dios in Peru's southern Amazon is a last refuge for isolated indigenous peoples, but is now massively threatened by mining, timber and other resource interests that operate in a semi-legal gray zone in a nexus with criminal networks. Peru has made some progress in complying with international norms on protection of isolated peoples, but these advances stand to be dramatically reversed if far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori comes to power in the pending run-off election. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In documentary broadcast Feb. 26, "Selling the Amazon," BBC Brasil went undercover to show how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. When contacted by the BBC, Facebook said that it was "ready to work with the local authorities" to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. While some ads were pulled, others remain on Facebook. One plot up for sale was located within the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous Reserve in Brazil's Rondônia state—a titled territory where invaders and conflict have been a growing problem. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has largely gutted and defunded the nation's environmental regulatory, protection and enforcement agencies. (Mongabay)
The proliferation of pits and ponds created in recent years by miners dredging for small deposits of alluvial gold in Peru's Amazon has dramatically altered the landscape and increased the risk of mercury exposure for indigenous communities and wildlife, a new study shows. The study, published in Science Advances Nov. 27, found a 670% increase in the extent of ponds across the landscape in heavily mined watersheds since 1985. These formerly forested landscapes are now increasingly dotted by these small lakes, which provide low-oxygen conditions in which submerged mercury—a toxic leftover from the mining process—can be converted by microbial activity into an even more toxic form of the element, called methylmercury, at net rates 5-to-7 times greater than in rivers. The miners use mercury, a potent neurotoxin, to separate ore from soil and sediments, often without adequate safety precautions to protect themselves or the environment. Some of the mercury used by the miners is burned off into the air or spilled into nearby rivers, creating far-reaching environmental and human health risks. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is now believed to be the largest global source of anthropogenic mercury emissions.