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From paradise to inferno

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Novo Progresso, Brazil

By Nacho Doce

The Amazon? Nobody can truly understand what it is without spending months or years immersed in it, to see the forest and witness the destruction. Spectacular and heartrending at the same time, it is the focus of great controversy that affects the world as much as it does Brazil.

It took us five trips spread over the past year to achieve a better understanding, but what I have recorded is just a brief moment in this immensity of rainforest and deforested land, with the forces working to annihilate what’s left.

GALLERY: INSIDE THE AMAZON

It was time to show the crime being committed against the Amazon.

The only way to begin was to make contacts. I met environmentalist Juan Doblas while visiting a hydroelectric dam on the Tapajós River. Through Juan I met a sociologist named Cirino, and through Cirino I met a farmer named Derivaldo. Cirino and Derivaldo are not their real names; they asked to remain anonymous because both live under constant threat. The word is that there is a $20,000 bounty for Derivaldo’s head, offered by Amazon loggers who want him dead for protecting the forest.

If $20,000 sounds like a lot for an enemy’s head, just compare it to the value of the dearest tree in the rainforest today - the ipê or lapacho. Loggers will pay a “ribeirinho”, or forest dweller, $75 to find and cut an average ipê. But once cut, dragged to a sawmill, and sawn into boards, that single tree will be sold, before even leaving the forest, for upwards of $50,000 to be exported overseas.

from Full Focus:

The Amazon: From Paradise to inferno

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Photographers Nacho Doce and Ricardo Moraes spent months documenting deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Initial data from Brazil’s space agency suggests that deforestation of the vast Amazon - the largest rainforest in the world - spiked by over a third during the past year, wiping out an area more than twice the size of the city of Los Angeles. If the figures are borne out by follow-up data, they would confirm fears of scientists and environmental activists who warn that farming, mining and Amazon infrastructure projects, coupled with changes to Brazil's long-standing environmental policies, are reversing progress made against deforestation.

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