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.

Derivaldo picked me up from a hostel one afternoon on a motorbike.

“Are you the one?” he asked.

“I am. You know what I need?” I answered.

“Yes. Jump on.”

We rode along the Trans-Amazonian Highway for about 20 kms (12 miles), and stopped at a bar. He ordered something called “3 Religiosas” (3 religious).