South America’s Amazon rainforest is massive. It covers portions of nine nations and five and a half million square kilometers. It’s crucial not just for the continent, but the rest of the world as well. Its trees and vegetation absorb carbon, and no place on Earth is as densely forested. That makes it one heavy-duty carbon digesting machine.
The Amazon is home to about 10 percent of the world’s plants and animals, according to WWF International, and its streams and rivers contain the highest number of freshwater species in the world. Tens of thousands of indigenous people also continue to live within the Amazon.
Despite all the Amazon has to offer, it’s threatened by logging and agricultural activities. That’s why Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo fought so long to protect the Amazon and the indigenous populations that depend on it. They were recently killed, just hours before Brazilian lawmakers approved a bill that environmentalists say would loosen restrictions on cutting rainforest trees.
The bodies of the husband and wife team were found at the Praialta-Piranheira nature reserve, where they had been working for the past 24 years. Their commitment to protecting the world’s largest rainforest put them at odds with commercial loggers, ranchers and farmers. The environmentalists had previously reported threats to their lives.
Just days later, another Amazon activist was killed. Adelino Ramos was the leader of the Corumbiara Peasant Movement in the state of Rondonia. He had also reported threats to his life before being gunned down May 27th.
So far, no arrests have been made in connection with the killings. But Brazilian lawmakers are promising to better protect environmental activists.