When it comes to defending their land from illegal loggers, Brazil Indigenous tribes in the lawless east of the Amazon have decided that they can no longer rely on the state to protect them and instead, have formed armed Indigenous militias called “the guardians of the forest.”
The “Guardians” carry out regular patrols of their territory, expelling loggers. Satellite images show that deforestation has fallen in areas that they are most active.
Environmental experts across the world have noted that empowerment of Indigenous people to protect their lands is the most practical and cost effective way to combat deforestation.
But taking on powerful local logging mafias is a risky business and many of the Guardians live under constant threat of being killed.
The existence of these groups will be then put to the test in the coming years under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro who promises to take Brazil out of the Paris agreement and extinguish the environment ministry while congress is controlled by powerful agricultural interests that act to reduce forest protections.
The Brazilian Amazon is at a tipping point. According to Carlos Nobre – one of Brazil’s most respected climate scientists – 17% of the forest is already gone. If it reaches 25%, it will become savannah. The tipping point could happen soon.