The Amazon holds the largestbiodiversity on the planet.
So, the Amazon is the homeof hundreds of thousands of species, plant and animal species.
SOPHIE McNEILL: The Amazon is theworld’s largest tropical rainforest.
It plays a vital roleregulating the global climate.
In the Amazon, estimates are that between 100 and 120 billion tonnesof carbon are stored in the forest today.
But the Amazon is being destroyedat alarming new rates.
Enforcement has been drasticallyreduced on the ground in Brazil for illegal logging, fordeforestation, for land grabbing, for all the environmental crimes.
MAN: We were never thinkingthat we will ever come back again to levels of deforestation closeto 10, 000 square kilometres.
So if deforestation continuesat the current rate, we could reach this tipping pointwithin 15 years? 15 to 30 years.
Those trying to save the Amazonare risking their lives.
MAN: People who stand upto illegal networks that are destroying the forest are being threatened, intimidated, attacked, and even killed.
Tonight on Four Corners, we takeyou to the heart of the Amazon, where you will meet the peoplerisking their lives to save the rainforest, as we investigate what can be done to stop the rapid destruction of one of world’s mostimportant ecosystems.
(WILDLIFE WHISTLES) We’re on our wayinto Arariboia territory in Maranhao state, in north-eastern Brazil.
This patch of the Amazon rainforestis an Indigenous reserve.
It’s an oasis.
All the surrounding land has beencleared by farmers and loggers over the last few decades.
(MAN SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE) TRANSLATION: Here we preserve thescience, the culture, the language, the singing, the beliefs, the environment, the forest, all the animals.
(WILDLIFE WHISTLES, SQUAWKS) Nearly 20% of the Brazilian Amazonhas now been destroyed.
Indigenous tribesare on the front line of trying to save what’s left.
The Guajajara people live hereamong the rainforest.
In order to stopillegal loggers and farmers from entering their reserve, they formed a patrol unitcalled the Forest Guardians.
The Guardians patrol for daysand sometimes weeks on end.
We are fightingagainst the criminality.
We are sayingthis is our resistance, We are painting ourselvesto go fight.
The hardwood trees stolenfrom this protected reserve sell for up $2, 000 each.
This one here can be usedfor many household things.
Tables, chairs, windows, doors, benches, to make houses, buildings.
They take everything overseas.
The Forest Guardians are not justprotecting the rainforest.
This reserve is home to the world’smost threatened uncontacted tribe.
The Awa people are one of onlytwo nomadic hunter-gathering tribes left in the Amazon.
This video filmed last year, not far from where we are now, captures the moment an Awa manwas spotted in the forest.
The life of the Awaonly God knows about.
They are now restless, they are no longer in peacein their land due to the noise of the loggers.
They are being pushed, squeezed.
There are believed to beabout 80 Awa people living within the Guajajara reserve.
These are the remains of an Awa camp the Guardians stumbled uponwhile on patrol.
(MAN SPEAKS IN LOCAL LANGUAGE) What we need is to protectthese Indigenous people, leave them be they want to be.
This is their tradition.
MAN: Their survival is threatenedterribly by loggers because they live in the mostpristine areas on the Amazon in Maranhao, and that’s where the loggerswant to get to.
And if there is contact, you know, the consequences will be, you know, horrendous.
Last year, the world watchedin horror as large swathes of the Amazonwent up in flames.
Fires happen here every dry seasonwhen farmers clear land.
But in August 2019, more than 30, 000 fires burnedacross the Brazilian Amazon, a 200% increasefrom the previous year, the vast majority of themdeliberately lit.
MAN: In the Amazon fireis a man-made fire.
It’s part ofthe deforestation process.
WOMAN: First, the illegals loggersstart entering the territory.
They remove the trees that havemore value in the market, which are not all the trees.
And then it’s time to removethe rest of the forest.
So this process of removingthe forest that’s left there, it’s a process that use the fireusually, because it’s cheaper.
And then after the fires, then you can start a new activity, which is going to beprobably cattle ranching.
And after some years, it could be also turning to some agriculture landwith soya, or, any other grain.
(CHEERING) A decade ago, Brazil was being praised for its effortsto preserve the Amazon.
Then, in late 2018 the countryelected a new right-wing government under President Jair Bolsonaro.
A climate change sceptic, Bolsonaro campaigned on a platformof developing the Amazon and getting rid ofenvironmental protections.
By January 2020, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazonhad soared 85%, with more than 9, 000 squarekilometres of rainforest destroyed, the highest ratein at least 10 years.
We were never thinkingthat we will ever come back again to levels of deforestationclose to 10, 000 square kilometres.
It’s really a signof losing control and it’s more disturbing because the reaction ofthe government to this increase has not been like fightingthe deforestation itself, but actually fighting with numbers and fighting with the people that are actually trying to helpto control the deforestation.
They know the date was.
Ricardo Galvao was the head of Brazil’s National SpaceResearch Institute.
The president did not likethat the data was available.
In June last year, the Institute’sdata began to show that the Amazon was being clearedat rapid new rates.
President Bolsonaro accusedMr Galvao of falsifying the records.
I almost fainted when I heard that.
I tell you why, because, you know, in the scientific community, to say that a scientist is lyingabout his research is very serious.
The Minister of Scienceand Technology told Mr Galvo he should resign, but he refused.
He said, “You know thatthe president wants your head.
“You cannot stayin the government anymore.
“But I know thatyou are not going to resign “so I will take the chargeto dismiss you myself.
” That’s what he did.
How did it feel to have themjust fire you like that? (CHUCKLES) That’s a hard questionbecause maybe you have to ask them.
I myself as a Brazilian, I felt very sad actually because I never expect the presidentto say openly and so bluntly against science actually.
You’ve spent your life.
Brazilian scientist Carlos Nobrewas a lead author of the ground-breaking IPCC reportinto climate change 26-year-old Forest GuardianPaulo Paulino came across illegal loggersin the forest.
They shot him dead.
We find his father Josein a nearby town.
No-one has been arrestedover Paulo’s death.
A logger was also killed when Paulo’s fellow Forest Guardiansreturned fire, and the Guajajara villages now livein fear of revenge.
DE SOUZA GUAJAJARA: (TRANSLATION)Protection is what we want.
We want the justice systemto do something about what is happening today.
They want to finish with us, the Indigenous peopleand our leadership, for us to retreat and be afraid and stop fighting against them.
But it doesn’t intimidate us.
As one dies, others rise.
As we leave Guajajara land, we hear that a convoy of Indigenousleaders has been ambushed by gunmen not far from the areawe had just been.
Two members of the tribe are killed.
Fires on nearby farmscontinue to burn.
We are now travelling into ParaState, which has the highest rates of illegal land clearingin the Amazon.
It’s very remote out here.
The roads are unsealedand there’s no phone signal.
We’re told that the logging trucksthat keep passing us are controlled by criminal networks.
We have now drivenmore than two hours out of town and we have seen more thaneight logging trucks piled up with freshly cut trees.
They have driven past us, but where we are, in thisreally isolated spot, it’s just not safe for us to be seenfilming them as they drive past.
Travelling with us isFrancisca Silva de Quadros.
She’s taking us to the home of herlate sister Dilma Ferreira Silva, a well-known environmentalcampaigner who was killed last year.
After several hours, we arrive at Dilma’s house.
It was here last Marchthat she was brutally murdered.
The 43-year-old motherand her friends were tortured before they were killed.
(SOBS) MAN: Dilma’s crime was reportingillegal logging.
Her crime was defending the forestand then she paid with her life.
The investigation is showing thata local landowner was involved in illegal logging, possibly also drug trafficking.
And he was sending hislogging trucks through a road that went, you know, in front of Dilma’s house.
While the farmer has been arrested, Francisca is not confidentjustice will be delivered.
And she’s terrified she will betargeted for speaking out.
Over the past decade, more than 300 Brazilians have been murdered while tryingto protect the rainforest.
There has always beenan enormous level of impunity for those killings.
We have a government that hasundermined law enforcement in the Amazon, and in fact given.
effectively given a green light to criminal networks that areboth destroying the forest and attacking anyone who stands.
stands up to defend it.
We want to find out more about how these illegaltimber networks operate.
We begin a two-day drive westacross the Trans-Amazonian Highway, passing through dozens of smalllogging and farming towns.
When you go to these logging townsin the Amazon, everybody knows.
Everybody who livesthere, they know who the logger is, who is the, you know, the person who is occupying illegal landand land grabbing.
Everybody knows them.
Everybody sees the logging trucks.
There are loggers in the Amazon who have government permitsto cut down specific trees.
The owner of this door factoryinsists this wood is legal.
But out the back we finda different timber yard, dealing with a suspicious amountof valuable hardwood.
The system that controls timberlogging has lots of loopholes, and one of them for instance isthat sometimes the state will allow removing timber from one area.
And then this permission is usedto remove timber from another area.
And this area can be likea protected area, Indigenous land.
Some of the Amazon’s trees end upin decks and in flooring in Europe, the US, Japan and even Australia.
More than $75 million of Braziliantimber products are imported by Australian businesses each year.
Is it possible to havea clean supply chain for timber, for logging in the Amazon? Right now it’s very hard to saythat the supply chain is clean.
It’s hard to say that any timberthat comes from Brazil is legal, has a legal origin.
We turn offthe Trans-Amazonian Highway and head south down Brazil’sBR-163, the highway credited with opening upthe Amazon for development.
MAN: The main driver ofdeforestation in all of the Amazon are roads.
And when you pave a road, existing road, then the deforestation ratesincreased a lot.
That’s the way people comeand access undisturbed forest and start doing land grabbing.
In the ’80s, Brazil’s militarygovernment paid thousands of families from the south tosettle here along the highway.
The plan was to bring hundredsof thousands of people as settlers, and the idea was remove the forestand start cattle ranches.
Today the destructionof the rainforest fans out alongside the BR-163.
We are heading to Novo Progresso, a cattle and logging town.
It’s infamous for the threatsenvironmental agents receive when they visit.
(DOG BARKS) MUNOZ: Novo Progresso is one ofmany logging cities and towns in the Amazon.
And it’s controlled by a local elite that is involved inillegal business.
Some of these criminal networksthat operate there have armed men, thattheir job is to threaten, intimidate and kill.
The people of Novo Progresso believethey have God on their side.
Today, the town is celebratingits patron saint.
Viva Santa Lucia! Viva Santa Lucia! (SPEAKS PORTUGUESE) (CONGREGATION SINGS) Like most families in this town, Deputy Mayor Gelson Dill resettledhere from southern Brazil to farm cattle.
He says his constituents are decent, God-fearing people.
TRANSLATION: Did you see anyonehere who looks like a criminal? Have you seen anyone carryinga gun on their belts? Everyone here is harmonious.
Most people here are cattle farmers.
Locals are proud of the industrythey’ve carved out of the rainforest.
Beef is what they live, eat and breathe.
78% of the town votedfor President Bolsonaro.
(DILL SPEAKS PORTUGUESE) TRANSLATION: This overwhelming votefor Bolsonaro was because when hewas a federal MP he supported us with our issuesinside the congress.
I hope that President Bolsonarowill do justice for these people, for the farmers incorporatedinto the conservation areas.
Gelson Dill believesprevious governments have unfairly punishedfarmers in the Amazon.
The deputy mayor is among many herefined for illegal land clearing.
TRANSLATION: Everything resultsin an environmental fine.
Whether you like it or not, it’s a great injustice done to the farmers of this region.
Why only now is therea concern with the Amazon? The deputy mayor sayslocal producers have benefited from a massive jump in demandfor beef from China.
TRANSLATION: Today, the Chinesemarket has led to growth in the value ofthe Brazilian cattle.
MAN: The biggest country thatbuys from Brazil is China, which buys about a thirdof Brazil’s beef exports.
And we’ve seen that that’s growing, exports overall are up a third.
As the demand goes up, then they are moving into sort of frontier areaswhere there’s more deforestation in order to get the beefthat they need.
We are on our way intoJamanxim National Park, a massive conservation areanext to Novo Progresso.
Cutting down the rainforesthere is forbidden.
If farmers break those rules, they can be placed onan official embargoed list – banning them from sellingcattle or crops produced on illegally cleared land.
This is meant to be a conservationarea, but there are dozens and dozens of farms that have set upinside this park illegally.
Now, we’ve been given the GPSlocation of this property because it is meantto be under embargo.
That is because they haveillegally cleared the rainforest for their farming.
So we are here to seeif can see any evidence of if they are stilloperating or not.
We put a drone up and can spota large herd of cows on the embargoed land.
Clearly, they are still in business.
What does that mean whenthere’s still cattle on a farm that’s been placed under embargo? These farmers that still havethe cattle in embargoed area, they’re counting on impunity.
They know that they can still doan illegal activity in an area that’s restricted, that’s embargoed, that nothing is going tohappen to them.
The biggest buyer of beeffrom the Amazon is the Brazilian company JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier.
It’s signed pledges to tryand reduce deforestation, but experts say the companyis still driving the destruction of the rainforest.
ERASMUS ZU ERMGASSEN: What we findis that through those purchases, they’re actually linkedto between 24 and 29, 000 hectares of deforestation risk.
It’s not very difficultto get around the monitoring because there’s widespread, what is called laundering, where cows are movedfrom one property to a second.
The first propertyhad recent deforestation, but once they’re on the secondproperty, then they look clean because the system only checks the last guy who soldto the slaughterhouse.
There is something elsein Jamanxim National Park we have come to investigate.
Now, more than 100km deepinto the park is a massive new illegalclearing of land that’s just happenedin recent months.
Now, we just can’t go up that roadbecause it’s too dangerous.
It’s controlled by loggers.
But the evidence of what ishappening here is clear from above.
From April to June last year, more than 15 square kilometresof rainforest was destroyed.
And it’s like more than, like, 1 million trees.
So a million trees in two months?Yeah.
It’s difficult to image, right? Because if you divide, like, 1 million trees for 60 days we’re talking, like, you know, thousands of thousands of treesper day and it looks, like, unrealistic.
But that’s how things works.
You have, like, you know, 30, 40, even 50 peoplewith chainsaws cutting down the forest here.
So it’s massive and fast.
Experts sent hundreds of alertsto Brazil’s environmental agency calling on them to intervene, but nothing was done.
CARLOS NOBRE: Everyday they sentbetween 15 and 17 warnings.
And IBAMA sent zerolaw enforcement agents, agents, throughout this three-month period and there were absolutely almost noaction to counter that illegality.
After the massive areain the national park was illegally cleared, it was set alight.
This was just one of the 30, 000 firesburning across the Amazon last August that caught the world’s attention.
The people of Novo Progressowere responsible for hundreds of these blazes.
Locals here even organiseda ‘day of fires’, where vast areas of forest were deliberately set alightat the same time.
MAN: The day of the fire was anattempt by these criminal networks operating in Nova Progresso, to attract the attentionof President Bolsonaro.
And their message was, “Yeah, we are here and we want to work.
” And what they mean with that is, “We want to cut down the trees.
“We want to set it on fire.
“We want to have cattle here andsell it, you know, to the world.
” CARLOS NOBRE: They were reallymaking a political statement creating a fire day, a deforestation day, just to celebrate what they thoughtto be a new era for the Amazon, an era without any control.
But all signs coming from the Amazon are that deforestation continuesto.
to go up, and that these criminals, they are feeling empowered, and that they are feeling that therisk of punishment is almost zero.
Local authorities say they arepowerless to protect the rainforest.
Conrado Wolfring isNovo Progresso’s police chief.
Chief Wolfring sayscriminal logging networks are colluding with local politicians, and have even infiltrated his force.
(ROOSTER CROWS) In 2017, the leader ofa nearby community settlement, a man called Alenquer, made a YouTube video.
claiming politiciansin Novo Progresso wanted to kill him for his reportingof illegal land grabbing.
A year after filming this, the father of six was shot dead.
(ROOSTER CROWS) Maria Marcia de Melois Alenquer’s successor.
The 42-year-old grandmotheris convinced she is next.
Maria Marcia accuses Deputy MayorGelson Dill and his associates of making death threats against her.
What do you sayto those allegations? (SPEAKS PORTUGUESE) TRANSLATOR: I don’t know anythingabout that.
As we head further downthe BR-163 highway, we enter northern Matto Grosso State.
Here the destructionof the Amazon is almost complete, replaced with soy fields.
Brazil is now the world’slargest producer of soybeans, doubling its productionof the grain in the last decade.
These beans aren’t for tofuor soymilk.
80% of Brazil’s soy is exportedto China as animal feed for poultry, pig and cattle farms.
Farmers are floutingan international agreement signed more than a decade ago that was supposed to stopnewly deforested land being made into soy crops.
ERASMUS ZU ERMGASSEN:Farmers clear land with the expectation that they willthen grow soy on it in the future because what soy is, soy is a really profitable crop and it now covers, you know, 34 million hectares of land.
That’s an area that’s largerthan the size of Finland.
Not far from the soy fields, the Kayapo tribe are hanging onto their last piece of the Amazon.
They’re already surroundedby soy and cattle farms and terrified of the prospectthat more forest could be lost.
Chief Ireo is worriedthat the destruction of the forest has already startedto affect the local climate.
For decades, scientists have warnedof an Amazon tipping-point – the moment at which the forest begins emitting more carbonthan it absorbs and no longer generatesthe rainfall it needs to survive.
CARLOS NOBRE: Thispost-deforestation climate in part of the Amazon, southern portion of the Amazon, they would becomesavanna-like climate, no longer a forest-like climate.
The duration of the dry seasonwould become too long to maintain a forest.
And we are seeing that happening, and we hope we havenot crossed the threshold.
We hope we have not already flipped into this new irreversible stateof savannization.
We talk about 20-25%total deforestation.
We are at 17% now.
We are, let’s say, 15 to 30 years into passing, exceedingthis tipping point.
So if deforestation continuesat the current rate, we could reachthis tipping point within 15 years? 15 to 30 years.
And that would mean thatthe Amazon could no longer generate the rainfall it needsto be the Amazon.
TASSO AZEVEDO:We know how to preserve and to decrease deforestationin the Amazon.
We have shown that in the past.
And it’s, the most importantis that you need the political will and to join forces with government, civil society, and business to do it.
Even if the will is found, there’s the risk that global warming could still spell disasterfor the Amazon.
CARLOS NOBRE: If global warmingcontinues unabated, then the savannization will grow when we crossthis other tipping point, which is four degrees warming.
So the most difficult challengefor our civilisation in the last 10, 000 years is how to avoidbringing the earth.
to the brinkof losing civilisations.
In 22nd, 23rd century, it’s.