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Published: Wednesday 30 June 1999

To mark World Environment Day, Greenpeace launched a campaign to save the Amazon rainforest with the cooperation of the government of Brazil ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 2). Thilo Bode, executive director of Greenpeace International said, "The fight against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest will be one of Greenpeace's top priorities going into the next Millennium." According to the Brazilian government, 80 per cent of all logged timber in the Amazon is illegal. The move comes as Brazilian officials predict a 20 per cent increase this year in deforestation of the rainforest. As recently as 1970, 99 per cent of the Amazon remained intact. Today, the Brazilian government estimates that 14 per cent of the Brazilian Amazon, an area about the size of France has been deforested. During the last four years, an area the size of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined has been lost. In the new report Facing Destruction: A Greenpeace Briefing on the Timber Industry in the Brazilian Amazon, 2,500 logging companies and sawmills in the Amazon have been identified. The report identifies 26 foreign owned transnational companies that are now operating in the Amazon. Besides protesting against the destructive logging, the Greenpeace campaign will also seek economic alternatives for the Amazonian people. "We want people to look at the forest as an opportunity for development, not as an obstacle to it," said Roberto Kishinami, executive director of Greenpeace Brazil.

The campaign will focus on finding sustainable economic alternatives such as rubber tapping or marketing of fruits and plants from the forest for the 20 million people who live in the Amazon region. "The time to look at the Amazon as a "park" is gone. It is obvious that any effort to save the forest must address the question of a sustainable economic development," said Kishinami.

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