The Loss of Paulino is a Loss For Us All
On November 1, indigenous community members Paulo Paulino Guajajara and Laércio Guajajara went out hunting. During this time-honored walk into the forest, illegal loggers ambushed and fired upon the pair of Forest Guardians inside the Araribóia Indigenous Territory in Brazil, killing Paulino and leaving Laércio injured. Just a few short weeks prior, WITNESS team members worked with Guajajara, training him and others on how to use video to defend their land rights.
Since we began working with the All Eyes on the Amazon (AEA) project, we have lost three from our community. This rivals the pace at which we lost friends from our work on Syria and illustrates the threat level that environmental human rights defenders face.
All of the defenders harassed and killed have stories similar to Paulo Paulino Guajajara: they are ordinary people who have been living on their land for generations, and when they stand up to protect their homes, they come up against companies’ private security, state forces, contract killers, or teams of aggressive lawyers. It is the same everywhere WITNESS works to support land defenders.
Environmental health is the umbrella human rights issue. If we fail to protect our land, air, water and atmosphere, not only will we prevent solutions to human rights abuses, we will exacerbate them. And the rainforest is at the heart of this. Deeply respected conservation biologists believe that once 25% of the Brazilian rainforest has been destroyed, the rainforest will disappear.
It’s already 20% deforested, and logging is spiking under Bolsonaro. Paulino is not only protecting the Brazilian forest, he is protecting New York City from deadly hurricanes like Sandy (coming in at over $70 billion in damages), California from destructive wildfires, and coastal regions from massive floods.
The loss of Paulino is not only a tremendous loss for the Brazilian and AEA communities, it is a loss for the global community because when defenders like Paulino stand up, they stand up for each and every one of us.