Homage to unsung heroes

(1) Chico Mendes

In the 1980s the fate of the Amazon rainforest turned on an unlikely environmental hero: Chico Mendes, born in 1944, a poor rubber tapper and union organizer in Brazil. As cattle ranching and logging threatened the rainforest with deforestation, Mendes formed a workers union that aligned itself with environmentalism. With the support of powerful allies such as the Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation, Mendes and the rubber tapper workers succeeded in creating the first extractive reserve in the world. An extractive reserve is a protected area that allows public land to be managed by local communities, with rights to harvest forest products. It marked an important step forward for the conservation community. The forest was therefore conserved. Mendes received international recognition and awards by environmental groups, but he paid for his achievements with his life. A local Brazilian cattle rancher angered by Mendes’ activism murdered Mendes at his home. When Chico Mendes was gunned down in the Amazon, the two policemen who were supposed to protect him were playing dominoes at his kitchen table. It was 22 December 1988. Rest In Peace Chico, may your work never be forgotten

Source: The Guardian 

(2) Theun Soknay, Thol Khna &  Sok Vathana

I usually don’t write personal pieces on this page, but today I feel a certain obligation to. I am writing today to inform you all of the murder of an environmentalist friend, a protector of the forest, and a kind and light-hearted man, along with the murder of two other conservation heroes whom I did not have the pleasure to meet in person. Last year I studied abroad in Cambodia, where rampant illegal deforestation and poaching are disfiguring the landscape. In Cambodia I worked with indigenous communities, rangers, elephants, gibbons and researchers alike to investigate the causes and solutions to the current environmental threats the country is facing; illegal logging being at the top of the list. The tragedy of which I speak took place on January 30th in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary,  located in the province of Mondulkiri. The three men—Wildlife Conservation Society employee Thol Khna, Military Police officer Sok Vathana and Ministry of the Environment ranger Theun Soknay, were patrolling the forest in response to illegal logging when they were suddenly ambushed and killed by a district police chief and the head of an armed Regiment. A total of seven bullet casings from an automatic rifle were found at the scene. Soknai was my friend and translator and today he is dead. Soknai’s brother commented the following about Soknai: “he used to tell me that if one day there was a person having bad intentions against him because he protects the forest, he would dare to die” and he did. Each year, conservationists around the world are brutally murdered, and the news is often kept quiet, and economical interests are unfortunately too often at the cause of it all. Spread the news and help us build a conscientious and attentive audience; the planet speaks to us in many ways. 

Source: The Phnom Penh Post
Anna Chahuneau