The Amazon is the world’s largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest.
It absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide and generates 20% of our oxygen, serving as the heart pump of the Earth’s climate.
It is also a vital carbon sink, regulating the global climate and influencing rainfall patterns.
There is no effective solution to climate change that does not include protecting the Amazon.
The Amazon is the source of life for much of our world. The mountainous regions of its “sacred headwaters” even survived the last ice age.
There’s no greater natural treasure on Earth.
Today the Amazon houses one-third of all the Earth's plant and animal species.
That is more than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet.
Over 40,000 plant species can be found there.
More than 1,300 different species of birds.
Well over 400 species of mammals still live in the Amazon.
The Amazon is also the last remaining stronghold of the jaguar, of which fewer than 15,000 exist on the entire planet.
In one hectare of forest more than 600 different species of trees can be found.
It produces one-fifth of the Earth’s flowing fresh water.
The Amazon rainforest creates its own rivers in the sky. Massive transpiration from the trees creates so much water vapor that vast flying rivers are formed.
These flying waterways play a critical role in regulating rainfall not only for the Amazon but also for the entire planet.
The Amazon basin has already completely lost at least twenty percent of its forest cover, and an equal area has been degraded.
At current rates of deforestation, nearly 50 percent of the Amazon could be lost or severely degraded by 2020, and the vast majority will no longer be in a pristine state.
Without the Amazon, human life on Earth could not survive.
Threats to the Amazon are many and varied.
Deforestation is fueled by shortsighted industrial "development" projects such as large-scale agriculture, dams, roads and oil and gas drilling and pipelines.
These mega-projects open up pristine rainforest areas to resource extraction, cattle ranching, poaching and pollution, with devastating effects for indigenous peoples and biodiversity.
Globally, livestock agriculture is an enormous problem for our climate and is responsible for between 10-18% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Industrial agriculture, including cattle ranching, remains the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon.
Ceasing industrial development is a necessary step in preventing deforestation from cattle ranching, because industrial development opens access to land for pastures via road construction.
In fact, 95% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon occurs on land less than five kilometers from a road.
According to the world's scientists, at least 80 percent of all fossil fuels must remain in the ground if we are to avoid the kind of temperature rise that will lead to catastrophic climate collapse.
The pristine Amazon rainforest should be one of the first places we begin a moratorium on all oil drilling.
Not only to avoid an environmental and human rights disaster like that of Chevron in Ecuador, but also to protect an area vital to the recovery of our climate.
Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2000, deliberately dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the Ecuadorian Amazon, poisoning 30,000 indigenous people and campesinos.
Petroecuador and Petroamazonas, the state-owned oil companies operate irresponsibly and are expanding the oil frontier into the most biologically diverse and culturally sensitive areas of the Amazon, including Yasuní National Park.
Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment reported an average of nearly one oil spill a week between 2000 and 2010 and civil society puts the number at two to four times that amount.
The Amazon's essential role as a carbon sink remains threatened by plans to open tens of millions of acres of rainforest, including indigenous territories, to fossil fuel development.
Studies show that those plans for oil operations are endangering the Amazon's ability to regulate the global climate.
Large dams in the Amazon are among the biggest drivers of environmental destruction and human rights abuses.
Dams displace thousands of indigenous and traditional communities who have lived for generations relying upon river ecosystems.
These large dams in the tropics emit huge amounts of methane. Once free-flowing rivers are impeded, biological debris and silt collects in stagnant pools, churning out potent greenhouse gases in the process.
In all, carbon emissions from deforestation contribute significantly to climate change, while climate change is making tropical rainforests more vulnerable to forest fires and droughts, leading to more deforestation.
The resulting feedback loop threatens the very survival of the Amazon rainforest and life on our fragile planet.
The Amazon CAN be saved. And many communities are leading the way.
Nearly 400 distinct indigenous peoples depend on the Amazon rainforest for their physical and cultural survival.
Some estimate that over 60 different indigenous peoples remain in isolation throughout the Amazon Basin.
Yet many of these communities struggle each day to protect their homes and ancestral territories.
Indigenous peoples have been the stewards of the forest for time immemorial.
They hold the key to its preservation.
It’s scientifically proven that the most effective way to protect the rainforest is by advancing the rights of those stewards already co-existing with it in harmony.
In Brazil, the deforestation rate for community forests is 22 times lower than for lands not under community protection.
Indigenous Peoples' territories cover nearly half of the Amazon Basin, or 3.3 million square kilometers.
In Ecuador, the indigenous Kichwa community of Sarayaku has led an international call to keep the oil in the ground - beginning in the Amazon.
“We have an alternative proposal called Selva Viviente or 'Living Forest.' The Amazon is not an area of national interest, but a zone of life that should exclude oil activity. We want to work together so that this is known around the world..."
"...We are for life, not only resources. We are here for our lives, yours, the entire world's lives and for those of our future generations.” – Patricia Gualinga of Sarayaku
“Living Forests” stems from the knowledge of indigenous peoples who have inhabited the Amazon for millennia.
In Peru, the Achuar of the Pastaza River basin have already successfully sent oil company after oil company out of their lands.
They are now demanding legal recognition of the extensive rainforest they have traditionally occupied.
If successful, this work would create an enormous precedent for the rest of Peru’s Amazonian peoples.
In the wake of the corruption-ridden construction of the devastating Belo Monte dam, the Munduruku people are fighting to protect the last major free-flowing Amazon tributary in Brazil – the Tapajós River.
The Munduruku people fiercely resist Tapajós dams and are demarcating their lands to better defend them from such threats.
They are detailing for the government of Brazil and the world, what proper "free, prior, and informed consultation" should be for all development projects.
In Colombia, the U'wa, known as the "people who know how to think and speak," consider themselves guardians of the forest and the species therein. For centuries, they have protected large tracts of forest by prohibiting all human access - including their own.
Having gained world-wide recognition for successfully protecting their lands from oil drilling by Occidental Petroleum, the U’wa continue to push for more recognition of indigenous rights and stewardship by bringing their case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
These indigenous peoples and many more across the region are climate leaders.
They hold true solutions to our global crisis.
Amazon Watch partners with these and other indigenous peoples in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Together we work to protect more than 60 million acres of rainforest from fossil fuel development and mega-dams and to elevate the protection of the Amazon on the climate agenda.
“If we want to defend our global climate, we must defend the Amazon. If we want to defend the Amazon, we must support indigenous rights and territories.”