|Luiz Alberto Araujo was excecuted by development forces.|
He paused for several days at my studio when he heard of a sudden crisis back home. I watched in astonishment as he worked remotely to save a piece of wetland that was being threatened by commercial development. He and his team of 15 volunteer experts were finally able to save this very sensitive area through sheer intimidation of a powerful company by the threat of exposing the truth of their illegal tactics. The one condition of their surrender was that he keep the incident secret. (He gave me permission to write this very edited version after an hour of removing the slightest indicators of his identity).
This is a guy who several years ago was working on a similar case when he and his research partner had the tires of their car shot out by a pursuing pair on a motorcycle. The car crashed and the thugs pulled them both into the road, pointed guns at their heads and said, "What's the last thing you're going to do with your life?" He replied "I'd like to speak with my mother!" There must have been enough humanity in his reply to cause the thugs to race away, leaving them bleeding but alive. He says, "For some reason the guys didn't shoot us. I don't know any other story of any other environmentalist that had this luck."
Yesterday provided a tragic case in point when he texted me from Utah to say, "You remember I told you that I cannot return to one city in south of Pará in Brazil? Yesterday two guys in a motorcycle shot an friend of mine an environmentalist. He was municipal secretary of environment of Altamira, another city of Para." Luiz Araujo had received death threats because of his efforts to stop deforestation in the region. (Here is the story. A British one.) One of the suspected financiers of this activity is a deputy in the Brazilian congress, now brought into power as a consequence of the coup this summer, which few Americans seem to know about.
Those of us in the first world blithely go about our lives blessed with easy access to a market flooded with the cheapest stuff on earth. We know things are bad elsewhere but we don't ask questions about where our stuff comes from or what policies support our consumption. This is what is left behind. I do worry about my friend. Thank God for the people like him that work silently for the future of our sometimes incredibly stupid species. As he told me yesterday, "I was so lucky!"