Marina Lacôrte is a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Brazil. She is working on the current campaign to take on the illegal harvesting of Amazon timber.
She’s been pretty busy. Last week she participated in an action at the headquarters of a timber company in her home country. Today, she’s here in the States, taking part in an action at the Annual General Meeting of the major retailer Lumber Liquidators. I talked to her yesterday before she deployed.
JS: Why did you get involved in doing forest work for GP? Why is deforestation an important enough issue for you to risk arrest doing actions?
ML: I moved to Manaus in 2011, and my first job interview was for GP. I wanted to work in the Amazon because I knew how important it was. But I didn’t get the job. I ended up working for the government. It was really frustrating, because at the time they didn’t have very strong environmental policies. Finally almost three years later I got a job w GP.
Deforestation is a really important issue for environmentalists who work in Brazil, because it’s so close to us. It’s something I can’t ignore – it’s not even about risking anything.
JS: For many people in the US, deforestation is a very distant problem, even though it happens in our own country. It’s not really an issue on the front of people’s minds here. Can you tell me about the importance of deforestation as an issue in Brazil? Is it something many people care about?
ML: No, unfortunately not as much as it should be. People who work in the Amazon or people who live in the forest know and care about it. But many people don’t actually have it in their consciousness. People don’t relate the products that they use every day to the natural resources that make them possible.
JS: Why do you think that is?
ML: People tend to be aware and informed about issues that are close to them, and in Brazil things like health, education, hunger, transportation are the ones in most Brazilian people’s faces. Deforestation is not, unless you live in the forest or work on forest issues. That’s definitely not the majority.
I think that this is closely related to the fact that the links between forest resources, everyday life, and everyday products aren’t always so clear to people. It’s our job to make those links more obvious. To me they are very clear.
JS: What was the action in Brazil last week like, and what was the reaction in the local area?
ML: It was surprisingly calm. The timber industry is historically linked with social problems, violence, and threats. People were really chill. I don’t know, maybe they’re getting used to protests?
We’ve had a nice response from local and national media. I think people are starting to see that we have a problem here.
JS: The action today in the US is happening at the annual general meeting of Lumber Liquidators, a major lumber retailer here. Why is that retailer an issue? What are you hoping Lumber Liquidators will do?
ML: Right now the campaign has both a focus in Brazil and also an international focus. Yes, a big part of timber taken stays in Brazil, but the wood that is exported has more value to companies, it can be sold for more, so it’s very important.
Our research shows that timber coming out of Brazil has no guarantee of legality at all. Chain of custody from the field, to processors, to exporters, to retailers, to buyers, can’t be accurately established. The company Pampa Exportações Ltd., which our research shows is linked to deforestation, is a supplier for Lumber Liquidators. So the lumber being sold here has a super high potential of being contaminated.
Lumber Liquidators needs to have its own reliable system of guaranteeing chain of custody, because we can’t rely on Pampa or the Brazilian system as it is. Retailers need to do their own due diligence.
JS: What can people do to be sure they avoid buying wood linked to Amazon deforestation?
ML: People need to do their own due diligence too. They need to use resources available to them to do their own research. They can look at our campaign link as a place to start. If you are not sure about the wood you’re looking at, just don’t buy it. Wood that is coming out of Brazil is just not reliable.