Image: Sarah Shenker, Survival International

by Liam Campbell

Paulo Paulino Guajajara, known as Kwahu, has been murdered by loggers in a part of the Amazon currently occupied by the Brazilian government. Equipped with only rudimentary weapons and body armour, and lacking medical assistance, Rainforest Guardians like Guajajara regularly face death at the hands of both government officials and natural resource exploiters. Their only advantages are their intimate knowledge of the rainforest and their deep commitment to protecting those living systems. Guajajara was protecting both his own ancestral land and also the lands of their uncontacted neighbours, the Awá tribe, when he was shot and killed by assassins. Guajajara is not the first ecological activist to be murdered; in April, 3 Rainforest Guardians were similarly slain.

It’s difficult to write this article from the relative luxury and comfort of a Western European country, especially having experienced a small modicum of the difficulties of even living for a few days in jungles like the Amazon — let alone inhabiting those claustrophobic settings with the knowledge that well armed groups of men are hunting for you. I cannot even begin to imagine the courage Guajajara must have embodied in order to take on this critical work; ultimately these words are cheap compared to the very real actions of Rainforest Guardians. We must extend our support beyond words if we’re to meaningfully help them achieve their mission of protecting the world’s dwindling rainforests.

These courageous groups need funding for better defensive weaponry, body armour, combat medicine, training, and basic survival equipment. If we are unable or unwilling to put our own bodies on the front lines to protect nature, then we should share what resources we do have to protect the bodies of people who are willing to put their own lives at risk for the rest of us. Groups like Survival Interntional have a good reputation, or reach out to a Deep Green Resistance representative for additional recommendations.