Social forum demands rescue for Amazonia instead of banks

Submitted by Sahil Nagpal on Wed, 01/28/2009 - 19:52.

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Belem - Participants at the ninth World Social Forum (WSF) taking place in the northeastern Brazilian city of Belem demanded Wednesday that world leaders earmark for environmental protection the billions of dollars they are freeing up to rescue banks and companies in trouble over the financial crisis.

"They said there was no money to solve the environmental crisis, which is worse than the financial crisis, and now billions (of dollars) show up to save banks," said former Brazilian environment minister Marina Silva.

"Yes, there is money to change the economic model and invest in a sustainable productive system," said Silva, who left the government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last year.

His comments met with applause at an event to honour Brazilian activist Chico Mendes, killed in 2008 allegedly by Amazonian estate owners.

The defence of the environment, the search for solutions to climate change, the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and the defence of the rights of indigenous communities have been central issues of the forum, which was launched Tuesday and is set to end Sunday.

Earlier Wednesday, there was an event to honour US nun and missionary Dorothy Stang, killed in 2005 in the Brazilian Amazonian town of Anapu, in the middle of a conflict over land ownership.

First organized in 2001, in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, the WSF developed as a counter balance to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

About 120,000 people from 150 countries are set to take part in the forum's 2,600 activities. On Thursday, they will be joined by presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

After its launch in 2001, the WSF was held in Porto Alegre again in 2002, 2003 and 2005. India hosted it in 2004, while Venezuela did so in 2006 and Kenya in 2007. In 2008 there was no one single site, but the forum was held simultaneously in 82 different countries. dpa