‘Deforestation is dehumanization’ says an Activator volunteering at Greenpeace Africa

Amir Bagheri, an Activator who joined the network last year and who is currently volunteering for Greenpeace Africa, took part in an awareness campaign in Johannesburg recently that focused on the negative effects of deforestation for communities in a specific region in Cameroon.

Here, he shares his thoughts:

(originally published on Greenpeace Africa’s blog: http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/News/Blog/deforestation-is-dehumanisation/blog/44468/ )

In many cases we tend to separate the well-being of the environment from the well-being of ourselves as a human species, not realising that a healthy environment is connected to human dignity, and therefore is a human right.
On the 21st of March, the UN dedicated a day to the important role of forests by creating the International Day of Forests, with many events and activities all over the world.

Despite widespread awareness of the importance of forests, many are under threat. For example, Herakles Farms, a US-owned company, poses a serious danger to tens of thousands of hectares of forest in Cameroon, and the livelihoods of small farmers who depend upon it.

Herakles wants to flatten the forest to create space for a a palm oil plantation. Cameroonian and international NGOs and experts are critical of the project on the grounds of illegality, socio-economic injustice, and the environmental destruction it will cause.

On Saturday, 23rd March, an awareness event was held by Greenpeace Africa’s volunteers at Brightwater Commons in Johannesburg. It included a photo exhibition, showing photos taken in the rainforest of Cameroon.

This was my very first time as an environmental activist with Greenpeace. After four years of working as a human rights activist, I found that human rights cannot be ensured when many people across the world live in unhealthy environments that violate their human dignity, livelihoods and health.

When I arrived at the venue, about four or five volunteers were at the stall with a queue of people who were waiting to sign the Greenpeace petition calling for Herakles Farms to abandon their project. For the first time in my life, a queue shed some light into my day and energized me to spread awareness amongst all those who were interested.

Many people were utterly shocked when they found out that Herakles Farms is imposing its plantation without the free, prior and informed consent of the communities that will be directly affected. The project would also have a disastrous impact on biodiversity as well as produce millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In five hours – and with the help of the South African public – we racked up 250 signatures for the petition against Herakles. We also handed out about 600 flyers, and spoke to countless curious people, spreading forest awareness far and wide. If that wasn’t enough, a surprise appearance by Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, left us feeling incredibly inspired.

Deforestation affects every single one of us directly and indirectly, and we shouldn’t allow any corporate projects to take away our human dignity and human rights.
Deforestation is dehumanisation. Let’s stop another tree from falling in the forest!

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