At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees,
then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest.
Now I realize I am fighting for humanity. ~ Chico Mendes
I can still remember my grade 11 History teacher telling us,
“History repeats itself. If you are not careful, if you are not vigilant, the bad things in history will repeat—until you fix them.”
He would wag his finger at us, and kids would laugh at him. They thought it was cheesy. But, we would fidget and squirm in our seats a bit, because we also knew it was true.
And no more true today than in the state of Pará, Brazil, where yesterday José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo, were ambushed and shot dead in their home in Nova Ipixuna, 37 miles from Marabá. They were murdered not because they were involved in gang activity, or illicit drug trade.
They were shot for defending the rights of the poor and trying to protect the Amazon rainforest against deforestation.
These deaths are not isolated cases. They represent a clarion call for change.
But what kind of change, and to what?
José Cláudio, pictured above, lived and worked in the rainforests of Brazil, sustainably extracting rubber and harvesting other wild goods from the trees he knew and loved. Although he didn’t use the term, he advocated for the preservation of the vital ecosystem services that forests provide. He was also a vocal conservationist, advocating for the poor to be able to reside on their land and harvest the standing living forest as he did.
My friend, Fabiola Galetti, who lives in Brazil has kindly translated a TED talk he recently gave from Portugese to English. This English transcript is provided below this article, so that you can read for yourself da Silva’s love of the land, and passion for the cause of protecting Brazil’s forests. You will also see for yourself that he knew that his life was in grave danger, and literally predicted that there was a bullet assigned to his head. Unfortunately, although it was widely known that his position as an activist put him in danger, he was also denied police protection.
So, where does history repeat itself here? For starters, da Silva worked for the same organization of forest workers that was founded by famed conservationist, Chico Mendes, pictured at left. Mendes himself, was assassinated by ranchers in Brazil in 1988. He was known for starting the first union of rubber tappers in Brazil, the National Council for Rubber Tappers. Mendes also helped convince the Inter-American Development Bank to change its plans for a large road in his area to be more sustainable. He also pushed for the creation of extractive reserves, where the natural forest would be maintained with products sustainably harvested from it. His assassination made the New York Times, and catalyzed the creation of more than 20 extractive reserves comprising over 8 million acres. It was on such a reserve that da Silva worked, and he advocated for more land like this to be sustainably farmed, the way he did.
With Chico Mendes death alone, you would think that would be enough. That a serious lesson would have been learned from the situation surrounding the needless death of Mendes, and not repeated. You would think that the government would have put in reforms, improved laws, and implemented changes to prevent such a situation from repeating itself. After all, he was only advocating for sustainable forest and farm practices, and the rights of the poor. What is the problem with that?’
In 2005, Dorothy Strang (pictured at right) was also shot down and killed as she walked from her house to a local community meeting. She was originally a US citizen, but naturalized in Brazil having worked for years to help the poor in Brazil to farm small garden plots and sustainably harvest the forest without deforestation. At 74 years old she was hardly a physical threat, but enough of one in spirit to cause those who found her work to be a thorn in her sides to gun her down in the road. What was it that she was doing that caused so much ire? It wasn’t just that she was helping the poor, it was that she was trying to help those poor from being driven off of their land and forest plots by criminal thugs hired by ranchers who wanted their land. Same as da Silva. Same as Mendes. And herein lies the crux of the situation. The poor people of Brazil have been forcefully expropriated from their land by those who would take that land for themselves. They have bullied their way into land ownership, and they want to silence anyone who challenges them in this venture.
So I have listed three main people, with associated faces and names so far. But unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the lawless state of affairs in the hinterlands of Brazils forests and ranges over the last few decades. In 1997, Amnesty International reported on a case where 1500 peasants who were demonstrating for land reform in the state of Pará (where da Silva was murdered) were shot at by police. Police!?
Apparently the peasants had blocked a road, and had rocks and farm tools. The police executed 19 and wounded 60. Seven were reportedly tortured to death by their own farm implements. We have an inversion of equity and fairness here. The police are working on the side against the evicted poor. The poor people are viewed as the problem, the scourge, the vermin who are causing problems.
This situation is particularly dire for the indigenous populations of Brazil, such as the Guarani. The Guarani people, once likely numbering over a million, are just over 200,000 in population today. From being captured and sold into slavery in the 1600s (portrayed at left), to being deliberately infected with small pox, to dying to protect their land, the price of development has been very costly to these people. Today, several tribes have been relegated to a make shift life at the side of highways rather than live on forced reserves. The Guarani population as a whole suffers from malnutrition and some of the highest suicide rates in the world. The quote below from an Amnesty International worker illustrates how murder is often used in the subjugation of these peoples, and appropriation of their land, similarly to other poor peasants in Brazil:
The 9,316 hectare Ñanderu Marangatu lands were officially ratified by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on 23 March 2005. After a judicial challenge at state level, the then President of the Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF) Nelson Jobim, suspended the President’s ruling, pending the resolution of the appeal. On 15 December 2005, 150 Military Police officers enforced an eviction order (see UA 178/05, AMR 19/036/2005, 16 August 2005), using helicopters and heavy arms, driving the community into an encampment of makeshift shacks by the side of the highway.
Soon after, on 24 December, community leader Dorvalino Rocha was shot dead by security guards hired by the landowners.
After seven months by the side of the highway, the community was moved back into 100 hectares of farmlands, with the agreement of local landowners, to allow for the asphalting of the road. Since the move the owners of the land have maintained a heavy presence of private security guards.
The ruling on the landowners’ appeal remains stalled in the STF, exposing the Guarani to violence and severe economic deprivation.
So who is behind these executions, assassinations, murders? Who is behind the associated land appropriation? How can this be allowed to go on you wonder? What you typically hear is “ranchers, loggers and land owners”. Well, we have ranchers, land owners, farmers and loggers in North America. I know quite a few Canadian ones myself, and although I admit they might have their rough edges, and tell a few bad jokes, they certainly aren’t criminals and murderers! So, the question that emerges is, why does criminal activity go with the territory of logging and ranching in Brazil? Not only now, but for decades? What is really going on here?
To find the answer is to peel the cover off the seedy underbelly of Brazil’s economic growth and development over the last few decades consisting of easy money and especially, shady property rights. What we had in North America in the Wild West, Brazil still has on its forested fringes. This situation could be prevented though through better land rights and enforcement, but it is not because the political-economic system has benefitted from the rapid mode of development in Brazil to date, and many of those in positions of power in Brazil, are in those positions because they have risen through the current system, and like to keep things the way they are, thank-you very much.
Basically, since the 1960’s in Brazil, to own land you just have to show that you are working that land to put it to “effective use”. This has been an efficient way for governments to encourage ‘development’ of the Amazon. In the state of Mato Grosso alone, by 1990 twelve million acres in land titles were issued to people with such claims, which, when you tally it up, is actually more land than the actual size of the province. As Elizabeth Crittenden’s analysis has made clear, over the years, this process has amounted to the strong grabbing land from the weak, and the strong growing stronger, until most of the land in Brazil was in the hands of the few, and the strongest:
In 1988, 79 large landowners’ property (latifundios) were almost equal to that owned by more than 3 million small landowners (minifundios). Large landowners (this includes ranchers) are notorious for amassing more land by expelling small isolated farm families from their property. Expulsions are violent and often lead to torture and murder.
Small farmers are removed from their properties by assassins hired by large landowners, most of which belong to the infamous Uniao Democratica Ruralista (UDR). Such violence compels landless families… to flee to Brazilian urban areas, but high inflation (735% in 1975) prevents the poor from securing employment, housing, and food. Families return to the countryside to find unclaimed land on which they can grow their pao de cada dia—daily bread.
Now, from the military regime of the 1980s to the fairer recent rule of the recent president, Lula, much progress has been made. But not enough.
Basically, if I live in Brazil and can find a way to show that I own (i.e. am working on it and making it productive) a particular parcel of land and not my neighbor, then I can have it declared mine. And as long as no one else has a legal claim in hand that it is theirs, I can keep expanding what I have by clearing and using the land myself. If I can keep clearing more and more forest and putting it to effective use, I have, essentially, a free natural resource to draw from and a free source of land. If my neighbor is claiming that land, well then, I can solve that by bribing him, tricking him, threatening him to move, or killing him to get him off that land, which I feel should rightly be mine, and then I can keep increasing what I have, and increasing my profits. Even better if he fells the forest first, and I just take it from him, after I accuse him of illegally deforesting. I can also share the wealth with the politicians I invite now and then over to my estate for good times. Heck, I pay my taxes, and I also know who to pay to make the system work for me. I may even become a politician myself. People like what they see when they come to visit me too. My lands are in order. I act clean and civilized. I send my kids to the best colleges. I know how to take care of business. You can count on me to get the job done.
Now of course, it’s never quite that simple. There are laws that pesky civil liberties organizations and environmental organizations advocate for to get around, there are documents to forge, there are rulings to overturn, there are legislation buildings to burn down to destroy the proof of other deeds to my land, there are officials to woo and financially cajole, police to bribe, buy and lie to, and thugs to pay off to “take care of” any pesky people who stand in my way. People like da Silva. People like the Guarani leaders. But, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I can wash my hands, pay off my men, sit back in my villa, surrounded by armed guards, look out at the vast lands of my beautiful estate, pour fine wine for my guests, and claim that I am part of the nation’s glorious development. That I am a part of what has been taking Brazil out of savagery and into the modern age.
And you know, it’s a convincing line. And if I invited you to my place for supper one night, if you were, say, a rich multinational looking to strike a deal, you just might buy it too… especially if you didn’t know the other side of the story—or want to know.
At the end of his TED talk, transcribed below, da Silva issues us an important challenge. He asks us to look into where our products come from. Is it wood? What kind? Where from? How was it harvested? Is it ethanol? Where from? How was it harvested? Is it soy? Where is it from? How was it harvested? This questioning is vitally important. But to get the real deal on the history of the land is even harder. This is where you have to probe further, get the scoop, and see where your meal, your new table is really coming from. This is key to our helping change this situation in Brazil, for when it comes down to it, it is our purchasing power which largely fuels the engine of deforestation and development in Brazil.
Without that back story, without pressure on politicians, without methods to implement and enforce fair laws and standards for production, without measures to safeguard the ecosystem services of forests, this situation of land grabbing, including where peasants clear the rainforest, and then powerful land owners force them off of it and claim it as their own, inevitably will go on in Brazil. It will go on, fueled by the same old development story, with a few plot twists here and there, until eventually, someone louder and stronger stands up to the injustice… or conversely, the last mouth is silenced, and the last tree is finally usurped. For Brazil has had a breakneck pace of ‘development’ and that development is still going on. About 20% of the Brazilian rain forest has already been destroyed, and though the rate has slowed, it still continues.
As an example, while Brazil claims that it does not grow soy or sugarcane on land that has been deforested, this is often also a grey zone. For instance last year, Shell signed a $12 billion deal with Brazilian giant, Cosan, to produce ethanol. Brazil is known as being a green country, in part for its biofuel production, like ethanol, much of which is bound for US markets. This all sounds well and groovy. Clean and green right? Well, this deal entails buying sugarcane to produce the ethanol, and that sugarcane, and 70 refineries to produce ethanol from it, are slated to be grown and built where?
Partly on land that the Guarani have consistently claimed as theirs for the last few decades, but which has been taken from them—land that was once forest, but was usurped by land owners in their crafty ways, that at the end of the day legitimizes the case of the large farmers and land owners, and delegitimizes the case of the Guarnai. But gee, it’s been a while now, we can turn the dusty pages of history and tuck that away somewhere where it won’t come in the way of progress now can’t we? Those dirty, illiterate Guarani, who is going to listen to them anyhow? Just look at them, living at the side of the road, and raiding our land claiming it as their own. How dare they try to take my land now? They are the problem. Obviously. Right?
The most recent political hot potato around forests in Brazil is over the decades old squabble over revising the Forest Code of the country. Under the Code, farms and settlements legally have to conserve 80% of the forest on the land if you are in the Amazon, 35% in the cerrado (savanna) and 20% elsewhere. Da Silva was an advocate of maintaining this 80% reserve of rainforest, and harvesting from it sustainably as he outlines in his speech below. As he mentions, in his case, logging companies were illegally taking trees from a reserve, a no no under the code. Well, too bad for vocal environmentalists like da Silva, the revised code states that only 50% of the forest would have to be maintained, and even down to 0% for small plots, and that any illegal logging activities prior to 2008 would be forgiven. It would essentially, forgive those that deforested the land da Silva talks about, and others like them. Or those who stole those deforested lands.
In essence the revised Forest Code of Brazil, which da Silva was helping to educate and advocate for not passing, would give the land grabbers of Brazil, who have perpetuated far more crimes than simply cutting down trees, a free ‘get outta jail’ ticket and ‘no more fines for you’ card for good, as well as the means to cut down more trees by simply dividing up their land into smaller parcels. Would it also help the poor? Maybe, likely, who knows? I doubt it. There is the argument that this new Forest Code would help the 86% of poor land holders in Brazil to enable them to make a better living off their land. It would also do this by apparently allowing them to cut trees closer to rivers, and on hill tops. But what this would really be doing is setting things up so that in the case of a flood or drought, that their land would just be more quickly degraded. And in the case of large land owners exploiting the new code, it would allow them to get in to exploit and then out of previously restricted land. This is the modus operandus of big business. In and take, and make off with the profits. It’s nice and efficient, and it’s especially sweet when politicians hand you a carte blanche to help make it even more efficient for you to not have to make up for any ecosystem services you degrade or destroy along the way. Externalities? Bah humbug!
Let’s also be careful here, because while many who are advocating for the Forest Code to pass are saying it will help poor farmers, the fact is that it is the farm lobby that is also pushing the bill, and that lobby mostly consists of wealthier agribusiness players, like large cattle ranchers (Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter), soy producers and other agribusiness giants like the growing sugarcane for ethanol industry. That should set off some warning flags if nothing else about who this Code really benefits.
In total, apparently only about 10% of Brazil’s farmers are in compliance with the Forest Code. As detailed in this article, this is in part because of the system which rewarded those who took land and made use of it, and benefitted from illegal felling of trees. This fueled the stronger land grabbers, and relegated the poor ones to the forest fringes, to continue bearing the brunt of the crime of felling trees just to survive, and then that land could also be taken by bigger players, if they so chose, who could then claim that the land was already felled… and so on as one movement within the symphony of Brazilian development to date. The new Forest Code, allows a nice neat way to wipe the slate clean so to speak on this past. A new start. A new song. Or so they say.
More like it allows development to continue to make Brazil a major global agri-business player. The Globe and Mail has reported:
“None of the world’s large farm producers that compete with Brazil – the United States, Europe, China, Argentina and Australia – obliges its producers to preserve any forest. It’s not fair … to reduce our food production to recover forest reserves,” farm lobby group CNA said.
“It’s not fair…Reducing our food production.” That’s an interesting thing to say. Has the method of acquiring land by large been fair in Brazil? Who has profited from this? Who has lost? Is the murder of countless people in the name of progress and development fair? What about fair treatment to the indigenous peoples who have had a minimal voice in this affair? What about fair treatment of future generations of Brazilians, and their right to inherit at least as much of a natural productive base as previous generations have had? What about the maintenance of the capacity of the Amazon rainforest to act as part of the lungs of the Earth for the planet, part of the life support system of water regulation for the region and beyond? And is this “food production” to feed the people of Brazil, including the poor? Or is it food primarily for export, to help wealthy land owners become wealthier, while many of their own citizens literally starve to death every year?
Is the revised Forest Code really about fairness? Or is it about maintaining growth and development so that Brazil can continue to claim its place on the world scene? The new Forest Code passed in Congress yesterday. It remains to be seen what the Senate and the President will do with it.
With Congress willing to pass this bill, what else are they willing to sweep under the rug to maintain and increase Brazil’s export power? That doesn’t sound like the talk of small farmers to me. That sounds like big ag, and big business. And one of the results of this new proposed code is already in. During the last year, in anticipation of the new Code, deforestation in Brazil has actually gone up six fold. This undermines all the work that has been done to date in order to slow deforestation in Brazil, and the consequent loss of forest ecosystem services, especially carbon sequestration which helps pull carbon dioxide out of the air. And I guess one could say at this point, “Who cares, there is no global carbon deal to regulate emissions anyway.” COP has failed so far to produce that. And here, with Brazil, we have one of the consequences of this lack of leadership. We are indeed our brother’s keeper. If we don’t get our act together, it has consequences.
Enter Da Silva—now he sounds like a man who speaks for the real small farmers, as he has been lobbying against the revised Code, and advocating for preserving more forest. But his voice has now been silenced. His recent TED talk, originally in Portuguese, is translated below in English, to give him the last word. And when you see what he has to say, you will see that it actually makes sense. It’s hard to believe anyone would want to murder him to silence him. It highlights how distorted the situation in Brazil is that these words of reason are seen as threatening.
But now, who else, will be willing, like him, to speak up for the forests of Brazil, for the poor, and for equity, with the chance of such a high price to pay? How many have had to pay this unfair price of their very lives, while Brazilian lobbyists talk of a lack of “fairness” in them reaping profits similar to developed nations? That is not “development”. That is a mask of development concealing unfair profit bordering often on racketeering. That is the criminal getting into a position of power so that he can rewrite history to make himself as the victim, and the hero in turn. That is not to say that developed nations do not have their own sordid pasts, but the Wild West has to be won some time. Law and order has to be implemented some time. Justice has to be done, sometime. I only hope that after reading this article, and da Silva’s talk below, that if and when you hear about issues in Brazil, that you listen with a careful ear, and determine for yourself what justice is in this situation.
So keep questioning. Keep pressuring. Keep reading. Keep watching. Remember da Silva, and others like him who had to give their very lives for the cause of the poor and the forests of Brazil. They were intentionally murdered, meaning that what they stood for offended or accused someone else enough to try to permanently shut them up. Well, I’d venture to say that whoever is willing to commit murder to protect their interests has gone well to the dark side, and I’d also venture to say that those kinds of people are also the ones that will really benefit from the new proposed Forest Code. This is serious business, and it has been going on in Brazil for decades now. Decades! So, when you hear the double speak of new codes being proposed in Brazil that will help ‘poor farmers’, think again. Is history repeating itself? If it is, then dig deep into finding ways to stop it, remedy the situation, and find real, better ways of doing things. Real equity. Ways that ring of actual fairness. Ways that ring of real sustainability. Ways that say, no, stop. We can’t do this anymore. This has to stop, and it stops here. Ways that will not undermine the future of Brazil so that some can profit more today, at the expense of its own land, its own people, its own future.
There is another way, and it is up to us to pressure Brazil to find it, not keep passively agreeing by mindlessly dishing out our spending dollars to their agribusiness players. That is where we can stand up, and say, “No, no more” ourselves. That is our small part. We may not speak the language, we may not be that familiar with the history, but we do take pieces of their forest, their people’s labour, and a bit of tropical sunshine every time we buy something with some part produced in Brazil. We can look into securing that it comes to us from a fair and sustainable source. We can look into imposing rigorous standards on it. That we can look into. That we can control. We may not have to put our lives on the line as da Silva did, but to help prevent history from repeating itself yet again in Brazil, are we willing to do at least that?
So the next time you are buying a burger at your local fast food joint, stop for a minute and ask where the beef is from? The next time you are buying a beautiful wooden table, ask to see that it is from certified sustainably harvested wood. The next time you’re picking off what brand of soy milk to sustain your privileged lifestyle, check out where it is from. When you are thinking of buying that green ethanol laced gas, inquire where it comes from and the backstory of how it was harvested. Start there, then bit by bit dig deeper. Check out the web sites. Check out the news. Ask for more. Demand more. And that we can do, that we are good at, because, we know, we deserve it. Don’t we?
José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva’s TED Talk
English closed captioning available. Translated text below.
Thank you. I’ll begin my speech telling you a story about the place where I live, my village, and a little bit of my life until today.
In 1997, in Nova Ipixuna, the first PAE project was created, consisting of a settlement for sustainable rubber tapping and wild harvesting of forest products. We had a forest cover of 85%, only with native trees, especially Brazilian Nut tree and Cupuaçu tree (rainforest tree related to cacao). Today, after the work of the logging companies in Maraba, we have left not more than 20% of this forest cover, fragmented in different places.
This is a disaster for people who live on wild harvesting, like me. I have been collecting from the forest since I was seven years old. I live from the forest. I protect it at any cost. And, that’s why I live “with the bullet on my head” at anytime—because I fight. I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers. And for that they think I should not exist; the same thing they did on Acre, with Chico Mendes, they want to do it with me. The same thing they did with Sister Dorothy, they want to do it with me. I can be today talking with you all, and in a month you can find out that I disappeared.
I ask myself, “Am I afraid?” Of course I am. I am a human being. I have fear. But, this fear does not silence me. As long as I have the strength to walk, I’ll denounce all those who damage the forest. The trees in Amazonia, they are my sisters. I am a son of the forest; I live from trees, I depend on them, I am part of them. And when I see one of these trees on the top of a truck, going to the lumber mill, I feel pain. It’s the same thing as seeing a wake ceremony of my most beloved relative. Because it is life—it’s life for me. I live on the forest, but it is also life for all of you who live in the urban centers. The forest is there purifying the air… giving us good things…
This happens due to people that only think of money, only of themselves, forgetting about the next generation. They really do not care, and that’s why they are doing this with our village.
It is a SHAME, that we can not find any courageous/brave action to solve this problem.
I live off of the forest. I survive because of it; because of the Brazil nut trees (and I have done so since I was a child). Now, we are having a bad season, and the prices are low. But that’s ok as I’m finding new ways of doing things. For instance, I’m industrializing the trees on my land. I’m extracting the oil, which is top quality—rich in Selenium, good to cook, fry and also to put on salads. The bagasse you can use for ice-cream, cookies, whatever you imagine of food. These products are going to the market in small quantities. Universities, CPT and CNS-Belem buy this oil that I produce. Besides being good for food, it’s also a great natural medicine, as you know Selenium helps to prevent cancer. This is how to add value to the forest.
The forest has to be preserved at any cost, because everything that exists in the forest gives value, gives money.
I’m a craftsman; I work with bush rope made of lianas. If business is very slow, I can also go, take these lianas from the trees and make ten baskets. With this I can earn R$100 (a hundred reais). Ten small baskets that I can easily make in one day. I can make bigger ones too, and they will be a little bit more expensive, R$20 each. Then, I’ll make R$200. What matters is that the tree is there, providing what I need, and any day that I need, she will still be there.
But other people think that a tree will only be good if she’s down, or burned to produce charcoal. This makes me sad!
Now, I’ll ask something of you. Whenever you buy something that comes from a tree—from a forest—search for the source, the original source. Only in this way we can stop what’s going on in the forests. Only then can we halt these destructive practices. If you start to say NO to doubtful wood, that is unreliable, with no legal source, the market will fade, will weaken. The market will have to fit the law or it will have to close.
But, as long as people continue to buy illegal wood, and illegal material that comes from the forest, this situation will go on. And who will loose will be people like me first, living on the forest, and then people like you who will later not have a forest at all. She will be dead one day. She will perish this way, but by bit. And then, how are we going to live? After the forest goes, the water will also go, and the rains from that water.
Then the food from agriculture, because the water has gone, and so on…
So, let’s really think about this. Is it viable to deforest? NO. The trees are perfectly fine standing. The forest works the way it is. You don’t have to go watering, fertilizing, pruning etc. The only work that you have to do, is go and collect what the forest produces.
On my own small plot I produce Brazilian nut oil, butter of Cupuaçu, and tasty pulp of Cupuaçu. I do handicrafts with bush ropes and lianas and also with wood. I use only the wood that falls naturally. I use only wood from trees that were already down, and I replace it with new trees. And because of this I know that the day that I’m gone from this world, I’ll leave something for other people that will be also be able to live from what I live on today.
The forest is sustainable when standing, at least two times more so that when it’s razed down. Especially tropical forests. When you cut it down, yes you will have it, but only once. But when you leave the tree, you will have it forever. You have it today, tomorrow, and even after you’re gone, others will be able to enjoy the tree the same way you did.
Is it possible that this is the future of Amazonia? (Showing a picture of a burning tree). Is it possible that this is the future of our planet? I do not for a minute believe that we actually want this. And the others that will come after us—will they want this?
We have to think, “What do we really want?” It’s in our hands now. We have the future to think of, and we have to decide. Which vision of the forest do we want?
Maria Lavis currently works as an independent consultant in the field of Ecosystem Services development and greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation. Her blog, integral ES, explores topics on Ecosystem Services. Maria has held contracts with the University of British Columbia, Environment Canada, the Canadian Space Agency, Simon Fraser University, the BC government, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. She has managed multidisciplinary research and writing projects involving negotiations with industry, NGOs, First Nations, academic and government stakeholders. Maria’s academic background is in Earth system science, climatology and ecology.